Successful customer service isn’t just about the frontline agents that interact with customers – it’s also about the contact centre leaders that manage agents and drive strategy. Having strong managers is essential at all levels of the contact centre, from the head of customer service and Chief Experience Officer (CXO), to team leaders and supervisors. They all need the right leadership skills to optimise performance across the wider contact centre,
The specific challenges that contact centre leaders face
Working in high-pressure, fast-moving environments, contact centre leaders have to successfully overcome a wide range of challenges. The average contact centre typically employs a multitude of people from different generations and backgrounds, all with varying needs when it comes to management and leadership. Adding to this the hybrid working boom has created a mix of office and home-based workers that makes team management harder.
ContactBabel research shows that agent turnover is currently close to 25%. 42% of managers said that it has increased over the last year. The economic downturn also adds uncertainty to the contact centre workforce – all while customers are demanding faster, more comprehensive service across a growing number of channels.
How do managers successfully overcome these leadership challenges? As a manager, you need to develop the following 10 key attributes:
1. Be inspirational
As a leader in the contact centre, you have to be able to motivate and empower your people. You also have to evangelise for the contact centre across the business. Your role has to include explaining the bigger picture of why the contact centre – and everyone in it – is central to business success. Being visible and active at company events and meetings is essential to ensuring this message always gets across.
2. Demonstrate openness and transparency
You’ll need to be an all-round people person, upholding the highest standards and acting as a role model to others. This means being accessible and approachable so that people feel comfortable coming to you with problems. Ensure you respond consistently, fairly and with transparency to anyone that comes to you with issues.
3. Show patience
Contact centre leaders need to be able to cope with working in a pressurised environment, with the ability to quickly grasp and resolve problems. Staying calm when under immense stress is key, as is a positive mindset. You need the resilience to keep moving forward, even when things are not going as planned.
4. Be a strong communicator
Contact centre leaders must communicate effectively to different audiences. This means being articulate on all channels, from email and the phone, to one-to-ones and group presentations. At the same time, you require excellent listening skills with a knack for encouraging others to speak up.
5. Be customer-centric
You must be focused on the needs of the customer at all times, and be the customer’s champion within the business. To do this, you need to develop an affinity with customers. Invest in understanding Voice of the Customer (VoC) insights as well as taking shifts on the frontline, answering calls with real customers.
6. Develop the human touch
Getting the most out of your people requires an ability to build close relationships. Learn to understand people as individuals, as well as employees, and apply this understanding when recruiting new talent. Only with emotional intelligence can you empathise with what employees are experiencing and help them develop.
7. Be organised and analytical
Contact centres are driven by KPIs and metrics. This means leaders must be comfortable analysing, understanding, and acting on data. At the same time, though you need to appreciate that there’s a human element to achieving KPI goals and ensuring customer satisfaction.
8. Show versatility
Leadership roles in contact centres require a high degree of versatility and an ability to juggle many responsibilities at once. You’ll need to combine employee management skills with an understanding of customers and an appreciation of technology. You must remain open to change, driving transformation as contact centres evolve.
9. Make learning a priority
Working in a fast-moving industry requires you to hone a learning mindset and to instil this into your teams. Continually ask yourself how you can improve and actively work towards learning new skills. Only then can you keep up with the pace of change that defines the industry.
10. Understand business
It’s vital that you demonstrate the importance of customer service to the wider business. As well as inspiring others, this requires the ability to speak the language of departments such as finance, sales and IT to gain their support.
Leadership in contact centres is nothing if not challenging. As a leader or manager in the sector you need a truly diverse range of contact centre leadership skills. You need to combine ‘soft’ people management skills with a hard-nosed commitment to reach the company’s business goals. All against a backdrop of rising expectations and economic uncertainty that makes successful leadership even tougher.