Qualities a Call Center Manager Must Have in Today’s Digital Era
Globalization, technological innovation, and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic and all that entails, are fundamentally changing many different businesses.Call centers are no exception.This article defines the new array of skills that are essential to a call center manager of the digital age.
How has Call Center Management Changed over Time?
Call centers are transforming into largely digital cloud-based operations, while growing ever-more important within the business they serve. These changes affect contact center budgets, technologies used, and of course the requirements from its personnel and management.
When call centers first evolved, they were small groups of agents managed in-house, taking care of customer service by mail (the “snail”, hard-copy variety) or by phone.
Today’s contact centers are huge operations spread across multiple locations, including virtual. They are often thousands of miles away from their company’s headquarters and manufacturing centers. While the phone has thus far survived, snail mail was replaced with websites, support chat modules and myriad social media platforms through which customers can approach the business.
While this can save the employer all kinds of overhead and improve the company’s ability to provide better and faster customer care, it also presents unique logistical and managerial challenges.
The Growing Importance of Call Center Management
As customer service becomes the great difference-maker in the business world, contact centers, the heart and soul of customer service, are going through expansion and transformation. The job of ensuring successful call center management is evolving into one of the most important roles in a large corporation.
If the agent on the phone or answering the chat is the company’s soldier, the team manager is the platoon commander, and the contact center manager is the field marshal. He’s in charge of strategic decisions and agent motivation. The contact center manager fights for what he believes will bring value to his brand’s customer service and ultimately to their customer.
Running a cutting-edge digital contact center operation involves a long list of new responsibilities, which require a whole new set of skills. We’ve compiled them below, handy for anyone looking to find the right candidate for this position, or for a call center manager to learn more about how to succeed in his role.
Essential Skills for a Call Center Manager
1) Leadership of the contact center
The contact center manager is responsible for the first line of contact with your customer. He is the first to know if something is working or not, and why. If your customer demands a change, the call center manager is the one that will have to deliver that demand to the C-Suite, present a solution and be a part of making the strategic decisions. In other words, the call center manager will help lead your C-Suite in making decisions that will affect the customer’s experience.
2) Up-to-date with contact center innovations
Call centers are becoming more dependent on new, increasingly advanced technologies, from Augmented Visual Support to advanced analytics and AI. The right technology can improve results and cut costs, while an unsuitable technology can cause the business damage. To manage a call center successfully and effectively, a good manager needs to keep up with contact center innovations, and be smart about choosing the most effective solutions that best address the KPIs and customer needs that are important to his business.
Once the most fitting technology has been identified, it needs to be implemented. A contact center manager needs to be quick with technology and able to learn and understand the ins and outs of the technologies he is introducing into his contact center. Otherwise, it’s going to be much harder for him to work with his teams to successfully implement the new technologies into their workflow.
This would be the most important skill to focus on when hiring a new manager for your call center.
3) Social media skills for an omnichannel contact center
It used to be a lot easier. Whether by phone or mail, customer contact back in the old days was controlled by the company, and therefore private. Now, your initial contact with a customer can often happen on Twitter or Facebook, for all the world to see. It takes far more dexterity to handle irate customers in such an open environment, and it takes a pro to know the do’s and don’ts of each medium. Understanding social media etiquette and lingo is fundamental to running a successful omnichannel contact center.
4) Deep understanding of the complete customer experience
This translates to familiarity with your product and end-to-end service experience.
These days, managing your customer’s experience when he reaches out for support has become a big task. With so many formats and platforms to communicate and provide support through, you need to know which is the best to be used for each case. That means matching the customer service issue and the customer “persona” with the best channel and means to deliver support to them effectively.
You can’t drive customers in an endless loop between FAQ page and Video troubleshooting. In order to direct the customer efficiently to the right support channel, the call center manager has to be familiar with both the product and the customer. Some themes he should be familiar with include:
- What are the common recurring issues?
- How are they best resolved with different types of customers?
- Is a bot capable of providing a certain type of solution or can it only be delivered by a human?
He needs to be familiar with your product and your customers inside out, to make sure you build your CX in the most effective way.
5) Complex management of international call centers
Cloud technology has thrown onsite old-fashioned management style out of the window. The modern successful call center manager must handle different types of employees, in different locations, at different timezones, working under different arrangements. That’s a lot to juggle and stay on top of, but it’s essential for the company that everything is held together smoothly.
6) Choose the right staff
The contact center manager might not be directly recruiting but he sets the bar. Personnel, like anything else in a contact center, must be optimized. With the evolving complexity of the modern call center, the game is changing and there is a lot more to consider when hiring than how an agent sounds on the phone.
The right personnel will be able to handle a higher volume of customer interactions, achieving better results and more satisfied customers. This will impact your bottom line both directly and indirectly.
When interviewing, it’s important for the call center manager to have an eye for those who can do the job well, and match them to your customers. For that to happen, he or she must have those same qualities themselves. As they say, hiring right is only half the battle, the other half is retention.
A call center is a grinding business with a high turnover. Turnover means lost organizational knowledge that has cost the company money in training. The ideal call center manager’s responsibilities will therefore include demanding results and budget considerations on one hand, while on the other creating a work environment people will be hesitant to leave.
7) Have big-picture vision of the contact center’s future
The success of your company isn’t just the sum of its parts. In order to truly thrive a company needs to eliminate silos within the company and minimize the friction between departments.
Too often one department will focus on driving their KPIs up at the expense of other departments. One example is lowering AHT at the call center at the expense of opening more field service technician work orders.
To avoid this, the contact center manager should have an overall perspective for the whole business. Make sure the right KPIs are set, which align fully with the company’s overarching agenda, avoiding friction between departments. A holistic vision of the business is crucial for the person who manages the first line of contact with the customer.
The Importance of Finding and Retaining the Right Call Center Manager
Call centers today are more important and more complex than ever before. The person who is responsible for successful contact center management has a tough job that requires a broad array of skills. First make sure they meet all the above criteria and then reward them accordingly to increase motivation, so as to avoid risking having your business lose on what is perhaps the most critical battlefield of modern corporate warfare – your customer service.