01 Oct, 2019 Essential Tips for Managing A Contact Center
Contact center management is not an easy task. It’s far more than merely scheduling agents. The workplace itself is a stressful arena, filled with constant turnover, high volume seasons, and thankless work. The contact center manager has a tough job. It’s up to you to motivate the troops, keep up morale, incentivize your employees, create a positive culture, serve as a liaison with the core business, and keep up with any customer experience trends.
There are a lot of moving parts, many of which you need to juggle simultaneously to keep the operation moving forward. The growing importance of a more unified and synchronized approach to the customer has spawned a new era of contact centers. Today’s contact centers aren’t only responsible for fielding calls or concerns; now they play an integral role in up-selling and cross-selling products or services as well.
Luckily, technology has made this work a bit easier (unless you refuse to adapt to change). However, staying on top of the latest and greatest technologies is yet another responsibility for you to manage. All in all, your duties are far and wide, reaching from workplace satisfaction and incentives to logistics and technology knowledge. But we don’t need to tell you twice (even though we did). We even wrote an entire article on it called Contact Center Manager Problems (Top 5 Issues We Know You Face).
So, if you want to find some solidarity amongst your fellow contact center managers, give it a read. Here we plan on giving you some much-needed tips that will take a bit of weight off of your shoulders.
Many contact center issues focus around agent attrition. It’s no secret that this industry suffers from some seriously high turnover rates due to the nature of the job. Dealing with frustrated customers day in and day out without proper incentives can be a real drag, enough to drag some right out the door.
More often than not, we see that contact center managers accept these turnover rates as being normal. All this serves to do is reaffirm the issue. Many managers don’t take any steps toward solving the problem, therefore becoming a part of the problem. Well, there are some preventative and ongoing steps you can take to take care of this once and for all.
Get It Right The First Time Around
You can eliminate a lot of hiring hiccups by slowing down the first time around. Qualified agents may take a bit more diligence to pick out from the crowd, but they’re worth the extra effort. Competency-based assessments or tests can go a long way in ensuring that your agents know their stuff. Personality traits are also beneficial for determining whether or not an agent has the patience, empathy, or problem-solving skills to handle potentially contentious situations and provide creative solutions.
Don’t Stop Training
Once you hire an agent, it’s your responsibility to train them for their role. Even if you do end up hiring right the first time around, there’s always room for improvement. It’s your job to invest in your agents with training programs that stand to benefit their work, process, and overall growth. There’s one thing we learned over the past decade. Times are always shifting and continue to move faster and faster as we transform into an almost entirely digital age. All this does is justify how vital training and continuing education is and will be for contact center staff.
Here are some ways you can train your contact center agents to equip them will the necessary skills to excel in the workplace.
- Use simulations
- Connect your KPI’s and goals with training programs
- Individualize your training courses
- Get feedback
You want to arm all your agents with empathy, organizational skills, product or service knowledge, and communication skills that carry them through their workday. These are necessary skills that every agent should have and continue to improve.
Don’t Skimp Out On Quality During Peak Seasons
Contact centers, especially in the retail space, have certain seasons where traffic is exceptionally high. It’s not uncommon during these times for managers to ramp up their agent count to compensate for sales, holidays, or busy seasons.
These times are where we often see a decline in the quality of agents that are hired. We get it; you need to fill a void for a short period. However, this is not the time to ignore quality in place of quantity. Effective workforce management means that you are planning for these predictable upswings in traffic and have the right agents ready to meet customer’s expectations.
Invest In Your Agents
We’ve said it a few times in this article, but that’s because it’s so important. Investing in your contact center agents not only improves their performance, but it also helps them feel empowered and cared for in the workplace. How exactly do you effectively do this? It’s not all about training, tools, or processes. Proper motivation and engagement tactics go a long way in creating a more productive and enjoyable culture.
Create Goals Around The Customer
One of the most discouraging facets of the average contact center is that most goals focus on the wrong ideas. An example of this is hitting specific metrics that have nothing to do with the customer. These goals fail to incentivize the customer experience and center around productivity instead, often leading to an awkward, unpleasant interaction.
Improving contact center metrics that focus on customer satisfaction, call handling rates, or cross-selling/up-selling opportunities is a much better system. Not only does this set up your company for happier customers, but it’s also far more appealing to your agents.
Your Targets Should Have Incentives
Without proper motivation, it’s nearly impossible to keep contact center agents around. The very nature of the job is routine and often thankless, so creating incentive programs for both the group and the individual is necessary.
Group incentives bring the staff together around a common goal. It’s a great way to improve the overall environment and unify the vision of your contact center. Individual incentives make sure that nobody feels like their work goes unnoticed. Only having group incentives can slow down some staff members from reaching their highest potential.
Be The Energy You Want To See
The high turnover rate we mentioned doesn’t need to be a part of your contact center. If you want to retain your agents and reduce attrition rates, it’s all about creating an environment where you would want to work. Here are a few tips.
- Make sure your employees feel valued for their contributions to a solution
- Create team-focused problem solving
- Foster optimism with your attitude
- Be more of a mentor than a micromanager
- Have a system, but encourage creative problem solving
- Be hands-on, don’t delegate everything
- Be the empathy you want your agents to have
Create Solidarity Around Company Vision
Contact centers play a significant role in customer experience. Because of this, they need to know the vision statement in and out. Part of this is the responsibility of the agents. However, a good portion of this is up to you. While it’s up to them to learn and engage in a company’s vision, it’s your job to rally the employees around it.
Make Sure Your Agents Know Their Stuff
Part of the empathy puzzle in the contact center arena is that your staff have dealt with the issue themselves. Purely apologizing for inconveniences or fixing a problem for someone isn’t exceptional service.
When a knowledgeable and empathetic contact center agent can identify and empathize with a particular problem, they’re able to foster a relationship with the customer that extends beyond a simple “I’m sorry.” So, not only should contact center agents understand a company’s vision, but they have a vast understanding of products and services as well.
Get Feedback From Your Staff
Collecting customer feedback is essential, but so is employee feedback. However, receiving it isn’t enough. You need to act on it. If your employees don’t feel listened to or valued, they aren’t likely to adopt a company vision. Aspects like company culture are a significant contributor to attrition, so nipping issues in the bud early can go a long way.
Feedback can also help you gain insight into what agent’s interactions are like with the customer. Your company vision may be ideologically sound, but in practice, it doesn’t work out. Only your agents can identify key pain points that should be addressed to meet goals.
Think About What Your Agents Are Going Through
Managing contact center agents can be stressful, but so is their job. While you are in charge of efficiencies and your company’s goals, you also have a responsibility to your agent’s well-being. If you want them to employ empathy while dealing with customers, you need to empathize with them as well.
We put together an article about what your agents are going through and how you can help. Check out The Life of a Contact Center Agent.