Boosting the boss: Five tips for motivating call centre leaders more effectively

8th Apr 2014

With the advent of customer-centricity, many businesses are waking up to the idea of their call centres becoming a more dynamic, operational hub. As a result, from a personnel perspective, call centre agents are expected to deal with more complexity, understand how to use more channels of communication and have a wider skillset to account for this shift. Motivating and coaching agents through this process is becoming a demanding task.

But what about the supervisors that deliver agent guidance? How does a business keep them attuned to the evolution of the call centre, while maintaining motivation so they can convey the right air of positivity through to their agents?

Derek Corcoran, managing director for Scorebuddy, a provider of quality-monitoring tools for call and contact centres, suggests there are five key methods for keeping centre leaders at the top of their game, during this period of rapid change.

Communicate business strategy

Communication may seem obvious, but it’s not always that simple. In large-scale organisations with hierarchical complexity and vast product or service ranges, the message decision-makers wants the overall business to transmit can often get lost, at call centre level. Yet it’s the call centre that is inherently customer-facing, and most adept at delivering a brand’s core values through to those customers. Therefore, the call centre manager becomes the link between the decision-maker and the call centre agent:      

“If you’re trying to motivate a team towards a set of objectives, those objectives must be clearly understood and communicated,” Corcoran explains. “The call centre leader generally sits between senior management, who are setting strategy and direction for the overall organisation, as well as the delivery of the customer service strategy, and employees delivering the message on a daily basis.

“That individual is a key internal communications channel, and needs to understand what the business is trying to achieve and put that in terms that the team can understand and then communicate properly. To do that, they must be included in senior management discussions. The pathway through to the agent can only be cleared by creating a culture of coaching from top-level management down.”

Provide regular training

Intertwined with communication is training. While some aspects of business rely on regular training in order to stay current with industry and progress, call centre staff can often get left behind, especially at management level.   

This, Corcoran adds, is something that can easily resonate down through to customers when they aren’t able to find resolutions to increasingly complicated issues:

“Enlightened organisations realise that this is a key touch point in the management of what is a pretty dynamic environment. You need highly skilled, trusted and motivated team leaders, because they’ll bring the team with them. There are certainly personality traits that you’d identify with good team leaders, but ultimately they need support and coaching from within the business. You have to provide an individual with the tools to do the job, and this has to occur regularly.”

Scorebuddy’s recent white paper on motivating leaders in call centres suggests ‘knowledge sharing’ as a process for regularly training and empowering staff supervisors. It states the process of less formal, shorter but more regular training sessions between senior management and call centre supervisors can “help supervisors make small incremental changes every week rather than a complete overhaul periodically”. 

“For those seeking advice it is an informal opportunity to air their grievances in a safe environment and receive hands-on solutions,” the paper specifies.

Understand your channels

Call centre or contact centre? Whatever your opinion on the difference, there’s no denying that new communication channels are creeping into this realm, and for many call centres it’s an opportunity to give staff a new level of interaction with customers. However, Corcoran believes confusion still remains in some businesses as to how call centre agents can use other channels such as social media, suggesting the role of the manager as integral in providing assistance:

 “There’s a learning process going on, especially with the social media side of things; it’s difficult not to regulate and structure your organisation’s social media policies. Naturally, organisations pine for structure and consistency in customer queries, but in the social media world, things need to be a bit more fluid. The skillsets that are successful in other channels don’t always work in the social channel.

“I’m not sure businesses are as aware about the importance of understanding these different channels as they should be. My advice is that contact centre leaders map agent and advisor skills to the channel of choice; but that they are then able to meet with decision-makers to then map how this ties in with how the organisation wants to be perceived through each channel. This level of understanding and trust will go a long way to encouraging leaders to train their agents more effectively cross-channel.”  

Encourage leadership

As Ben Connor points out in his popular blog on customer service, bosses “demand respect simply based on their position and, if questioned, will dole out swift punishments or offer severe threats”, whereas leaders ”takes charge by example and those under their influence are encouraged and given direction accordingly.”

Having leaders rather than old-school authoritarian bosses is no more critical than in call centres, due to the dynamic and emotionally-charged environment they foster. However, from a motivational point of view, it’s not just the agents who benefit from good leadership; it’s the leaders themselves:  

“A leader gains respect rather demanding it, earned respect from subordinates will help leaders maintain focus and give them a sense of duty to upkeep the reputation they built up themselves,” Scorebuddy’s white paper on motivating leaders states. Corcoran breaks this down into four elements:

  1. Lead by example – supervisors need to be calm, give solid advice, answer any questions asked to the best of their ability and try to help individuals overcome challenges.
  2. Know the team – understand them, listen to them, ask them questions and let them do most of the talking. Get to know them personally too, make sure that you can have a conversation with them that isn’t work related. Building relationships is always helpful .
  3. Create and agree objectives together – don’t preach to and make targets for them, discuss what you would like them to do and how their overall contribution to the team will be and see what they want to achieve.  Career goals should be a part of the conversation too. 
  4. Understand business goals – Tying an agent’s role into how the business operates will give them a greater appreciation for the value of their work, it also reassures the agent you understand their role and your own role cementing the leader’s position as authoritative.

Promote creativity

It’s rarely something associated with call centre work, but the final tip for motivating call centre leaders centres around encouraging creativity.

The idea of ‘being creative’ is often misinterpreted and assumed to mean ‘artistic’, and as Corcoran explains, often its importance within a call centre revolves around the dynamic and often erratic events that can happen at the end of an agent’s telephone, and a need for team leaders to think on their feet:  

“As a manager, you don’t know what’s going to happen call to call, and you don’t necessarily have the ability to impact the calls and interactions that flow into the call centre. You need to be a problem solver and have a degree of imagination to be able to deal with this sporadic part of the job.

“Creativity is a good trait as it means, as a manager / leader, you’ll be able to think of new ways and ideas for motivating a team, whether that’s through challenges, new rewards, games, competitions. Pitching half teams against each other, that sort of thing. All of this needs creativity and innovation to deliver consistently.

“Having an environment that welcomes creativity means that new solutions will not only be encouraged but also fostered and implemented where appropriate. The knock-on effect will the greater amount of suggestions and ideas from the floor, which creates a more motivated working environment all-round.”

For more information about how improving agent engagement can boost agent performance and customer satisfaction, you can download Scorebuddy's new whitepaper. This guide reveals 16 ways you can improve agent engagement in your call centre. 

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