Call Center Management Equation – A True Story
Call Center Management Equation — A True Story
Call centers have a lot of working parts and a lot of people who try to keep everything running smoothly. What is the best way to manage a call center? Do you know? Let me tell you a story of how I learned what works best for me and my staff.
Let’s go back to 2002. I was a young, naive, 20-something with a total “Type A” personality, who was put into a supervisory role in a call center. I became the AM Production Coordinator–which means I had progressed up the ladder until I was in charge of 15 supervisors and up to 175 associates.
It was up to me to be sure my AM shift was hitting its qualitative and quantitative goals for our clients. The AM shift had always outperformed the PM shift. Soon after taking this new position, my shift started struggling. Our numbers weren’t as good, our quality scores were dropping, and our turnover rate was going up. All of this meant we were less profitable.
I was summoned to see my boss. When I got into her office, she asked what had been going on. I told her I was doing everything “right.” If someone had a bad monitoring score, he was written up immediately. If her sales were down, she got put on a corrective action plan. There was literally no one on my floor who hadn’t been talked to about what they were doing wrong.
She asked, “Do the people on your floor trust you?”
“Absolutely!” Then, she asked me to define what trust was. “Trust means you don’t lie to people. You are honest and trustworthy. That’s what I am doing. I am giving them honest feedback to let them know what they are doing wrong, so I can help them.”
“Yes, that’s part of it,” she said. “It’s a very small part of it.” She told me she had learned something important through the years: Trust=Character+Competence+Motivation.
She asked me to consider what other words could be substituted for Trust. I was supposed to come back and tell her when I figured it out. I obsessed over this. What could it be? After much longer than I like to admit, it came to me; but, I had to start by breaking down what the words in her equation meant to us as management in the call center world.
Trust=Character: that’s a lot to think about. Your work character starts to grow as you come into the workplace but is honed when you come into a management role. You have to make your job your own.
It begins with making sure you are on time every day, that you are dressed appropriately, and that you show that you care about the job that you do. Character comes through in how you are viewed while you are on the floor. It’s about not backstabbing people, not using bad language, and not lying to coworkers. It’s about letting your team know that they can depend on you to do the right thing.
Many managers equate competence in being a person who knows more than everyone else. However, the truest form of competence is being able to make more good decisions than bad ones. It’s not about knowing everything; it’s about making better decisions because you can see what the outcome could be. This knowledge comes when you take the time to listen to your team. Listening allows you to make suggestions alongside your team before you put together the best answers to take back to management.
When I first started, I felt threatened when someone else had an idea. If this sounds familiar, know that you are not alone, but then just listen. You really need to listen to what the people on the floor are telling you–they live and breathe this job on the frontlines and often have really good ideas.
To be trusted, you have to be motivating. Not every manager is the cheerleader type, but you still need to stay positive with your team. When you are positive, your team will feed off of your positive energy. Negative energy is counterproductive–spread lots of positivity in your call centers!
You still give corrective actions when warranted. But, you are coaching in a way that gets your point across, without the employee getting defensive. If they get upset, don’t take it personally. Keep your positive attitude when you are out on the floor, show that you have the motivation to get things done in the right way for the entire team.
Trust comes from showing that you are real and want to help others succeed. Competence shows when you make good decisions that benefit both the company and the reps. Motivated people are positive and others naturally gravitate towards them.
This brings me back to the word my supervisor wanted me to figure out. When I finally had my lightbulb moment, I went back to see her. I knocked on her door, poked my head inside, and said: “RESPECT.”
“That’s the word! THAT is management.” She was right. Knowing everything, being bossy, and correcting everyone is not what gives you power. True power lies with the supervisor who is respected and trusted because they are competent in their job, have high character, and are positive and motivating.
This idea is the bedrock upon which Expivia is built. This experience from my 20s is something I use now with all of my supervisors, especially when they are having a rough time. When I see someone on the floor not performing as they should, or having issues on their team, I will ask them one question after they tell me they are “doing everything right.”
Do your reps trust you?