Working to manage call centers has many moving parts and can often create a feeling of drinking from a firehose for those who are newer to a managerial role. Perhaps you’re already in call center management or an agent aspiring to work your way up and are seeking to learn more about what all is involved.
Regardless of your role and level of current understanding, we’ve built this page to help equip you with all of the information you need to know in a simple and straightforward format.
We’ll get started by providing a quick refresher on call center management. We’ll then provide you with insights into the different types of management roles within call centers, tips on how you can effectively manage a call center, essential KPIs, and more.
This comprehensive guide is designed to be your one-stop resource for mastering the complex, fast-paced world of call center management. Whether you’re a seasoned manager seeking fresh insights into call center processes, or a professional looking to grow, read on.
What is Call Center Management?
Call center management (or contact center management) involves a systematic approach to overseeing and guiding a team of leaders tasked with running a call center. This complex operation includes a range of essential activities, such as staff training, coaching, onboarding, scheduling, forecasting, and more. An effective contact center management strategy creates an efficient, successful contact center that meets (and surpasses) key performance indicators (KPIs).
Why is Effective Call Center Management Important?
Effective call center management will not only boost the overall performance of your call center but also make both your customers and employees happier.
Your call center is a representation of your brand, and depending on how well you handle customer queries, customers will either develop a positive or negative image of your company.
With proper call center management techniques, you’ll be able to increase customer retention, reduce agent turnover rates, and monitor and improve performance.
Understanding Roles in Call Center Management
When it comes to call center managers, there are a few different types of call center supervisor roles that are most common. Let’s look at each of these and provide insights into how they assist with running a thriving contact center.
The first type of call center manager role is the director. Directors are most often responsible for the overall guidance of the contact center operations. They play a crucial role in setting organizational goals, overseeing the activities of managers and supervisors, and ensuring all efforts align towards meeting those goals.
Other positions with similar responsibilities might be Vice Presidents or similar senior titles.
Managers and Supervisors
In the heart of call center management, managers and supervisors work closely with call center agents. They hold responsibility for onboarding, training, hiring, motivating, and monitoring the call center staff. A call center manager also provides the necessary support to maximize efficiency and productivity.
Call center supervisors may have more responsibility than a manager, and may even share similar responsibilities as a Director. Call centers vary from company to company and each may have a different structure. Regardless, call center managers share broadly similar roles.
Call Center Agents
Call center agents are the customer-facing representatives that directly interact with customers and solve their queries.
Technically, their primary responsibility is to help customers with their problems across different support channels, such as phone and live chat. But what’s even more important for your agents is to be capable of showing empathy and that your organization actually cares about its customers.
What are the Basic Call Center Operations?
In a call center, if your self-service options haven’t been of much help to your customer, the customer reaches out to your support team.
Ideally, if your team’s capacity meets demand, an agent will answer the call as quickly as possible.
If you have some form of call routing system, it’ll route the customer to the best matching agent based on the product and the related query.
The customer explains their problem, while the agent listens to the problem and scans through the tools and resources that their contact center managers made available to them to find a solution.
In the best case scenario, the agent is able to resolve the query quickly, without requiring managerial assistance or call transfer.
Once the agent resolves the query, they do some post-call work that include taking notes and updating the customer’s record. This helps other agents follow up with the customer in future calls and provide personalized support and offers.
Managers may listen in on calls to monitor agent performance and provide assistance when required. They also provide training and coaching for the agents to improve their performance.
Inbound vs. Outbound Call Center
Generally, a call center can either be an inbound or outbound call center.
An inbound call center is when your call center receives calls from customers (most of the time at least). Usually, the purpose of an inbound call center is to provide customer support, not make sales calls.
An outbound call center, on the other hand, is when your reps are the ones who reach out prospects or customers. Typically, the purpose of an outbound call center is to increase sales.
Call center management techniques vary depending on what type of call center you’re running. In an inbound call center, for instance, your goal is to empower agents to respond to queries quickly and find an immediate solution to improve the customer experience.
On the other hand, in an outbound call center, you need to train your reps on how to perfect their sales pitch, add a touch of personalization to each sales call, and display empathy about the customer’s concerns, pain points, and needs.
Effective Call Center Management: Techniques and Best Practices
Want to manage your call center agents better? You should implement the most effective techniques and best practices that enhance customer experience and boost team performance.
Here are a few critical strategies for successful call centers:
1. Master the Use of Call Monitoring Tools
As a call center manager, you should use monitoring tools to gain oversight of the performance of your agents. Instead of just hoping that your team of agents is performing well, monitoring tools can provide insights into KPIs about how well your team is doing and how satisfied your customers are.
In the next section, we’ll go into detail about some of the KPIs you should be monitoring and the tools to do so.
2. Emphasize Optimal Scheduling
A crucial aspect of an efficient call center management strategy is making sure the manager schedules their agents properly. By deploying effective scheduling strategies, you ensure that your call center is staffed optimally at all times. This is more applicable to an inbound call center, but an outbound call center also needs to consider staffing needs.
On one side, it’s essential not to be overstaffed when call volume is low. By properly managing your agent scheduling at slower times for customer calls, you’ll reduce the number of agents working so that you’re not overpaying for labor.
Additionally, it’s vital to use proper scheduling to ensure there are enough call center agents online for periods of high call volume. Here, the goal is to ensure customer satisfaction is kept high while minimizing wait times.
3. Communicate Regularly with Employees
The foundation of successful call center management lies in consistent, meaningful communication with your team members. Here, it’s important that a call center agent feels like they are a part of the team and not an island to themselves.
By communicating regularly with your call center employees, you’ll be able to increase employee engagement. In addition, it provides the call center supervisor an opportunity to listen to agent feedback, which you can use to help improve processes and scripts.
Remember that your agents are the boots on the ground with your customers and are often willing to share their feedback and ideas if you provide a regular forum for them. Consider using standing team meetings and 1:1 syncs with your agents to allow a two-way flow of communication.
4. Centralize and Democratize Access to Call Center Data
According to recent research, siloed call center employees spend roughly 15% of their time trying to find key information to serve customers. This can wreak havoc on your agents’ productivity and lead to poor customer experience.
Centralizing customer data into a single platform that everyone in your team can access is a great way to prevent data silos and encourage collaboration across different teams and departments.
It enables everyone in your organization, including agents, managers, and supervisors, to gain data-driven insights that help them solve the root causes behind problems.
Also, by combining data from sales, marketing, and customer service into a single dashboard, your agents will be able to create more personalized support experiences for your customers.
5. Leverage Self-Service Solutions Internally and Externally
Self-service portals, such as knowledge bases, tutorials, and FAQ sections, can drastically improve customer experience and increase your agents’ productivity.
On one hand, customer-facing self-service options, such as help centers, community forums and AI chatbots, provide your customers with fast and accurate solutions to common issues, even outside business hours.
AI assistant bots can also route customers to the right agent quickly with sentiment analysis. This frees up your agents’ time to work on resolving complex problems.
On the other hand, internal self-service solutions, like agent knowledge bases and help resources, can help agents access and recall key information quickly, like call scripts, compliance guidelines, and technical product information.
6. Collaborate With Your Product and Recruitment Teams
When a customer calls your support team, they expect that they know the ins and outs of the products and services you offer.
When agents fail to meet these expectations, this leads to poor customer satisfaction and longer handling times.
Working closely with your product team and ensuring that they continually share updated product specs and facts with your support team can help your agents solve technical customer problems faster and more accurately. They should also learn about new products and services as quickly as soon (ideally before launch).
Further, it’s essential to provide your agents with simple cheat sheets that contain common questions from customers and how to respond to them.
It’s also vital to share information with your recruitment team to help them find the ideal candidates for the job. Sharing information about your top performing agents can be very useful here. What’s more, you can share your demand forecasts for call volumes and whether your team will be able to meet this demand or not.
Another key piece of information to share is the total amount of time you need to onboard a new hire. This helps your recruiters create time-bound interviewing and selection processes that align with your own timelines and goals.
7. Understand the Reasons Behind High Churn Rates
If your customer churn rate is getting higher, it’s important that you understand the root causes and tackle them immediately. The best way to identify the reasons behind high churn rates is to collect feedback from your customers. And while post-call surveys may provide relevant information to measure your CSAT scores, they may not be enough.
Advanced conversation intelligence solutions are capable of analyzing customer conversations and providing detailed reports about your customers’ intent, feelings, and pain points, which can help you capture the causes behind customer churn more accurately.
8. Foster a Coaching Culture
Cultivating a coaching culture can encourage your agents to continuously develop their skills and expand their knowledge. One way to accelerate the process is to leverage conversation intelligence solutions that automatically record, transcribe, and analyze past agent calls.
With such a solution, agents can learn about their weak points and work on improving them.
9. Create Efficient Workflows and SOPs for Your Agents
Creating efficient workflows for your agents can help them maximize their productivity and prevent burnout.
Integrating your call center tools and platforms is a great way for you to improve your team’s efficiency and simplify access to customer information. This includes integrating your CRM platform, social media channels, IVR system, knowledge base software, and client portals.
Software solutions that offer native integrations with popular customer service platforms and tools can make the process easier. Otherwise, requesting API access to establish connections across your tools can make your agents’ workflows much more streamlined.
Further, you need to create SOPs that your agents can follow, which reduces human error and enables agents to review them in case they forget something. SOPs include basic instructions that agents can easily follow, regardless of their experience level. Ideally, your SOPs should be 100% clear to new hires and more seasoned agents alike.
SOPs also help you meet your KPIs and optimize your call center’s performance.
10. Prioritize Comprehensive Training and Onboarding Services
Something else you must do to help ensure effective call center management is to ensure your agents receive in-depth onboarding and training. Both activities are vital to helping your agents provide your clients with top-notch support.
When it comes to onboarding, a call center manager must help newly hired agents hit the ground running from day one. You’ll want to ensure your team has a comprehensive onboarding program that will assist new hires with getting up to speed as quickly as possible. During onboarding, help them understand critical aspects of the job like your software, playbooks, expectations, how they can get a hold of you, and general housekeeping standards.
As crucial as onboarding is to successful call centers, ongoing training is vital to any successful call center. This is because regular training allows you to inform your agents of the latest trends and updates within your organization and the industry, so they are always following best practices and are in the know on how they can best assist your customers.
11. Fuel Agent Motivation and Engagement
If you’re not motivating or engaging your agents regularly, you’re doing yourself and your organization a disservice. By doing both, a call center agent will perform better and feel more appreciated. In turn, they’re more likely to provide your customers with better service and support.
These days, contact center agents are not disposable drones who you can expect to handle an insane number of calls all day with no engagement from the call center’s management team. Instead, emerging trends in the industry have been around empowerment and improving the agent experience, creating a two-way street with management.
Motivation is also essential to the success of your call center operations. To help motivate your agents, consider bonus targets and incentives based on their QA checklist performance. In addition, gamification is another excellent way to help keep employees motivated. With gamification, you can use leaderboards, challenges, and games to reward your team and allow them to enjoy some friendly competition across the group.
12. Empower with Effective Leadership
Many call center managers were once call center agents themselves. In turn, these managers understand what their team faces daily. These managers, equipped with firsthand experience and understanding of the day-to-day challenges faced by their team, are in a unique position to provide insightful leadership and mentorship.
13. Leverage Your Personal Experience
If you are a former call center agent, using your experiences can be a highly effective strategy.
When conducting training and coaching sessions, you can draw upon your own encounters — instances of success and failure, moments of learning and growth — to guide your team through similar challenges.
This perspective can foster a resilient, growth-oriented mindset among your agents, ultimately driving your call center’s success.
Crucial Call Center Metrics: Essential KPIs Every Manager Must Know
One of the best ways to become a good call center manager is to understand these essential key performance indicators (KPIs) and call center metrics. Here, we’ll not only define each of these core KPIs, but we’ll also provide you with insights on how to use each of them to have a more successful contact center.
Average Handling Time (AHT)
The average handling time (AHT) is the average length of time of the entire customer call interaction. AHT starts when the client initiates the contact through the agent after-call work. Included in AHT are any hold times, transfers, and customer interactions.
Time is valuable to all of us. In fact, it’s so crucial that a recent report from Zendesk showed that 76% of polled customers expect to be connected with someone immediately when contacting a company. In turn, by lowering your AHT and the hold times, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to connect your team with the clients faster and keep them more satisfied.
There are many different ways you can work to reduce AHT. Consider QA software to keep tabs on AHT, revamp your agent training, explore AI-enabled call center technology, or reassess your agent scheduling.
Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)
Another excellent KPI you can use as a call center manager is the customer satisfaction score (CSAT). With CSAT, you can gauge how satisfied your customers are with the assistance they receive from your agents. Through surveys and polling, clients can rate if they are happy with the service your call center team members provide. The higher your CSAT score, the better, reflecting a higher overall satisfaction rating.
Increasing your CSAT score may include making your client support more personal. Understanding each customer’s unique needs can yield higher satisfaction levels.
Equally important is making it easy for clients to get the help they need, through reduced hold times and easy access to support channels.
Having a better understanding of your customers can also lead to more efficient problem-solving so issues can be addressed quickly. This involves predicting potential issues and tailoring solutions accordingly. In essence, a strategic approach is required, focusing on enhancing the customer experience from every angle.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
An additional KPI worth tracking is the net promoter score (NPS). Here, the perception of your organization is measured by how likely your clients are to recommend your organization to others. NPS is so important that the Harvard Business Review coined it as the one number you need to grow as part of a company’s growth strategy.
If you’d like to increase your NPS, try working to provide better customer experiences, deliver improved and faster support, and work to improve your products or services.
First Call Resolution (FCR) Rates
If you’re in the call center business, you’re already aware of the importance of first-call resolution (FCR). The goal of FCR is to track how often your agents can resolve the reason for the customer’s call during their first interaction with your team.
Best practices for increasing your FCR rates include anticipating customer needs, having quality training, and having an excellent knowledge base or software to assist your team.
QA Performance Scores
Lastly, QA performance scores are another excellent set of KPIs to track and act upon. With quality assurance scores, you’ll be able to measure the success of your agents based on their call checklist performance, compliance marks, and target goals.
You can learn what’s working well within the contact center with proper QA scoring. Conversely, call center quality assurance can assist you in identifying areas where the team can benefit from additional training.
Improve Call Center Management with Balto
As you can see, a lot goes into effective call center management. Understandably, stepping into a managerial role can feel overwhelming, especially if you are new to leading a call center team.
Luckily, Balto offers call center software solutions that assist managers with making their call center management more efficient. With Balto, you’ll have access to real-time QA that can score all of your calls, not just a random sampling of them. In addition, your agents can benefit from real-time coaching and guidance live on calls.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Balto’s call center software can assist you and your organization, we’d love to provide you with a free demo of our solutions. We’re confident you’ll quickly see the benefits we can provide and how our contact center software can assist you with improving your call center performance, employee engagement, quality assurance, and customer experiences.
Check out our client case studies to see how we’ve helped contact centers like yours decrease ramp time, create more consistent messaging, make coaching easier, and boost revenue.