Think about the last time you had to contact a call center. After being forced to take time out of your busy schedule to solve an external problem, suffering an annoying automated phone menu, sitting on the line listening to crackly elevator music and being passed through multiple hands before you finally reach the person you require, would you describe yourself as:
A) Cool, calm and collected
B) Mildly irritated, but polite and courteous
C) Ready to explode?
Now put yourself in the person on the other end of the line’s shoes. From the second they walk in the door to when they go home, call center representatives deal with clients in the same state of exasperation. They are the defensive linebackers who get thumped day after day by people who are having a bad experience which they also want resolved this second.
However, unlike linebackers, call center customer service representatives are neither well paid nor well trained, and get none of the glory. Inbound customer service rep ranks as one of the highest turnover jobs, with many call centers recording staff turnovers of between 30 and 45 percent, more than double if not triple the average for other industries.
But just like any baptism of fire, there are lessons on management principles to be learned from those on the front line which can be applied to startups and Fortune 500 companies alike:
Management Principle #1: Recognize the Value of Your Employees
Many view call center representatives as an ‘unskilled’ role, however, the reality is that hiring the right talent as agents is extremely important. Call center reps become the face of a company for their time on a call, and one wrong hire can compromise customer relationships and potentially lose clients.
The job of a manager does not end by just building an outstanding team. Aside from having onboarding processes which filter out unsuitable candidates, they need to find a means for retaining the best ones. Research shows that employee retention is directly linked to employees feeling valued, and part of a team. Managers need to show employees how valuable their work is, and offer positive –and critical– feedback when required so that they can constantly improve.
Aside from the hypothetical value of individual members to the work of a team, there is a real financial value too. The cost of losing employees is considerable, with a recent Deloitte survey estimating around $12k to replace the average frontline employee and nearly three times that to replace a manager.
Managers who constantly train agents only to see them leave after a short period, end up back at square one. While there is no overnight solution to this issue, motivation, showing employees they are valued and having a developed training and onboarding system have proven to help reduce attrition…