There are innumerable responsibilities inherent in call center
management, but the most significant is the delivery of satisfactory
customer service. This is the only basis on which customers will assess
their experience, and figures prominently in both client retention and
the acquisition of new business.
Thus, one of the manager’s primary tasks is to create a model that
correlates all of the call center’s operations that affect the customer
experience, to best determine the drivers for effective service
delivery. In most cases the result will list three major areas:
• Call Center Personnel
• Call Center Processes
• Call Center Technology
While each of these categories is important in and of itself, call
center management also explores whether they interact in a complementary
manner, or if there is a disconnect that can result in service
interruption. The most sophisticated technology will not be as effective
without agents who know how to use it properly; conversely, the most
qualified and courteous agent can be limited by technology that does not
process calls efficiently.
Call Center Personnel
A call center agent is on the front line of the company’s customer
service effort. Thus it falls to the call center manager to make sure
that agents receive the proper training, are monitored regularly and
receive additional coaching as needed.
Once qualified, motivated agents are in place, another key component of
call center management is retaining their services, in an industry where
high turnover is all too frequent. The decisions made by a manager and
human resources team will have direct impact on this effort,
particularly in how agents are empowered to resolve customer issues, and
how much freedom they are allotted within the forecasting and
scheduling practices of the call center.
In general, organizations that have fewer empowered employees have
higher turnover. This suggests that agents prefer having more
responsibility, without being directed by company policy to transfer a
high percentage of calls to a specialist or supervisor. If training is
implemented correctly, agents should feel comfortable dealing with a
broad range of customer issues.
Turnover is to be avoided not only from a customer service perspective,
but also because of the higher costs associated with recruiting and
training new personnel. Call centers with higher average tenures tend to
also have lower turnover. These numbers are also lower in organizations
that offer opportunities for advancement and preferred schedule shifts.
And while money is also a factor, turnover is impacted more by work
environment than compensation. Call center management must take into
account whether the call center is a pleasant, professional and
supportive place to work.
Call Center Processes
Processes specify, in simplest terms, how things will be done. A partial list of these functions would include:
• Forecasting and scheduling
• Problem resolution
• Root cause analysis
• Scripting and call guidelines
• Agent performance management
• Hiring and training of agents
• Coaching and agent development
• Compliance with government and industry regulations
• Quality assurance
It is the manager’s responsibility to implement internal processes that
effectively utilize all of a call center’s resources and operations.
While “process” implies a system that is put in place and then demands
rigid adherence, managers must be aware of shifts in needs or attitudes
and be willing to change accordingly. Such flexibility can affect
customer satisfaction and employee turnover.
Call Center Technology
The right call center workforce solution,
perhaps more than any other component in a center’s operations, can
deliver the customer service results that a manager strives to achieve.
It has a profound and direct link to both the effectiveness of employees
and the efficiency of every call center process. The right technology
can make service delivery faster and more flexible, while achieving more
consistent results day after day, month after month, and year after
Investment in new or upgraded technology should be made with the
customer’s needs in mind. Will this investment impact capacity? Will it
shorten average wait time? Will it route calls to the most qualified
agents? Will it deliver the call recording and monitoring capabilities
necessary for effective coaching and training?
System complexity must also be taken into account, as the capabilities
of sophisticated technology can be limited by an agent’s ability to
understand them and utilize these assets to their full potential.
For smaller call centers with limited budgets and resources it’s
imperative to select the right technology solution that is both
cost-effective, and also provides the same benefits and advantages
traditionally enjoyed by those with larger IT budgets.
Cloud computing offers companies the option of transferring their IT
operations into a virtual environment, where they can develop, deploy,
and manage applications, and pay only for the time and capacity that
they need. For a smaller call center, this means the ability to
significantly lower upfront costs, while maintaining the option of
scaling up as needed.
There are environmental benefits to cloud computing as well. Information
can be stored in a climate that minimizes energy usage (and lowers
energy costs). And because servers can be shared in a virtual
environment, the result is fewer servers and a reduction in the power
required to operate and cool them. This helps to minimize a company’s
The Never-Ending Quest
Once personnel, processes and technology are in place, call center
management demands that each be reviewed to maintain standards and
improve customer satisfaction. Doing so will require the gathering of
both objective data (measurement of KPIs) and subjective data (feedback
from customers through surveys and focus groups, as well as quality
The closed-loop structure offers a guideline for quality management, and
helps the manager to establish links between technology, processes and
personnel, so that everyone is working from the same approved
procedures, and with the same goals in mind.
Step One: Formulate the Plan
What do you, as the manager, want the call center to achieve? What are
the goals for the next three months, six months, or year? Write them
down. Solicit input from agents.
Step Two: Create a Schedule
Executing the plan will require scheduling and staffing decisions that
will impact the customer experience. Having the right number of agents
on every shift, based on the day, the time of day, or other factors
(data collected by a call recording software system can guide these
decisions) should make it easier for customers to have their calls
answered without prolonged delays.
Step Three: Gather Data
Once the plan has been implemented, review the results after a
sufficient period of time has elapsed. Measure the performance
Step Four: Close the Loop
With this data in hand, analyze and explore additional opportunities to
improve customer service and retention. Then formulate a new plan based
on these objectives, and repeat the process. With each journey around
the loop, the call center delivers better service and better results.
Call center managers face enormous pressure to provide excellent
customer service. The keys to success in this endeavor are hiring and
nurturing qualified personnel, introducing processes that are efficient
and effective, and acquiring the technology that expedites call center
processes and makes it easier for employees to reach their full
potential. If you have questions about call center technology, please contact us or watch any of these videos to learn more.