Effective Call Center Management?

What are some strategies or tips for effective call center management?


Laurence Barrett (CEO, Falkirk for Business Ltd)
As a Leader of a call/contact center you will discover that organisations work better if they learn to look at the system from the customer’s standpoint, design the work against the nature of demand, ensure all transactions are value adding, promote the flow of work through the system, use measurements (NOT targets) which are related to the purpose of the system and show that systems capability, integrate decision making into the work. It is the role of the leader to act on the system so, setup your call/contact center with this in mind and you will beat your competition hands-down. Your clients will love you their customers will be amazed with the service they receive and you staff will have a satisfying and rewarding job.

Well that's my experience anyway!
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6 Additional Answers
Steve Davidson (Process/workflow consultant, Steve Davidson Consulting)
Laurence's comment about 'ensure all transactions are value adding' is bang on the money. I've seen far too many call centers bogged up to the neck in red tape, administrivia, and hoops that both caller and answerer had to jump through to get anywhere.

Make it easy for employees to answer a wide range of questions quickly and accurately. Have a responsive, flexible, answering capacity. Feed the call center data back into the design of the products and services to reduce the need for calls at all.
Chris Nordman (Director of Client Operations, Ziff Davis B2B Focus, Inc.)
Call Centers take many forms; inbound sales, outbound sales, inbound customer service, inbound technical support…

I believe that each form requires unique management strategies to ensure that you are giving both your employees and customers the best chance at a successful engagement. While the function of each call center rep will differ (and require special management techniques), there are 2 themes that should be investigated and adopted regardless of the call center’s structure.

1.    Call scripts. I do not believe in scripting your rep’s entire conversation, especially in any sales capacity. However, scripts should be developed as an introductory and on-going training piece for your team members to learn and be optimized against. As a manager, it is easier and more effective to point to a script when drawing comparisons or critiques. Asking a rep to improve their introduction, elevator pitch, etc. is difficult when they do not have a frame of reference (written down) for where they actually can improve.

2.    Metrics for success and EFFORT. Not every rep on your team is going to be a star producer, but every rep on your team should held accountable for star quality effort. The “success metric” is going to be unique to each type of call center, but the “effort metric” can be standard across all; call volume. You can view these metrics as inverse during evaluation; if you have more units in the success metric, your call volume may be lower. The opposite is also true; if your success metric is low, your effort metric (calls) should be higher, thus proving you are putting in the effort despite your numbers. While these metrics may have inverse relationships in practice, I am a firm believer that the correlation is completely direct; more effort (calls, taken or received) will produce more success (sales, leads, happy customers, closed tickets, etc). Setting a daily minimum for each metric is key; you must have either X units in the success metric or X amount of calls.

There are clearly many more issues you want to research including management technologies (CRM’s, etc), efficiency technologies (auto dialers, email tools, screen pop software) as well as the myriad best practice for being an effective manager. Hopefully, these 2 points can aid in getting a proper base set up which can be built upon.
Michael Schmier (Product, Marketing, and Customer Experience Professional)
Much has been discussed in this Q&A and in other places on Focus about metrics, incentives, technologies and processes needed for driving best-in-class call center performance. I would say that another aspect to consider is agent performance management. Metrics are one thing but having in place a coaching and performance planning system is imperative, especially as you grow a call center beyond a handfull of agents. These systems closely integrate with metrics and incentives but primary components include:

1) Core competencies: Documenting core competencies everybody needs to master.
2) Coaching process: Putting in place a coaching process that addresses manager-agent interaction frequency, documentation, goals, etc.. Don't forget the coaching of managers themselves - this is a big miss in many organizations.
3) Training: Train the entire organization on how to execute the coaching process
4) Coaching documentation and measurement: Coaching interaction should be documented and performance results should be measured
5) Integration of performance planning: When coaching fails, performance plan out agents and managers.
6) Automate the workflow: Provide technology to automate this entire process, including integration with reporting and incentive management systems.

There are several factors that yield an effective call center management process:

- A company needs to have service-oriented, customer focused employees that are truly interested in providing best of class service (ie. not just 'call takers').

-Additionally, they will need an expert system that provides not only easy transactional input by the employee, but, also, effective reporting for the management team. (The reporting will assist the management on areas of focus for the client and for the employee.)

-A company needs to establish targets/goals for the metrics deployed and track these goals (from the customer's perspective as well as the business and employees' vantage point).

-And, lastly, there needs to be a 'rewards' program for achieving said goals and a career path for the employees.

Put all of these together and you will have not only a satisfied customer but a happy workforce and a revenue generating business.

Jeffrey Guymon (VP Business Development, RDI)
Kristen, I'd be happy to spend 15-20 minutes on the phone w/you to better understand your environment...and then work to give you advice specific to the programs you manage and the industry you are in. We do a lot with Telecom companies, and I'm happy to share any insights that could help your group.

Best, Jeff ph: 801.949.7585 / jguymon@rdimarketing.com
Laurence Barrett (CEO, Falkirk for Business Ltd)
Spot on Steve!

Feed back the call centre data - how could I have forgotten that! This is imperative as this is the gold dust that as Steve says allows you to develop your products & services to reduce the need for the calls in the first place. The only call you really want is the one that places the order and then the reorder!! Thanks for pointing that out Steve.
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