How would you like to make your call center agents 8.5 times more likely to stay with your company and 16 times more likely to refer their friends? As a leader, you have the power to enact behaviors and policies that will do just that. After surveying 320 contact center employees, McKinsey & Company found proven ways to boost performance, which we’ll go over below in the call center management best practices.
But first, let’s define call center management and its roles.
What Is Call Center Management?
Call center management refers to the way a call center structures its organization, leverages resources, handles employees, and optimizes processes. Call center management consists of roles such as directors, call center managers, supervisors, and team leads.
What Do Call Center Managers Do?
Call center managers are typically in charge of the supervisors or team leads who are, in turn, responsible for the call center agents.
Call center managers do any of the following duties:
- Overseeing call center operations
- Setting and tracking KPIs and performance metrics
- Analyzing metrics and preparing reports
- Conducting performance reviews
- Auditing processes and looking for ways to improve efficiency
- Ensuring alignment between corporate goals (SLAs) and call center agent performance
- Evaluating and recommending new software to enhance productivity
- Hiring and firing
- Coaching and training
- Creating SOPs and other documentation
- Leading team meetings
- Approving certain agent actions, such as refunds
- Dealing with escalation requests
Do not underestimate the power of a manager to affect call center performance. As MetricNet CEO Jeff Rumburg, who has spent more than 30 years in the contact center industry, writes for ICMI: “I have seen contact centers transform, almost overnight, from poor performers to top quartile performers simply by replacing the manager of the center.”
17 Call Center Management Best Practices That’ll Empower Your Employees
Given how vital your role is as a leader of your company, below are 17 call center management best practices that can improve employee engagement, boost productivity, and make your center an empowering place to work.
1. Hire people who desire career growth
While it’s true many people see a call center job as a temporary role on their way to something better, if you want to improve employee retention, you need to attract the right candidates and screen for people who want to make a career out of call centers.
The McKinsey report found that people with no desire to be promoted are more likely to leave. So during your interview process, be sure to ask about the candidate’s career goals. The classic “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question can help you determine if a candidate wants to move up to a supervisor role or just wants to get out of call centers as soon as possible.
2. Help your call center agents see a clear career path
The McKinsey report found that promotion opportunities were the second most important driver of employee retention. Because of this, it’s crucial that you provide promotion opportunities and make them desirable. An agent has no incentive to improve their performance if they think their role is a dead end. Communicate to your team about how they can move up the ladder within your center and what kind of benefits that entails (better wages, for example).
3. Improve call quality with AI-powered noise cancellation
Too many call center agents are being asked to do their jobs in noisy environments. In an office, they’re distracted by other agents talking on the phones around them, and even at home, their calls are interrupted by noisy neighbors, talkative family members, and vocal pets. One thing is clear: noise causes issues for your agents.
But there’s a simple fix to all of those problems: the Krisp noise-cancelling app. With the click of a button, Krisp works in the background to eliminate all distracting sounds in real-time—on any communication app and with any headset that your agents use. The power lies in its deep neural network, which has been trained and knows which human voice to keep and which distracting sound to take out.
4. Get on the phones, gain respect
While many call center managers and supervisors start as agents, not all do, and it’s easy to grow disconnected from the front lines the longer you work in management.
One of the biggest complaints of call center agents is that management is out of touch with what goes on on the phones. This results in management implementing metrics and procedures that don’t make sense.
Easy fix? Take some calls yourself. Regularly. This serves two purposes:
- You will feel the impact of the policies you’re putting in place. Are these policies helping or hurting your agents and customers? You’ll find out by taking some calls.
- You’ll gain respect from your direct reports and improve performance. Research suggests that when leaders lead by example, followers are more likely to cooperate.
5. Make yourself available to call center agents
Rumburg says that one of the four characteristics of high-performing call center managers is accessibility. In other words, do you make yourself available to your agents when they need you? And do the agents feel like they can talk to you openly?
Make it clear to your agents how they can get in contact with you. Establishing open communication will go a long way in building trust, which ultimately affects employee engagement and performance.
6. Listen to your team
Even if you don’t consistently work the phones yourself, an excellent way to know how your leadership affects the front lines is to listen to your team—supervisors, team leads, and especially agents. They will have valuable insights from working directly with customers that you may lack.
How can you become a better listener as a leader?
Don’t expect every employee to walk into your office (or ping you on Slack) anytime they have feedback to give. Often, you’ll need to invite that feedback in multiple ways. Here are some ideas:
- Virtual town halls
- Pulse surveys
- Anonymous feedback forms
7. Listen to your customers
On the flip side, customers will have valuable insights that you can’t gain on your own. That’s why implementing customer feedback surveys after each interaction is so important. The most efficient way to do this is with customer experience software, which includes survey features that allow you to calculate things like CSAT and NPS as well as gather additional feedback on how to provide better support.
8. Schedule regular one-on-ones
One-on-ones are regular meetings between managers and their direct reports to celebrate accomplishments, discuss career growth, convey feedback, and answer questions. According to the 2017 State of One-on-Ones report, the majority of managers and direct reports agree that one-on-one meetings are important to team performance. However, there is a disconnect between how helpful managers and employees think the one-on-ones are.
One-on-one Do’s and Don’ts
- DO share an agenda ahead of time so the direct report knows what to expect. In the meeting agenda, be sure to add a clear objective to focus the conversation.
- DON’T use this time to micromanage. While you may choose to go over the employee’s metrics during a one-on-one, this isn’t the time to obsess over the numbers or try to micromanage. Instead, try to find good work to highlight and praise before going into areas of improvement.
- DO discuss career growth and development. As you saw above, promotion opportunities are a big motivator for call center employees. Be sure to focus on career growth so the direct report sees a future with your company.
- DON’T do all the talking. The purpose of a one-on-one is not for the manager to lecture; instead, it should be an opportunity for the direct report to talk about concerns and get answers to questions they might not otherwise have brought up.
9. Host regular team huddles
At one company that McKinsey surveyed, frequent and focused team huddles boosted revenue by 50% and increased employee satisfaction.
Huddles are typically hosted about once a week, and according to McKinsey, “Effective huddles allow for time to facilitate sharing of best practices, clarify and reinforce employee expectations, set fun team goals, celebrate peer performance, and emphasize the critical roles that agents play.”
10. Encourage a sense of community
Friends and community were the fourth most important driver of employee retention in the McKinsey report. Your agents want to feel like they belong, and they achieve that through having work friends and having comfortable spaces for socializing in the office, such as break rooms and lounges.
11. Stop obsessing over metrics
Call center metrics are a key way to ensure your team is doing a good job—but they’re not the only way. Don’t become so distracted by a single metric that you fail to look at the whole picture.
For example, are hold times still too long despite training your team as best as possible? Look at other factors: Is call volume going up while the number of agents remains the same? Then expecting them to answer faster is unrealistic. Use metrics, but also think holistically.
12. Advocate for your team
As a manager or supervisor, you are the mediator between corporate and your agents. While yes, you do need to meet certain performance goals to satisfy corporate, you also have a duty to advocate on behalf of your agents, who often do not get to communicate with corporate.
Use your influence as a member of management to take frequently voiced problems (and ideas for solutions) to executives to start implementing real change.
13. Cultivate a culture of appreciation
In its most recent Global Culture Report, O.C. Tanner found a direct link between peer recognition and a feeling of connection: When an employee gave recognition to a peer, the connection between the two became 55% stronger. Peer recognition can contribute to a stronger community, which, as we know, makes it more likely that an employee will stick around.
So how can you enhance peer recognition? One way is to have a “shoutouts” segment during your team huddle, where employees can announce their gratitude for a peer’s help.
14. Invest in frequent training
Training is not a one-and-done deal for any call center agent. Industry regulations and organizational goals constantly change. As you take more calls, you get more customer feedback that should inform changes at your call center. Make sure to keep your agents up to date on training so they can perform at their best.
15. Provide coaching and feedback
While it’s common practice for supervisors and QA specialists to provide coaching to call center agents, the McKinsey report recommends doing peer-to-peer coaching as well. This is where you pair a high-performing agent with a lower-performing one. Why? Not only does this provide the lower-performing agent with helpful feedback to improve their performance, but it also cultivates a stronger sense of community since those insights are coming from a peer—not a higher-up.
16. Instill a mission and tie it to the agents’ work
Human beings are meaning-makers by nature. Without meaning, a job will feel pointless and an employee’s morale will decrease, lowering their performance and eventually causing them to seek another job.
Your organization likely has a mission statement. Find ways to tie that mission statement directly to what your call center team does. You can even create a modified mission statement specifically for your call center.
This mission should be reiterated during team huddles and in performance reviews. That way, agents will always see how the work they’re doing is contributing to the mission. For example, consider reading positive customer feedback (taken from surveys) at the start of every team huddle. This will motivate your agents because they’ll see that their work is appreciated by callers.
17. Choose the best call center software for your organization
If you’re still using outdated software, no amount of call center management tweaks will fix your agents’ performance. The right call center software will automate mindless tasks (giving you and your agents more time to attend to important matters), track metrics and provide performance reports to help your team get better, and even use artificial intelligence to give real-time tips on how to improve a call.
Use Your Call Center Management Skills to Make Your Agents Shine
At the end of the day, you have corporate and clients to answer to. They want to see that you’re hitting your goals—and you won’t be able to do that without a cohesive and motivated team of agents. Empower your agents to perform optimally with these call center management best practices.
With high call volume and rude customers, life at a call center is already stressful enough. Don’t be the reason a talented agent decides to quit. Instead, be the reason your team comes into work every day fully prepared and motivated to do the best job possible.
Effective call center management begins with equipping your team with the right tools. Install Krisp today to give your agents the power of noise-free calls.