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Supervisors: You Are The Key To Call Center Success

Contact centers can measure virtually everything. There are the obvious measurements, like average call lengths, sales, and customer satisfaction ratings. Some centers have vast Quality Assurance groups that observe each telephone agent a minimum number of times each month and create reports for management. Workforce management software systems are now the rage, offering great ways to save money and new ways to measure performance. No matter what your center focuses on, though, the supervisor or floor manager is the key to success.

The standard job of the supervisor is to be on the floor, handing out answers, offering encouragement and distributing information that telephone agents need to perform their jobs. Many call centers have also realized just how important the supervisor can be in terms of driving performance. On-the-floor coaching is the single most important activity a supervisor can perform to insure telephone agents do their jobs effectively and employ best practices. This means supervisors need to be on the floor in an observing and coaching capacity – not just out there solving problems.

What is the difference?

Floor problem-solving means being reactive, waiting for a telephone agent to ask for help. Floor coaching means being on the floor, listening, taking notes and sharing feedback with telephone agents – immediately after calls when it is fresh in their minds. Although QAs, lead agents and trainers can help, centers without full time floor-coaching struggle to meet their performance criteria. Systems that record telephone calls for supervisors to use in coaching discussions also fall short. Supervisors are usually too busy to take the time to dissect individual calls with so many telephone associates.

Why is floor-coaching so important?

Like any job, an employee needs to know how well she is doing and what she can do to improve. Without a supervisor on the floor – every day – offering coaching, employees don’t receive the development they need, and will usually not achieve their potential. As you know, dissatisfied telephone agents means higher turnover and lower quality scores or sales results.

Our clients have found that the best way to conduct regular floor-coaching is to schedule time each day for this job. Supervisors are involved in a lot of other activities, and trying to include floor-coaching all throughout the day simply doesn’t work. They revert back to their other priorities within a day or two. Each supervisor should have one to two hours each day on the floor, doing nothing but coaching. This means telling telephone agents that during those times, agents can’t approach their supervisor. Supervisors will need to say, “Can’t right now, Steve, I’m right in the middle of my coaching time. Check with your lead agent, and I can check back with you in about forty minutes.” This sounds tough, but it works. It also helps agents become more self-sufficient, as some ask the same questions over and over again.

Before implementing a coaching plan like this, get the entire center management team together to determine the best way to inform the telephone associates about the change and the positive reasons for doing so. Also, build a schedule that is similar each day for each supervisor. Associates that know their supervisor can’t be approached from two o’clock to three o’clock each day become used to it more quickly than if the time changes every day. Finally, call center managers and directors must be involved, making certain that supervisors are really on the floor, providing coaching, during their scheduled times. With all these components planned from the beginning, there is a far greater success rate.

We see our clients regularly, and some still have supervisor floor-coaching time schedules even a year or more after we have conducted management skills training. This takes a complete effort, but it is worth the results you will receive, and everyone will be glad that you took this course of action.

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