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Managing Workers in a Call Center

Effective call center management sets the tone for the department and allows you to provide the best possible service. Call centers vary in their purpose, size and setup, but many management considerations and best practices apply to any call center situation.

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What is call center management?

Call center management refers to how you operate your call center. It incorporates all the policies, procedures and practices you put into place for day-to-day operations. It also includes the hiring and training process for call center positions. Supervisors and managers are responsible for implementing these management techniques.

Types of call centers

Call centers can take different forms, ranging from size to purpose. Your business may have a small call center with only a few reps to handle incoming calls, or it may be a massive center that generates lots of new business.

Communication can occur through a variety of platforms, depending on your business model and customer needs. This might include:

  • Calls
  • Email
  • Chat
  • Text
  • Social media

The two main types of call centers are inbound and outbound. An inbound call center means customers are calling a number to reach your company. Agents answer the calls and handle the situation, which may include troubleshooting, customer complaints or taking orders. Outbound call centers use agents who place calls to potential customers, often with the goal of selling something to them. Some call centers are both inbound and outbound.

Roles in a call center

The call center representatives are the ones working directly with customers. They answer or make calls, listen to the customers, research information if needed and help customers based on their needs.

Call center supervisors oversee the agents directly. They might handle some calls that need to be escalated. They help train employees, provide direction and assist with the general operation of the call center.

The call center manager oversees everything. They’re in charge of hiring agents, creating and enforcing policies, scheduling, analytics and overseeing the supervisors and agents.

Best practices for managing a call center

The following tips give you some best practices for call center managers.

Hire strategically

Smart hiring decisions set you up for successful call center management. Create a detailed call center representative job description to establish your minimum criteria. Experienced applicants can jump into the work faster with minimal training, but candidates who are new to the field can also be successful. Look for strong customer service experience or an aptitude for customer service and problem-solving skills. Some positions may require specific qualifications. A help desk agent needs some technical and troubleshooting skills to walk customers through the process, for example.

Other qualities to look for include:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Empathy
  • Teamwork
  • Initiative
  • Integrity

It’s tempting to fill call center positions quickly since the education and experience requirements are often minimal. However, a rushed hire who doesn’t work out can cost you a lot of money and lost productivity.

Create a thorough onboarding process

Even the best candidate can struggle if you don’t have an effective onboarding process. Onboarding is more than just orientation or training for a new employee. It’s a complete program designed to acclimate new employees quickly. Putting thought into your onboarding process can help employees feel more welcomed, increase engagement and improve employee retention.

The onboarding process can include several components, such as:

  • Introduction to team members
  • Team lunch on the first day
  • Facility tour
  • Buddy system
  • One-on-ones with the manager

Onboarding programs typically last at least 1 to 3 months, but they can last 6 months or longer. The length can also vary based on the employee. Some settle in quickly and don’t need as much support. Others may need additional mentoring and training to integrate into the company fully.

Continue with training

Even after the onboarding period, call center employees benefit from regular training. Refresher courses on customer service, best practices, technology and other basic knowledge help your reps stay sharp. Training them on new technology, policies and strategies is another type of important learning that keeps your call center at the forefront of the field. You can also create trainings around the problems or mistakes you see in the call center. Even if it’s just a few agents doing it, training everyone helps raise the quality of service with the entire staff.

Offering advancement opportunities can also help retain employees. You might have different levels of agents based on skills and experience. This allows agents to move up through the levels that come with more responsibilities and higher pay. Agents might also work their way up to supervisor roles as they gain experience. Having a clear path for advancement keeps employees motivated and gives them a reason to stay.

Establish standard procedures

Having standard operating procedures in place makes it easier for new employees to learn the job. It also creates a consistent experience for customers, and it reduces stress on your agents because they know how to handle various tasks. These procedures should be written in detail in the call center employee manual. Creating training sessions and videos around the procedures also helps employees understand how to handle situations.

Manage the schedule

Call centers are often fast-paced and require sufficient staffing to operate smoothly. Scheduling too many people leaves employees sitting around bored, while understaffing increases call wait times and stress for your agents. You can use historical call volume data to help you determine how to schedule staff properly.

Invest in technology

Call center technology can streamline your processes and make it easier to serve your customers efficiently. Here are some examples:

  • Call routing software can help calls go to the most qualified agents for different situations, which can increase customer satisfaction and speed up the calls.
  • Call analytics help you monitor activity based on various numbers, such as call volume and hold time. This can help you improve performance and better understand the current situation.
  • Call monitoring programs let you capture calls to ensure agents are following protocols. They can be used for quality assurance and to plan future training initiatives.
  • Call-back options allows a customer to receive a return call, so they don’t have to sit on the phone for a long wait period. When their turn comes up, an agent calls them back.
  • Workforce management software helps you forecast call volume, which aids in scheduling and hiring.
  • Customer relationship management software lets you keep track of customer interactions.

Assess your current technology and identify areas that can use improvement. Integrate new technology slowly, giving your employees time to learn how it works.

Provide support

Giving your agents the support they need fosters a positive work environment. It also equips them to better handle calls and work with customers more efficiently. In addition to call center technology, provide your customer service reps with ergonomic work stations. They spend all day sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen, so simple devices can make it easier on them physically. This might include adjustable, ergonomic chairs, large computer monitors and adjustable desks. Ask for feedback on what supports your agents need, and do your best to accommodate them.

Another convenient support tool is establishing a centralized knowledge base. This is a database of all important information your customer service agents may need, such as training documents, troubleshooting, scripts, company information, product information and other relevant data. Reps can easily access this data while on calls to handle situations consistently and reduce wait time for callers.

Delegate and trust your agents

While you have standard operating procedures for a reason, some situations may require some creative thinking by your agents. Give your call center staff the space to problem-solve and take ownership of their position instead of micromanaging every move. By trusting in their skills and decision-making, you can help motivate your employees and keep them happier.

Focus on the customer

A customer-centric call center keeps callers happier, which can increase customer retention. Offering multiple contact methods, such as email, chat and text, in addition to calls allows each customer to interact with your company in the most comfortable way for them.

Efficient and effective service is also important. If customers have to wait an extended period to talk to someone or get passed around between multiple agents, they get frustrated. Documenting calls thoroughly in your CRM system can help improve service each time the customer calls. The agent can look at previous interactions and have the detailed information they need to complete the call faster.

Set realistic expectations

Quotas and daily goals help motivate your workforce, and they give you solid metrics to measure your call center’s performance. If you make the expectations too high, employees can become frustrated and demotivated. Having team goals or adjusting individual goals based on previous performance can help maintain realistic expectations.

When you set goals, communicate them clearly. Your agents can’t reach these goals if they’re not aware of or don’t fully understand them. Scheduling team meetings to review these goals can help.

Provide feedback

Regular communication and feedback can help your agents improve. Create a call center culture of transparency and open, two-way communication. Adopt a coaching mentality where you constantly assess and give feedback to your agents. Work together with agents to remedy situations or help them improve. This might include setting goals for improvement and developing a plan to reach those goals.

Create incentives

Using incentives to reward top performers can encourage your reps to improve their productivity. To ensure it acts as a motivator, create a simple incentive system that’s easy to understand. Establish clear criteria for earning incentives, making sure they push your employees without being impossible to achieve.

FAQs about call center management

How do you assess the call center’s success?

Your call center should have key performance indicators (KPIs) in place, which help you determine the metrics to use. Looking at the analytics on the calls that come through the center gives you an idea of how successfully you’re managing the employees. Monitoring equipment allows you to check on employees and ensure they’re performing to your standards. This can help you determine if the staff needs additional training. Customer and employee satisfaction surveys can help you assess how well the call center is doing overall.

How can a call center manager engage the employees?

High employee engagement can help improve performance. One way to engage call center employees is to let them see the analytics for their work. This can challenge them to continue improving. Provide clear expectations, so employees know how they can excel, and provide the right tools to make their job easier. Offering additional training and learning opportunities can boost engagement.

What makes a good call center manager?

A highly qualified call center manager leads the team well and helps the success of the center. Interpersonal, customer service and management skills are essential for the role. They need to work well under pressure and manage multiple demanding situations at once to handle a fast-paced call center environment. Successful managers know how to communicate well and understand that communication with reps should be two-way. They’re motivating and know how to coach agents to improve their skills.

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