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Release notes April 10-11

Ben W. - April 9, 2019

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Professional Development for Call Centers

In-house training and external educational opportunities.

Research reveals that call centers experience one of the highest turnover rates of any industry: 26% of front line staff voluntarily or involuntarily leave by the end of any given year. This same research reveals that it will cost $4,000 to hire a new worker and $4,800 to train them. That means today’s call center supervisors must be talented mentors, motivators, and managers. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management states that investing in professional learning and development for supervisors will save money, improve work quality, and increase employee job satisfaction. Let's look at some of the challenges supervisors face in the quest for professional development (PD), and further examine how to promote the necessary skills and knowledge needed to achieve success and exceed goals.

Solve Implementation Challenges with Protected PD Time
The daily duties of call center supervisors and managers are many and varied and may include staffing-related tasks, statistics analysis, accounting, compliance-related responsibilities, productivity measurement, performance assessment, data entry, and corrective problem-solving. Solid professional development plans may individually focus on each these skills, or they may focus on key competencies like multi-tasking, shifting priorities, and time management, with a nod to the applicability of each competency as it relates to a supervisor's daily duties. The key to professional development is to implement comprehensive — and customized — training plans.

So many duties, and so little time. Just keeping up with all these tasks on a daily basis takes a great deal of time and effort, and it's often difficult to find more time to set aside for development and growth in just one — never mind all — of these areas.

But that's exactly what you'll need to do. An important point to remember is that management, just like all other staff, needs periodic protected time for in-house training and external educational opportunities. Learning through the school of hard-knocks can work temporarily for most, but it inevitably creates long-term operational issues. Consider instituting monthly management training sessions — these can create opportunities for supervisors to brainstorm, share feedback, recognize problems, and follow up on fundamental performance standards. And be sure to set aside time to review your PD plan and continue to update and tailor it more closely to your supervisors' needs.

New Supervisor Orientation
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) states that onboarding of new staff unfortunately consists of paperwork, a tour, and random introductions. Most organizations have limited time and resources, so they may quickly teach new supervisors about the company's products, services, systems, and procedures. This is woefully inadequate for training and builds an even stronger case for instituting comprehensive PD plans that address the gaps missed in training plans. The SHRM also states that the onboarding process may last up to 12 months. (!)

It's a great idea to begin new hire orientation with a high-level overview of the company that includes the corporate mission, executive values, service philosophy, organizational structure, interfacing departments, company policies, and associated technology. Next, it could include a brief introduction to specific systems, such as IVR systems and various dialer systems, as well as overviews of the contact center's communication platform, for example, their cloud-based contact center software. A great conclusion would be some in-depth coverage of all products and services offered by the organization and supported by the call center. This includes applicable policies, procedures, and guidelines.

Focus on Core Performance Expectations
Some call centers focus on predefined performance standards for supervisors. According to Rutgers, these should include a focus on areas like feedback, planning, teamwork, supervisory style, resource awareness, performance monitoring, and policy competency. It's also helpful to include individualized training plans that include descriptions, potential risks, regular goals, and associated operations. These usually include standard operational objectives, as well. Here are some monthly call center goals to consider for quality, productivity, performance, and customer satisfaction:

  • Regular agent evaluations and monitoring that includes emails, live calls, attendance and schedule adherence reports
  • The prompt and first-response resolution of customers’ questions and problems, including the escalation and follow-up of challenging concerns and difficult customers
  • The resolution of system and operational issues that impact service quality through interdepartmental communication and coordination

Ongoing Mentoring Support
Business Insider magazine says that 26% of new managers aren't prepared to become leaders. They state that the solution can be found via a combination of mentoring and peer support. For this to succeed, the mentor may need to diagnose performance trends, strengths, and weaknesses. The best insights may be gained by shadowing the supervisor to observe their work habits, procedural knowledge, communications skills, and problem-solving techniques in action.

From there, a mentor can generate an action plan that identifies job aids, available resources, and supportive colleagues. Mentoring should be an ongoing process for all levels of management. The beauty of the teaching process is that the teacher also learns. Managers who take on one-on-one constructive coaching duties may find that their abilities to maintain open communication, provide helpful feedback, and positive reinforcement will significantly improve. Foster and encourage mentorships within your call center (not only on the supervisor level!), and you'll see performance quality increase, and maybe you'll even begin to see stronger bonds and partnerships between staff members develop as well, which could be great for both staff and the business as a whole.

The Challenges of Constructive Coaching
An in-depth poll by Gallup shows that feedback has a strong effect on performance. Gallup also states that poor feedback design and participation may hurt employees' future performance. In fact, they say that the driving factor behind feedback failure is ignoring employee contributions. Supervisors and managers need training on how to equally emphasize strengths and improvement areas. Coaching interactions should be instructive, supportive, motivating, and collaborative.

Avoid situations that involve confrontational censure and public complaining. Respectful feedback and personalized coaching will encourage the right behavior and demonstrate that the company cares. Always deliver constructive criticism in a private setting to maintain confidentiality and avoid outside interruptions. Begin on a positive note by recognizing any improvements. And when providing feedback, be sure to use objective terms and specific examples. End the session by scheduling follow-up sessions to keep the momentum going.

How to Maximize Motivation
Research by the Harvard Business Review proves that the simplest way to improve morale is to just recognize employees. Employee engagement, commitment, and job satisfaction will improve if achievements are recognized and rewarded. Finding an effective way to reward supervisors may be challenging because each person is motivated and satisfied differently. While financial rewards are always popular, they’re not always possible or even practical. There are, however, creative and low-cost ways to reward supervisors.

For example, accommodate shift changes and vacation requests based on policy, not just tenure and performance. Processing requests based on seniority discourages recently hired supervisors. Likewise, punishing poor performers may disengage employees and exacerbate their emotions. Empower supervisors to progressively make more decisions and receive more authority. Invite them to take an active role in other departmental activities to promote cross-training, and be sure to publicly recognize them when they do.

Supervisors and managers drive the success of most call centers. They're responsible for providing effective service, meeting quality goals, and keeping the department operating smoothly. It's a demanding job that comes with a great deal of responsibility, and outstanding supervisors should be recognized accordingly by their managers. They should also be equipped with the right technology and software to achieve success. If you feel your managers and supervisors could do with better contact center software to support their needs, give us a call and learn how Connect First's robust, affordable call center solutions can work for you.


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