3 Contact Center Management Challenges Critical for Success
November 09, 2018
By: Rob Johnson
The end goal of any contact center is to provide outstanding service to its clients and their customers.
That starts at the agent level based on their interactions with customers and the ability to take care of the customer’s needs professionally and efficiently.
A big part of management’s job is to equip those agents with the knowledge and skills necessary to offer a high caliber of service.
Accomplishing that goal isn’t easy and comes with its share of challenges. Three of the more important, outlined below, include managing people, developing leaders, and preparing for growth.
Challenge #1: Managing People
Despite the need to stay on top of metrics, organize processes, supervise training, and make sure things run smoothly overall, one of the main jobs of a contact center manager is to meet the employees’ needs, address personnel issues that arise, and foster a company culture and climate where people are excited to work.
At Transparent BPO, our culture is driven by a commitment to four core values: quality, clients, community, and transparency. That commitment also extends to our employees, particularly the front-line agents, who are the lifeblood of our organization.
That’s one reason we put so much effort into recruiting the right people, training them well, and supporting them once they reach the floor. All are roles that fall under the contact center management mandate that when performed well, can lead to success for our agents, company, and clients.
Challenge #2: Developing Leaders
Another challenge has to do with leadership development. At Transparent BPO, we focus on two leadership levels primarily: team leaders and operations managers.
Team leaders are our front-line managers who oversee a small group of agents (a typical ratio in our case is 15 agents to one team lead). We carefully consider two factors when hiring for this position: how well the person has performed as an agent and whether he or she exhibits leadership potential.
We watch for whom agents go to as a peer for advice and which desk is surrounded by agents asking, “What do I do?” That person is already managing people, just not in an official capacity.
Something we are wary of, however, is always promoting the best agents to be team leads. Such a practice can have disastrous consequences for the client’s program if the person is an excellent individual contributor but not a good manager. Critical metrics can drop, as can morale, leading to lower agent satisfaction and higher attrition.
Ideally, employees will self-select and find the role that fits them best. Some enjoy being an agent and don’t want the headaches that come with management while others get excited about the opportunity to advance.
Of all the leadership roles in a contact center, perhaps the one played by operations managers is most critical. Because of that, we look for three specific characteristics when choosing such a person.
First, we need someone with the capacity to see the big picture and understand the organization at a more complex level. The person also needs to be dedicated to the company and its values, take an ownership stake and have a genuine desire to see it succeed. They must also show dedication to their coworkers and demonstrate that in the way they interact with their peers as well as those under their charge.
A Leader of Leaders
When an employee moves from team leader to operations management, they become not just a manager but also a leader of leaders — and there is a clear distinction between the two.
Management is seeing that things get done in an efficient, cost-effective manner; leadership is helping people understand where the company is headed and inspiring them to participate in getting there.
Leaders must articulate the company’s mission and vision and guide the employees they supervise down that path. It’s not that their job lacks tactical responsibilities — there are still plenty of those — it’s just that their primary role is to ensure everyone they supervise is in lockstep and performing well to meet the goals established by the client.
Challenge #3: Preparing for Growth
Continuing to have a pool of leaders ready to go as the company grows is also a challenge. One mistake many organizations make is not planning far enough ahead to identify and develop potential leaders. Failing to do so, they compound that mistake with another — putting people in roles for which they are unprepared.
That’s why the number one priority at Transparent BPO is to create leadership paths for potential leaders, from team leads to ops managers, and, now, to site directors. It’s also the reason we created the Rising Stars program, which ensures we always have leaders in the pipeline, trained and ready to step up when the need arises.
Other leadership development principles needed to prepare for contact center growth include promoting from within, training using real-world scenarios, and allocating resources sufficient to ensure success.
Promote from Within
Contact centers will, by and large, have greater success by finding, developing, and promoting leaders from within rather than going outside the organization and hiring people in. Your current employees already know the culture, processes, values, and mission, so it reduces ramp-up time.
Train Using Real-world Scenarios
Part of our leadership training methodology involves hands-on, real-life work. We assign people tasks that will be part of their job, provide feedback, and give both parties — the prospective leader and trainer or coach — the chance to evaluate their fitness for the role.
Allocate Sufficient Resources
Developing leaders in an ongoing way isn’t cheap; it demands that sufficient resources be allocated, both financial and personnel.
There’s training curriculum to buy, software to purchase, and travel expenses to cover sending employees to outside organizations for specialized or advanced training. Funds are also needed to hire staff to support the training program. In our case, we have a dedicated training director who oversees all aspects of training.
A favorite adage of mine is, “People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.” Translating that into contact center leadership development means that if you’re going to need a leader in six months, you must start planning today. Otherwise, you do plan to fail.
Ours is a crazy, complex business, but when you hire the right people, train and manage them well, keep an eye out for those with leadership potential, and commit to their ongoing development, you can turn challenges into opportunities that virtually guarantee success.
Your employees are happy; your management team breathes easier, and your clients (and their customers) are well satisfied.
It’s a beautiful thing.