Striving For A Promotion? Ace These 3 Call Center Best Practices

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Getting a promotion at your call center serves as a stamp of recognition for your efforts. It gives you a heightened sense of achievement that can motivate you to do even better so you can take on greater responsibilities—and greater paychecks. 

Earning a promotion, however, is a different story. It requires you to prove that you’re capable of executing good ideas, training your staff to perform at their best, and optimizing your company’s existing systems in a way that benefits the entire organization. 

To do all that, you’ll want to master the following three call center best practices.

1. Actively Coach and Develop Your Agents to Their Next Level

In relatively large call centers, individuals in different departments and roles will have different ambitions and goals. For instance, some agents will strive to become managers, while others will be satisfied simply by improving their existing skill sets and making their own jobs easier. 

Both of these approaches are valid, which means coaching them requires equally valid methods and considerations. 

1.1 What to do when agents want to become managers

Most call centers function like hierarchies, meaning they have a leader or a CEO, along with designated senior managers for each department, assistant managers, team leaders, and junior staffers.

Usually, there are telling signs to identify which agents are ready to move up the corporate ladder on their way to becoming a department manager one day. 

These signs include when:

  • The aspiring agent has been in the same role for three to five years
  • They have demonstrated exceptional skills related to their communication, listening, and networking abilities
  • They have met or exceeded their workplace expectations, showing an unwavering commitment to their job and a willingness to stick around 

If a seasoned employee is showing all of these qualities and they’re openly talking about their readiness to become more than just call operators, it’s time to assign them a mentor or start mentoring them yourself.

The specific timeline for an employee’s progression can vary depending on factors like their current skill level, their ability to learn and absorb new information, and their willingness to put themselves in slightly uncomfortable situations to develop their call center skills. 

For example, coaching your most promising agents to become team leaders could take as little as two to four weeks, while making the jump to the level of assistant manager might take a minimum of three months. Likewise, the transition from an assistant manager to a full-on call center manager can take anywhere between three and six months due to on-the-job, task-oriented managerial training.

Keep in mind that the acquisition of managerial certifications is not mandatory, but it sure can help out a lot. These serve as a form of guarantee that aspiring candidates will be able to succeed in their new posts. Some of these certifications include the Professional Certificate in Team Leadership, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), and the Association of International Product Marketing and Management (AIPMM) certification.

1.2 What to do when agents want to excel in their current roles

Every so often, some employees will have enough ambition to become the best performers in their current role, but not enough to climb all the way to the top. This isn’t a bad thing, and it’s a naturally occurring distribution among most professional settings, including call centers.

When this happens, continuous training should become the workplace norm. One of the best ways to nurture these agents is to train them in real time by listening in on calls and meeting with them immediately after both to discuss things that went well and to go over areas where performance can be improved. 

If you need help tracking the performance metrics of your agents, Nextiva’s AI-powered contact center solution has an advanced call monitoring system that features workforce management (WFM) and workforce optimization (WFO) capabilities. This will allow you to predict how shifts will go so you can know what to look out for as you join in and observe agent performance during live calls.

Nextiva top ranked AI-powered contact center webpage with a form to talk to an expert

Nextiva’s software is also equipped with an advanced interactive voice response (IVR) system, which is a type of technology that enables callers to explain their inquiries without getting stuck into an endless phone menu loop. As a manager, you can automate Nextiva’s smart attendants and virtual agents to handle repetitive tasks autonomously so that your agents will spend more time handling complex customer issues—which are exactly the calls you want to be monitoring, helping, and guiding them through. 

As one of the more advanced contact center systems out there today, Nextiva is also equipped with:

  • Call recording
  • Automatic call distribution (ACD)
  • Call center thresholds
  • Dialed number identification service (DNIS)
  • Customer satisfaction surveys

Lastly, if your existing training strategies don’t seem to be producing desirable outcomes, consider mixing things up by implementing non-traditional tactics like peer-to-peer training, cross-training, and off-site training. These approaches can be refreshing alternatives to otherwise stiff training regimens.

1.3 Tips for coaching both groups

Getting to know your team members better can go a long way in helping them find more success in the workplace. At the end of the day, workers are people who often prefer cultivating real connections as opposed to being restricted to the inexpressive confines of a rigid corporate culture.

Be sure to start developing sincere and caring workplace relationships with your agents early on. Go out of your way to create opportunities for open, two-directional conversations in a so-called neutral environment. Examples of this include having a one-on-one chat a few minutes before group meetings, establishing upbeat dialogues via workplace messaging platforms like Slack, and simply being honest with your agents whenever they ask for your feedback.

Another idea is to reward your agents every time they show professional growth. This could come in the form of doling out performance incentives for hitting previously established metric thresholds, or something as simple as taking them out to lunch when you see they’ve been dealing with particularly frustrating calls. 

Lastly, remember that you may be learning as much from your agents as they are learning from you, so take their feedback seriously and show a willingness to grow yourself. This can leave a good impression that spurs everyone ahead. 

2. Don’t Just Track Metrics—Truly Understand and Use Them

Impactful metrics rest at the core of every call center. Directors have a particular interest in them, and it’s no wonder why: because not only do they represent the work that’s been completed, but they also represent the work that needs to be done in order to hit future milestones and reach new heights of success.

Still, if directors end up harping on metrics too much, it can put a lot of pressure on the managers directly beneath them. 

As a result, many managers stir up all kinds of frenzies about metrics without knowing what they’re really doing—they just think they’re supposed to be doing it. 

To avoid this, learn what your metrics mean and how to read their surrounding context. This will allow you to determine what is going right and wrong in your call center so that you can make adjustments that will elevate the performance of your agents and the experiences of your customers. 

Here’s a list of the metrics you should pay special attention to:

  • Average Handle Time (AHT)—Measures the average length of time it takes to complete a request
  • First Call Resolution Rate (FCR)—Measures the percentage of caller issues that get resolved on their first contact attempt without needing a follow-up
  • Net Promoter Score—A type of survey asking users to rate their likelihood of recommending a product or service to friends and colleagues
  • After-Call Work Time (ACW)—Represents how long it takes for agents to complete the administrative tasks associated with wrapping up a caller’s issue after the call is over
  • Agent Utilization Rate—A measure of how agents distribute their work-related time
  • Average Call Abandonment Rate—A ratio that takes into account the number of inbound calls handled by an agent over the number of total inbound calls that come in
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)—A more general survey asking users how satisfied they are with a product or service, loosely correlated to average call abandonment rates

If you have a manager, ask them which metrics they’re grading you on and what the goal is for each one. Next, devise a plan to help your agents achieve these goals in a way that makes the most sense for them. If you need to dangle a carrot or two, you can use wage incentives, profit sharing, fitness perks, technology stipends, gift cards, and other professional development packages. Again, if the agent meets or exceeds these metrics, you can put them up for a promotion.

Finally, gather additional feedback from your agents. Are they struggling to understand why these metrics are important? If so, why? 

For example, maybe they’re having trouble figuring out what the numbers themselves mean, but are otherwise keen on improving their strategies for helping customers. If necessary, train your agents on metrics and then quiz them later. Establishing regular dialogues that show how the metrics can be applied to everyday work can improve their understanding as well. 

3. Continuously Nurture a Positively Rare Call Center Culture

The idea of working at a call center often comes with a social stigma that can deter many talented candidates from applying to become an agent. In many cases, this has less to do about the job itself and more to do with the prevailing culture in call centers.

For example if a company’s managers are notorious for mistreating their team members, or if the organization is chronically understaffed as a whole, what was supposed to be a regular workplace can suddenly turn into a high-pressure, draining work environment. 

As a manager, you can stop the cycle by creating a better call center culture, transforming the workplace from a site of anxiety and tension into an environment where your team members can enjoy their work.

Of course, this is easier said than done, as a positive shift in employee morale doesn’t happen overnight. You need to nurture good working relationships with your agents and be willing to get in on the ground floor with your team. Once your team members notice your dedication and resolve, they’ll be more likely to follow in your footsteps and be less inclined to quit. 

If you succeed in this endeavor, your agents can become more productive and start performing their tasks better, reducing the overall turnover rate. Meanwhile, your customers may also be happier with your service, and the top dogs at your company will take notice of your impact.

3.1 Practical tips to nurture a positively unique call center culture

If you don’t make a continuous effort to maintain a culture that is conducive to productivity, efficiency, and employee happiness, things can quickly revert to the status quo. Here are several practical tips to maintain an optimal level of employee engagement without sacrificing work quality.

Introduce the concept of gamification

Workplace gamification refers to the application of competitive and/or game-related elements to non-gaming activities, some of which include completing a certain number of tasks in a given month or keeping a given metric above a certain level. If you are interested in implementing gamification, consider organizing head-to-head competitions between agents who are friends, and don’t advertise who the lowest-performing employees are for everyone to see. 

Don’t let struggling agents fall through the cracks

It’s easy to allow the most noticeably underperforming team members to continue struggling until they eventually leave the company on their own. This is a bad look for managers. Instead, consider taking it upon yourself to train underperforming agents to become more comfortable in their roles. If they can get up to speed, the ripple effect they leave in their wake will reflect well on you, on them, and on your company’s bottom line. 

Of course, due to the reality of how the world works, there will always be agents you can’t help and need to let go. These are typically employees who aren’t showing any improvements, who are often dismissive of their coworkers, and who turn out to be a poor fit in the long run. An outright refusal to let these agents go will result in low team morale and a noticeable slump in performance.

Include your best performers in the recruiting process

Team leaders and high-performing reps know what it takes to become a good agent. So, whenever there’s a chance to include one or more of them in the recruitment process, it’s advisable to go ahead and do so.

Your best agents will be able to tell if someone would be a good fit after a few interactions with them during the screening and interviewing process. You obviously don’t need to hire everyone they recommend, but you can use their feedback to sway your final decision and make them feel good about their contribution. This can also do wonders to help reduce agent churn in the future.

Encourage call quality over call volume

Beginner agents should be encouraged to spend more time focusing on doing their job well and less time focusing on getting through as many calls as they can. In other words, they should focus on call quality over call volume. 

When their numbers start resembling those of experienced agents, that’s when you should encourage them to go after higher numbers and better metrics such as average handle time, first call resolution rate, and CSAT.

Always be there to help your team members

As a leader, your agents will often rely on your expertise and experience for help. Never be too busy to lend a helping hand to your agents. Jump in and help whenever the request is reasonable and appropriate. For bonus points, take a few lower-level calls just to give some of your agents a break. 

Conclusion

Most call centers communicate with their employees through abstract notions like mission and vision statements and other corporate gibberish. This makes it challenging for agents to see how their daily responsibilities fit into the larger picture. As a manager and a leader, it’s your duty to transform these abstract notions into something more tangible.

The sooner you can get everyone working towards the same overarching goal, the sooner you’ll see better results and lucrative promotions.

Interested in learning more? Check out our guides on how to deal with call avoidance and how to implement a sturdy call center quality assurance strategy.



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