Call center management is, by no means, an easy job. It requires strategic vision, hard work, difficult decisions, the ability to motivate people to hit tough targets, and much more.
Effective leaders in the call center industry need to be familiar with every aspect of their business, lead by example, and work within strict budgets. It can be overwhelming at times.
To help you get out from under this overwhelmed feeling, and move you and your call center closer to success, we’ve compiled a list of the 15 best practices for effective call center management.
What Is A Call Center?
A call center (sometimes called a contact center) is a department, office, or team that handles incoming telephone calls from new and existing customers looking for answers to their questions or solutions to their problems.
In the past, call centers even carried out telemarketing and conducted market research. Over time, though, many businesses have separated these activities into their own departments to maximize productivity.
Call centers now deal almost exclusively with customers through a variety of analog and digital channels, including:
- Social media
- Text (SMS)
With so many channels available, the workload can be formidable — for you and your team. To ensure your department runs smoothly and efficiently, it’s essential to examine the way your team works and refine your own call center management practices.
Best Practices For Call Center Management
1) Hire The Best Employees
It’s essential for successful call center management, but few managers put enough time and energy into hiring the best employees for the job. Call centers need people with a natural ability for customer service, good listening skills, effective communication skills, an excellent memory, and an enthusiastic attitude. It’s the intangibles like enthusiasm and ability to listen that often make the best employees.
And the tricky thing is, these traits can’t be taught. That’s why it’s so important that savvy managers take the time to screen new employees for attitude and aptitude.
2) Provide Thorough Onboarding
Hiring is only a very small part of successful call center management. Granted, it’s an important part, but hiring mistakes can be mitigated through a thorough onboarding process that teaches good habits and communicates your high standards.
We recommend putting special emphasis on training employees how to deal with customer complaints. The bulk of their calls will probably be of this type so it’s important to prepare them right from the beginning.
Make sure that your employees see customer complaints as an opportunity to provide great service rather than an obstacle that needs to be crossed. With a thorough onboarding program in place, your new employees will feel better able to handle any type of call that comes their way.
That makes for a happier employee, and ultimately, a happier customer.
3) Prioritize Employee Engagement
Call centers have a notorious reputation as difficult places to work. Whether that label is true or not, it can make attracting good employees and minimizing turnover an overwhelming job.
Attracting good employees starts with the hiring process, but minimizing turnover is a direct product of employee engagement. Effective employee engagement can be as simple as talking with your employees each day, or as elaborate as a team retreat.
Engagement activities like holding brainstorming sessions, or a team happy hour, can make your employees feel like part of a team, and keep them on point and ready to handle customer problems. Take the time to institute some employee engagement programs to keep your team’s motivation and performance at a high level.
4) Ensure Proper Scheduling For Effective Call Center Management
Working in a call center can be a high-stress job. That stress can have a negative effect on your employees. The moment they begin to feel overworked, their ability to perform at a high level decreases.
That’s where proper scheduling comes in. Giving your employees enough downtime to recharge and refocus, can ensure that your customers receive the patient and friendly service they deserve.
But even a small-sized team can be difficult to schedule. There are so many variables and moving parts to contend with that the job can seem well-nigh impossible.
Factors such as what is good for the call center, peak and low hours, employee ability, employee availability, and a whole host of others, can turn scheduling into a full-time job. That’s why it’s important to make use of the best tools available for the job.
A digital solution like Sling can simplify and streamline the scheduling process so you can focus less on just getting bodies in chairs, and more on putting together the best team for the shift. This can mean the difference between the highest quality of service possible and merely average service.
5) Communicate Regularly With Your Employees
There’s no experience like first-hand experience. Though you may not be on the frontline of the call center everyday, your employees are. They are familiar with the customer service process inside and out. That makes them more aware of where the problems lie, and perhaps more cognizant of what is necessary to fix them.
You can learn what your employees know by communicating with them regularly. Find out where they’re having problems. Ask them what they need to do a good job. Get their feedback on what’s important to the customers. And see if they have any suggestion for making things better.
6) Give Employees Targeted Feedback
Regular quality-of-service assessment is vital for the successful operation of any call center. Take the time to listen to your employees’ performance and then be ready to offer targeted feedback so they can improve.
Do this evaluation systematically so that you can gauge the abilities of each and every employee. And while targeted feedback can lead to profound change, sometimes it may not be enough. We suggest you establish an ongoing-training program to reinforce the standards you’ve set for your quality of service.
7) Use Data When Making Decisions
Just about all decision-making in business is driven by data these days. Your call center management should be too. Set goals and establish appropriate metrics to reach those goals. It’s important for managers to be familiar with the metrics that are most applicable to their employees and customers.
Once you’ve set your goals and established your metrics, gather as much data as possible using your call center software to gain insight into your operations.
Metrics such as Net Promoter Score® (NPS) and customer satisfaction (CSat) should play a role in your decision-making as should number of calls, and successful outcome of calls. Other metrics may be necessary for your particular call center but these are always a good place to start.
8) Delegate Responsibilities To Your Employees
It can be very easy for a call center manager to get bogged down in the specific details of the job. There are a myriad of small tasks that need to get done for a call center to run smoothly.
But there are also a lot of high-level strategy decisions that can keep your call center performing at its best. It’s these later jobs and decisions that an effective manager should focus on.
To do that, however, you need to delegate responsibility for the small tasks to your employees. Delegating not only helps you find time for the bigger issues, it empowers the employees to whom you’ve given that added responsibility.
To set your employees up for success, and to ensure that the jobs you delegate get done correctly, it’s important that you set up a process that doesn’t require that the employee consult with you on every decision.
Such a framework might be communicated through a company guidebook, an employee handbook, or by giving certain employees access to higher functions in your call center software.
Whatever form your framework takes, be sure to give your employees the freedom and the tools necessary to get the job done. Letting go of some of your lesser responsibilities can be difficult — especially when you’re still responsible for that job. But when you delegate successfully, it allows you to turn your attention to more important issues that can have a major effect on the success of your call center.
9) Establish Positive Incentives For Good Work
You want to encourage your employees to do their best work, all the time. One of the best ways to do this is through positive incentives. Quotas, contests, and rewards can provide positive incentives in a number of different ways.
First, they can keep employees motivated when the calls get difficult. Second, they can help maintain a higher level of morale throughout your entire team. And third, they can make employees feel appreciated.
When your employees feel appreciated, they’re more than likely to go the extra mile to provide high-quality customer service when the need arises. That benefits them, you, and the entire company.
10) Improve The Process By Putting Yourself In Your Employees’ Shoes
Communicate with your employees regularly to find out the problems they see and the concerns they have about the customer service process. But nothing helps you improve your call center activities like putting yourself in your employees’ shoes once in a while.
Donning a headset and taking a few calls will give you a better understanding of the challenges your employees face on a daily basis.
It will help you see what they need to do their job better. It will help you see what your customers need. It will help you refine the strategy that governs your call center and show you how you can improve the process overall.
Putting yourself on the frontline with your employees is also a great way to lead by example. It engenders respect and shows that you’re not so far above your employees that you’re not willing to get your hands dirty when it’s necessary.
11) Balance Workflow To Meet Demand
If your team is too large, there won’t be enough work to keep everyone occupied. If your team is too small, there will be too much work for too few people.
Your job as a manager is to balance the workflow and size of your team to meet the demands of your business. It’s crucial to review staffing levels so that you can predict how many team members you’ll need in any situation.
When striving to balance the workflow in your call center team, examine such variables as:
- Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly call volume
- Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly peak call times
- Team members necessary to provide short wait-times
With this and other information relevant to your business, you’ll be able to forecast call volume, calculate staff requirements, keep labor costs low, and create work schedules that ensure the successful operation of your call center.
12) Stay On Top Of Administrative Tasks
As a manager, you want your call center to run smoothly and your customers to receive the help they need in a timely manner. While ensuring the effectiveness of the members in your department is a key component of your job, you shouldn’t neglect the administrative tasks that make it all possible.
Yes, reviewing, refining, and perfecting the way your team works is more visible — and more appealing. But it’s the mundane managerial activities (like organizing timesheets, calculating profit margin, training, and project-planning) that provide a solid foundation on which your team can work.
Set aside the necessary time to stay on top of these administrative tasks so they don’t pile up, get out of hand, and affect your team in a negative way.
If you have problems finding time to sit down and complete these activities, incorporate scheduling software like Sling to plan your workday so that everything gets done. Sling even provides a task list to help you keep track of what you need to do and messaging features that notify you when deadlines are near.
13) Know Your Business
As a call center manager, you must be knowledgeable in every aspect of your department. This includes:
- Team-member performance
- Industry developments
- Possible problems and their solutions
It’s not enough to isolate yourself in your department — even to ensure that it’s running at 100% all the time. Your team doesn’t operate in a vacuum. An effective call center manager is in touch with managers in other departments and works hand-in-hand with them to drive the business forward.
14) Invest In Technology
Modern call centers need the right tools and technology to run efficiently. It’s your job to furnish your team members with everything they need to provide quality customer service and support every time.
The last 15 years have been a golden age of call-center-technology development, and businesses that have embraced those advances are growing by leaps and bounds.
From database management, records access, and advanced search functionality to call-center-management software suites, technology allows team members and managers to provide a quick, easy, and seamless experience for their customers. And when customers are pleased with the support they receive from your team, their loyalty will increase.
Other advanced call center management technology arms team members with complete data synchronization and instantaneous customer information from the moment they pick up the call.
With the right tools for the job, your team can take advantage of:
- Call monitoring
- Call recording
- Whispering (sort of a heads-up display about the caller’s issue)
- Barging (managers can drop in on a live call)
- Skill-based routing
- Interactive voice response (IVR)
- Ring groups
All of these features (and more) ensure that your team has the tools and technology it needs to provide the best call center experience possible.
Yes, technology may be expensive up front, but the dividends it pays in efficiency, productivity, engagement, and satisfaction — for your employees and your customers — is well worth the investment.
15) Know The Laws In Your Area
All call centers must abide by local, state, and federal laws. It’s your responsibility as the manager to understand those laws and make sure your team is compliant with all that apply to your business.
Your knowledge of call-center-management laws is especially critical if your department deals with heavily regulated sectors like:
- Consumer finance
- International trade
- Oil and gas
- Electric power and transmission
And if your team makes outgoing calls to prospective customers, it’s vital that you are fully aware of your business’s responsibility — and compliance — toward the National Do Not Call Registry (NDNCR).
The NDNCR is a database maintained by the United States federal government that lists the telephone numbers of individuals and families who have requested that telemarketers not contact them.
If you fail to comply with these laws — call center management and the National Do Not Call Registry — your business could be subject to significant penalties and fines.
If you are unsure about the local, state, and federal laws that apply to your team in regard to their activities and the NDNCR, consult an attorney who is familiar with your industry and the area in which you operate.
Review And Refine Your Call Center Management Techniques
The success of your business depends on your ability to periodically review and refine your call center management techniques.
Every three months, examine the processes and guidelines you and your team are using in your day-to-day interactions with customers and with each other. Are those processes working, or could they be better? Can you implement one of the call center management techniques on this list to improve the way your team works?
If the best practices on this list stand out to you as a way to develop your team’s skills, introduce the techniques slowly over time.
Choose one or two and set a goal to implement them in the next three months. If the call center management technique will have a significant impact on the way your team works, you can even phase it in over a period of six months to one year.
Once the technique is in place, allow your team a few months to become acclimated to the new process. Then, review the processes and, if your team is working better, introduce another item on this list.
The key is to continuously refine and improve your call center management techniques so that your customers receive the help they deserve and your business thrives.
For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit GetSling.com today.