Call centers lie at the interface between corporations and their customers. They perform the crucial role of being the connection between a customer and the organization by taking up the role of customer service representation.
These call centers provide telemarketing strategies and activities, and take inbound calls clearing doubts, citing clarifications and boosting customer satisfaction.
Given that it plays such an important role, call center management is important for the survival and growth of any company.
A company that can effectively manage its customer service wing is likely to have more and more loyal customers, which boosts sales far more than the acquisition of new customers.
Even with all of the call center software available for use, management of call centers is not an easy task.
Managers need to know the market extremely well, work out the target groups for that specific company’s products or services, devise strategies that play into the interests of this target group the best, and keep constant track of the quality and quantity of work being completed.
In addition, a manager has to have the ability to keep employees motivated, since a call center can prove to be a very challenging workplace for most agents.
Managers are faced with difficult decisions every other day, and the best of them have to very clearly understand the costs and benefits of every move, and take decisions accordingly without hesitation.
In a call center, the morale of the team depends upon the attitude of the manager. Employees look to their manager to lead by example.
Therefore, as a leader, the manager must have thorough knowledge of the business as a whole, be able to produce the best work within a stringent budget and adhere to deadlines.
Managers are also responsible for hiring and firing decisions, staff scheduling, etc. so that the call center has enough employees to answer all the calls that come in at any given time.
In short, a manager’s role is amplified in a call center compared to other corporate structures, because there is a direct interaction between the manager and his employees, and the manager’s abilities are judged almost exclusively by the performance of his workers.
In this article, we will take a look at some of the practices that can help managers provide better leadership to the call center and increase productivity of the employees as a whole.
We will also talk about what sort of skills a manager needs to cultivate in order to ensure that operations within and beyond the call center run smoothly and activities are started and finished successfully without too much hassle.
1. Hire employees who are a right fit for the job to begin with. Not everyone is suited for a call center job, and the key to building a strong team is identifying the correct personnel for it.
The job requires people who have good communication skills, adaptability to various situations and an enthusiasm even after working long hours.
Managers should keep in mind the qualities that they want in employees, rather than simply choosing the person with the strongest CV.
2. Establish competitive salary ranges. One of the most effective ways of keeping your team upbeat and in a spirit of healthy competition is to establish an incentive for higher salaries if an individual can prove to be the best worker for the month.
This sort of a guidelines allows employees to strive to be the best, and the productivity of the team automatically increases because everybody is giving their best and contributing to the cause.
3. Prioritize employee engagement to minimize turnover. While the hiring process is crucial to bring the best worker on your team, they need to be kept feeling satisfied with their job so to keep them loyal to the company.
Attrition rates are lower if the employees have a sense of belonging to their company, and this sense can be cultivated by the managers who prioritize engagement with their employees.
It could be something as simple as having a conversation with your employees every day, but it has a significant and long-standing effect.
4. Set up a training program for new employees. Employees need to know the whereabouts of the business, the tools they have at their disposal, and the best way to implement them to get the desired results.
New employees should undergo a training regime which enables them to understand the nuances of the job and perform even better.
Further, employees who are trained in the exact requirements of the call center are more likely to bring any discrepancies to the manager’s attention, further helping the process of increasing efficiency.
5. Schedule shifts effectively to distribute workload. Shift scheduling is one of the most important tasks of a manager. He or she needs to identify at what times of the day call volumes are likely to be the highest, and then schedule the resources available so that the maximum number of calls can be answered during those peak times.
Scheduling also ensures that no agent is sitting idle at a time when very few calls are being made. This is an important metric to determine the productivity of the call center.
6. Get data first-hand from employees. People on the field are best equipped to provide the most accurate evaluations of any activity.
As a manager, it is important that you stay in touch with your employees and find out first-hand from them what is going right or wrong with the day to day operations of the company.
Only when you have accurate data about this, can you formulate policies that will have the significant impact.
7. Give your employees some level of autonomy to make decisions. Every organization runs on the basis of hierarchy, and there are decisions that needs to be taken at every rung of the ladder.
Allowing your employees to partake in the decision making process produces two benefits.
First, the employees feel empowered because they have a certain amount of responsibility to fulfill, and are therefore more likely to put in extra effort and second, managers are relieved of the smaller decisions so they can shift their focus entirely to larger, more important decisions that have to be taken.
8. Make data-driven decisions. It is very easy to get carried away by ideal metrics, but a call center prospers only when the managers take their decisions based on the data.
Targets need to be set realistically according to the data you have at your disposal. Once that is determined, the metrics to be monitored to gauge performance should also be established on the basis of data.
Almost every business decision today is guided by trends in data, and this has proved to be a very effective counsel.
9. Establish a recognition process for outstanding achievement. Call center employees often blame the leadership for taking good performance for granted.
As a manager, it helps immensely if you serve up incentives like pay bonuses, or a system of recognition such as “Employee of the Month”, to provide acknowledgement for outstanding efforts. Such a structure would motivate all employees to work harder to reach the top.
10. Give feedback so that the employees have a clear picture of the process. Managers need to continuously monitor the efforts of their employees and judge the quality of service accordingly.
Establishing a system where the results of such periodic evaluations are shared with individual employees, along with pointers about areas they can improve upon, what sort of work is expected out of them and what features they can use to better their performance, is bound to not only help the employee work better, but establish a more coherent and trusting relationship between the employee and the manager.
The Case Study
We have talked about why the managerial roles in a call center are so crucial to the working of business, and how managers can adopt certain practices to make their job more fluent, easy and effective.
The essence of a manager’s job lies in getting the best out of his or her employees; be it using the uplifting principles, or using the data from call center software solutions.
To this effect, there are managers who have developed very personalized tactics that work in their organizations. However, the broader points mentioned here are all important to sustain a healthy relationship in the workplace and boost productivity.
To highlight this point, let us take an example of Ecostone Technologies, a telemarketing agency providing call center solutions for a tech firm.
In this case study, we will take a look at the scenario they were in, what sort of challenges the company faced and how these challenges were met by the implementing changes.
We will also see whether the implementation of these changes had caused any direct positive change in the company’s business outputs or not.
The Problem Scenario
Ecostone’s primary problem was in keeping their employees satisfied and working to the best of their potential. They noticed that the performance index was slipping for the last couple of years, but they were struggling to find out the root cause of this slump.
The company was looking to reshuffle its managerial practices in order to ensure that effective measures could be taken and performance levels could rise again, because they had to provide top quality customer service in order to stay one of the top companies in the industry.
Some of the most significant challenges that the company faced are listed below.
1. Employees who were being hired were taking a long time to fit in to the actual workings of the company. In addition, a high attrition rate meant that a lot of new employees were being taken in every year to adjust for the ones leaving.
These new employees brought productivity down till they became well-versed in the job, which is something the company could not afford.
2. Managers failed to get a very clear picture in case something was going wrong in the manner that the employees were tackling things.
Because the managers were kept in the dark about the certain things, they did not see the problem until it was too late. This lack of communication between the employees and the managers was hurting the company.
3. Employee satisfaction rates were low. Employees complained that the managers did not put in much effort in recognizing their good work, and the targets that were being set for them were too difficult to actually meet.
In addition, the employees wanted more space in their work profiles to make decisions for themselves, because they knew the details of the cases very much nicely .
The company recognized the need to revamp the procedures that were being followed to counter these problems. They came up with the following list of solutions.
1. While hiring, the skills possessed by a candidate such as marketing capacities, ability to communicate and ability to think straight in pressure situations were given greater importance.
This ensured that the new bunch of employees were more skill-oriented than knowledge-oriented, which helped the company exercise more flexibility.
2. Managers started engaging with employees on a daily basis to find out if any concern had arisen. They also employed the use of the best call center software that were available, to determine the most appropriate course of action in any such scenario.
3. Responsibility and authority was distributed among the employees so that they could make some of the decisions on their own.
These decisions were monitored closely and their success or failure was communicated to the employees, so that they could learn on the job and improve their capabilities.
As soon as the managers took a more hands-on role in the activities of the call center, productivity started increasing. Employees were more satisfied with their position, and there was more free conversation between employees and managers.
This directly impacted a 4% growth in sales over the past year, and brought attrition rates down from over 28% to just below 24% within a year of implementation.
Thus, managerial decisions have a key role to play in influencing workers to give their best. Only when the managers are at the top of their game can a company expect its employees to churn out the best results. The tips provided here will help the managers harness the full potential of their employees and lead to better outputs.