Between meetings with other managers and department heads, you barely have time to answer all the mentions on Slack. Your agents ping you constantly asking for advice. You’ve got a running to-do list with KPIs to track and updates to make to training materials. And, you have a meeting with a customer in an hour to talk about some data they lost due to a bug in your system.
You spend your day focused on your agents and your customers. What does their performance look like? Are they burnt out? What are their stressors? Are your customers happy?
Your heart is in building others up. But, as a contact center manager, the stakes of your own role are high.
Execs expect you to balance your department budget, improve customer experience, shrink agent retention, and grow revenue. And you have to do it all with a good attitude.
Sometimes, you need to think for a moment about yourself.
What are your goals? How do you need to grow your call center manager skills to be the best manager for your team? Let’s consider some skills to hone for your own professional development.
1. An eye for talent
Part of building a successful team means picking the perfect people for it. Finding top talent doesn’t just mean selecting the right people on paper. Talent searching is complicated. It takes perception to build the best possible team.
Know what skills your agents need to succeed. Keep up with industry standards and customer expectations to know what qualifies as excellent service in today’s world. Work closely with HR to interview and onboard the people you need. Great leaders bring the right people in the door. They create a team with the potential to deliver magical experiences for customers. And, it’s your responsibility to know what the best team should offer.
Keep track of what qualities brought you success. To coach your agents towards growth, you have to know what they’re shooting for. You’re there to identify and cultivate not just better agents, but future leaders. Whether your agent wants to be a call center manager, an agile coach, or a talent recruiter, understand their career dreams so you can guide them towards development.
It might feel easy to focus only on your day-to-day concerns, but a great leader will have his or her eyes on the future. As you think about future roles, think through who would be a fit to take on some of your responsibilities, too. Create a path for your team to succeed, even if you move on.
2. A Good Coach
Cultivating talent doesn’t happen on its own. Being an effective manager takes a lot of intentionality and planning. It takes a leader who is personally invested in the success of the business, team, and individual employees. To be successful, you need to build a coaching culture to inspire your agents.
Your agents, believe it or not, crave better coaching. In fact, 78% of agents say they are happiest when they’re engaged at work. If you don’t challenge your agents, some may be prone to stagnate and settle into a routine. This isn’t just to the detriment of the company—it’s to their own detriment as well.
Only 41% of contact center agents feel there’s an opportunity to grow at work. That’s a bit dismal. You want your agents to prosper, develop, and change. Day-to-day performance management through coaching drives agent autonomy and professional growth.
When you emphasize training, regular feedback, and growth, your workforce gets more engaged. Becoming a better employee, like anything, takes practice and feedback.
Take for example running. I’m trying to be a better runner and build more endurance. But, you can’t just go outside on day one and run a half marathon. You have to put in the weekly miles. You have to slowly add on distance and cross-train to build strength in other muscles.
In the same manner, a coaching culture takes commitment to a routine.
How to take next steps in building a coaching culture:
Taylor Jacobson of TeamPossible told Forbes about one high-performing sales manager at Salesforce. She created a culture of coaching by allocating an entire day each week to coaching. She intentionally meets with all of her employees to get 30 minutes of 1:1 coaching. This is time dedicated to their development.
Unsure of what one of these coaching sessions would entail? Start by giving feedback. As you talk, give space to listen to your agent and allow them to share their perspective. This isn’t just a time for constructive criticism, but a conversation meant to motivate.
- What are your agents feeling discouraged by?
- Where do they see they’ve grown?
- Why are they doing what they’re doing? Is it because a process you have in place is slowing them down? Or, maybe your call center platform keeps dropping their calls.
When you find the root cause of your agents’ stressors, you can identify where they need to grow and where your contact center needs to improve. Collaborate when you meet, and build a weekly action plan so agents feel supported and know exactly how they can grow.
The work of a call center manager is far from tedious. There may be days, in fact, that you wish things would be a little more singular. Call center managers have to be on their toes all the time. The complexity of the job lies in having to carry so many responsibilities. It’s hard to know how to juggle them all.
In order to grow stronger call center manager skills, get better at multitasking to learn how to effectively cross everything off your list.
Now, when I talk about multitasking I’m not talking about being able to literally do multiple things at the same time. I’m sure you’ve heard that real multitasking is a myth.
I can’t write this blog and watch Netflix at the same time. I could maybe get a few words jotted down, but my brain would be thinking about Jim and Pam’s relationship on The Office.
Instead, consider multitasking as being able to switch between assignments quickly and efficiently. You have to balance the work you have to get done, even when it may not overlap whatsoever.
Let’s talk about some tactics you can adopt to get better at this kind of multitasking.
Work in blocks of time.
If you’re sitting at your desk with all your work in front of you, temptation hits to jump from one thing to the next every few minutes. This only makes you feel more overwhelmed. Instead, group your tasks in separate blocks of time. For instance, use the Pomodoro Technique, which suggests that you work in 25-minute blocks, then take a short break after each block. Set a goal for each half hour and get to it!
Work on related tasks together.
Tasks are easier to tackle when you group related ones together. If you need to sit down and figure out several budgets for projects, do it all at once. Or, hold one meeting to discuss a handful of topics with your team. Find where tasks overlap to use your time better. Plus, it’ll help you see the bigger picture, so you can transfer knowledge gained from one project to another.
Managing your time most effectively is one of the most essential call center manager skills to excel in your role.
4. A Passion for Technology
Technology will only continue to change industries and adapt how we operate. In theory, software in your contact center is designed to improve your efficiency. When you automate and simplify key tasks, you’re empowered to care for your customers and engage employees much more seamlessly. But, it can do the exact opposite if it’s misunderstood or misused.
In practice, technology can adversely impact performance. The systems don’t work like they should, leading to a more cumbersome, problematic contact center infrastructure. Agents can’t efficiently accomplish what they need to accomplish, and the customer experience suffers.
As a call center manager, you’ll have an advantage in your role (and future roles) if you learn the best practices of call center software. Then, you can identify how technology can support your contact center further.
Your IT team may have certain goals when they implement your software, while your executives have others. These two departments then might not have the same outlook you have for the needs of your team. If you have a call center platform that your executives and IT team love, but your agents hate, it’s not going to be adopted and used.
Learn how to speak for your own needs when your team looks for new software to implement.
While some contact center leaders simply pass the torch of technology off to IT, successful ones guide the partnership. If you educate yourself on technology, you can collaborate with your IT team and more effectively make the case for your preferred solutions.
Don’t stay out of the conversation. Give yourself a voice so technology can be your friend. Ensure your systems are implemented and fine-tuned for your team’s needs. And, when you understand the future of call center technology well, you can get ahead of the game to coach your employees for more success in using it.
5. Versatility and Cool Demeanor
Change is the only constant in the contact center environment. It takes one unexpected product issue, and BAM! Your call center is flooded with customers calling, emailing, and pinging you on chat. Your customer demands and expectations can change in a moment’s notice. And best practices and metrics may just go out the window.
New systems, new channels, new customer expectations — they’ll emerge and require you to gain more skillsets.
Since change is inevitable, growing to be more versatile is essential for the quality of your call center and for your own development. You can’t just tolerate change, you have to roll with the punches and thrive on it.
Adopt a hunger to track insights, gain more knowledge in your industry, and follow the news. Then, take these insights and turn them into newly-acquired skills. The best leaders are not simply the managers equipped to lead today’s contact center operations. You must be ready to help the organization achieve its mission and objectives regardless of how your environment evolves.
Read up on future trends in Contact Center Weekly articles. Watch webinars to gather insights from industry leaders. Go to industry conferences and learn from other managers about what they do to achieve success in their call centers.
A leader’s excellence is not, however, strictly defined by the ability to make adjustments. It also hinges on how calmly and confidently the leader handles such changes. If you’re panicking or stressed, your agents will feel it. Your attitude and ease can make all the difference for morale and agent motivation.
Time for some Self Care
I’m sure there are some days it feels like you don’t have a moment to think about your own professional growth and skills as a call center manager. But, when you pour into yourself intentionally, you’re not the only one who benefits. Being a good leader includes taking the time for your own development.