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Answering the Call

Answering the Call

Answering the Call

How to meet changing requirements for contact center supervisors.

Contact centers seamlessly bridge the gap between companies and customers, forging strong connections across multiple channels. Operating at the intersection of cutting-edge technology, relentless energy, and a kaleidoscope of human emotion, contact centers emerge as intense, dynamic work environments.

With the assortment of workplace challenges, it’s no wonder the contact center industry experiences attrition rates that are 60% higher than the average of other industries.

Frontline supervisors are accountable for ensuring smooth operations and delivering on the centers’ KPIs while trying to coach and engage their agents in the hope of retaining them.

Supervisors, then, can make or break teams, for they are the human faces of management. They bring companies’ performance expectations directly to the staff and, in turn, convey to senior management what is happening with employees and, most critically, the customers, including feedback. It is on their shoulders, then, that the contact center’s success rests.

The contact center supervisor role has evolved because of these major shifts:

  • Technological advancements that require supervisors to manage systems and analyze data while ensuring seamless customer experiences (CXs) across multiple channels. (See Figure 1.)
  • Supervisors must attend more carefully to employee engagement and retention to reduce team and KPI upheavals caused by high attrition.
  • Remote work and globalization that force supervisors to manage diverse, remote teams.

These changes have introduced additional pressure to an already difficult job, causing supervisor attrition to rival agent churn. According to a 2022 COPC Global Survey, supervisor attrition hovers around 70% compared to 87% for agents.

Hiring and keeping talented supervisors is a critical issue for contact centers. Without capable frontline leaders, centers will continue struggling to retain agents and deliver the differentiated CXs customers expect and the value stakeholders demand.

Figure 1: Disruptive Technologies

Here are several disruptive technologies that are changing how supervisors manage agents and on which centers must educate supervisors.

  • AI-powered automation. Artificial intelligence (AI) automates many customer interactions. AI-powered chatbots have become capable of understanding and responding to complex customer queries, leading to more efficient customer service and lower costs.
  • Predictive analytics. Predictive analytics is now mainstream in contact centers. These tools use past customer interactions and behaviors to predict future needs and preferences, enabling more personalized service that drives customer loyalty and revenue.
  • Integration of IoT. Integrating Internet of Things (IoT) devices into contact center operations has offered new ways for businesses to engage with customers. For instance, IoT devices can automatically report technical issues to the contact center, enabling proactive customer service.
  • Remote working and cloud-based systems. The global COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work, with many contact centers transitioning to cloud-based systems. These platforms provide agents with the necessary tools and information to work effectively from home and offer benefits like scalability and cost efficiency.
  • Omnichannel communications. There’s been a shift towards omnichannel communications, with contact centers adopting platforms integrating multiple communication channels (e.g., phone, email, social media, and live chat). The preferred-communication model lets customers switch channels without interrupting conversations, improving the CX.
  • Voice technology and speech analytics. Advances in voice assistant technology allow these tools to handle routine customer requests. Additionally, real-time speech analytics monitor calls in real-time, providing agents with immediate feedback and suggestions to improve their interactions.
  • Data security and privacy. Data security and privacy have become crucial with increased remote work and digital interactions. Contact centers have invested in robust security measures, including end-to-end encryption and zero-trust authentication, to protect sensitive customer data.

From Manager to Leader

The supervisor job has evolved from a manager to a leadership role. The capacity to build and maintain a high-performing team is an essential part of supervisor success in modern centers.

Historically, supervisors focused on monitoring agent performance and resolving escalated customer issues. Today, supervisors motivate their teams, coach and develop agents, and continually improve team performance.

Supervisors must also be able to support multiple channels and adapt quickly to changing demands, such as unexpectedly high customer volume and complex technical issues.

There are four contemporary requirements that impact the supervisor’s job.

1. Technological proficiency. Contact centers have undergone a remarkable technological transformation, often adopting disruptive technologies, and frontline supervisors need to keep pace. (See Figure 1.)

Supervisors must understand the center’s technology infrastructure, software applications, and CRM software. Developing this knowledge enables them to guide agents in effectively using these tools and troubleshooting issues, resulting in improved productivity and customer satisfaction.

2. Omnichannel support. Customers interact with companies through various channels, including phone, email, chat, social media, and messaging apps. Supervisors must manage multi-channel support and ensure seamless experiences across all touchpoints.

These omnichannel environments introduce unique leadership challenges. Supervisors must provide agents with the coaching, training, and resources to maintain consistent service quality while communicating effectively across all channels.

3. Data analysis and reporting. Contact centers generate vast amounts of data that conceal valuable insights into customer behavior, agent performance, and operational efficiency.

Supervisors must be capable of analyzing this data, extracting meaningful insights, and using the findings to make informed decisions. For example, when used properly, supervisors can use data to identify areas for improvement, optimize workflows, and enhance the CX.

4. Adaptive leadership. The contact center environment is dynamic, fast-paced, and often subject to sudden changes in customer demands or business priorities.

Supervisors must adapt quickly to navigate the changes and challenges effectively. For example, they must adjust to constant change while fostering a positive work environment. Supervisors who thrive possess resilience and flexibility, which help them to guide their teams through turbulence while maintaining high performance.

Challenges Faced by Supervisors

There are four obstacles that impact team dynamics, CXs, and employee wellbeing. Supervisors must learn to traverse these barriers quickly and efficiently to deliver exceptional CXs and achieve KPI goals.

1. Agent retention. Constant churn poses a significant hurdle for supervisors, who must continually hire and train new staff. Supervisors need to create a supportive and engaging work environment to improve retention. Giving agents training opportunities, recognizing achievements, and fostering open communication increases job satisfaction and retention.

2. Performance management. Balancing productivity and high-impact CXs is a major challenge.

On the one hand, supervisors are accountable for achieving performance goals like CSAT and FCR. On the other, they must ensure the team meets these goals while delivering personalized, engaging CXs. These competing priorities require supervisors to implement coaching and recognition strategies to teach agents the needed artistry.

3. Continuous learning. Contact centers constantly change, including technology, evolving goals, and industry regulations. Remaining current on these changes helps supervisors equip their teams with the knowledge and the skills to adapt quickly.

4. Emotional labor. Frustrated, irate, and emotionally distraught customers affect contact center workers. Supervisors can reduce work-related strain and improve employee wellbeing by providing emotional support and giving agents the tools to manage emotionally-provocative situations.

Impacts on Recruitment

The shift from managing to leading in the contact center industry profoundly impacts recruiting the right people for supervisory roles.

Traditionally, supervisors were seen primarily as managers whose main job was ensuring efficiency, adherence to procedures, and achieving KPIs. While these functions remain important, there’s a growing recognition of the importance of leadership skills in these roles.

Supervisors must inspire, motivate, and guide their teams toward a shared vision. Rallying a team around a mission requires additional skills, such as emotional intelligence, effective communication, adaptability, and forming strong bonds. Supervisors must also create a positive work environment that fosters innovation, personal growth, and high employee engagement to achieve team-driven goals.

This shift necessitates changes in the recruitment process. It’s no longer enough to assess candidates solely based on their technical skills and previous managerial experience.

The shift from managing to leading in the contact center industry profoundly impacts recruiting the right people...

Recruiters must evaluate their leadership potential, ability to motivate and engage teams, emotional understanding and intelligence, coaching skills, and the capacity to adapt and manage change during rapidly changing conditions. Companies can adopt simulations, well-designed assessments, and structured behavioral interviews to identify these capabilities.

Moreover, promoting this shift towards leadership in job descriptions and employer branding can attract candidates motivated by the opportunity to lead, influence, and positively impact their teams and the CX. Thus, this manager-to-leader shift changes the profile of an ideal supervisor candidate and the strategies and tools used to attract, assess, and hire them.

Best Practices for Hiring the Best

I have outlined contemporary factors affecting the supervisor’s job. Here are the steps to move your contact center forward in hiring them.

Define the ideal profile. It’s absurd to imagine building a new product without articulating the problem it will solve and the features it must include. Yet, many contact centers recruit supervisors without clearly specifying the position’s purpose and tasks and the knowledge and skills an employee must possess to perform the work.

Defining the position and worker requirements is crucial to recruit the best talent for supervisor roles. Ideally, centers should outline two related sets of requirements.

First, begin by identifying a job’s tasks (i.e., the required work), including the frequency and importance of the duties.

Second, determine the knowledge and skills workers must possess to perform the critical work activities (i.e., frequency x importance).

By aligning job and worker requirements, companies can focus on finding people with the characteristics necessary to perform the job. It reduces the risk of being distracted by charismatic applicants who conceal poor technical skills with a strong social presence.

Supervisors must inspire, motivate, and guide their teams toward a shared vision.

Although the requirements vary by company and job, the competencies often include the following:

  • Adaptability. Adjusting to changing demands, goals, and needs efficiently.
  • Coaching and developing others. Teaching others the skills to perform their jobs more effectively.
  • Communication. Building rapport and expressing information effectively when interacting with others.
  • Leading others. Motivating and inspiring others to rally around a common cause.
  • Problem-solving. Identifying and resolving customer issues and the center’s operational problems.

Provide an attractive job description. A well-designed job description helps companies target recruiting efforts toward people with the right skills, education, and experience.

Use the information you captured while defining the requirements to craft a compelling supervisor job description. A good job description should help people understand the company, position, essential duties, opportunities for advancement, worker requirements, and the company’s value proposition (e.g., advancement opportunities and benefits).

Supply a thorough assessment process. A valid, fair assessment process identifies applicants best suited for the supervisor job. Use different types of assessments (e.g., skill and abilities) and methods (e.g., tests and structured behavioral interviews) to obtain a well-rounded view of an applicant’s suitability. Verify that the assessments evaluate the critical worker requirements identified in the ideal profile.

Ensure hiring decisions are free from unfair biases. It is critical to review the hiring process to confirm that it is fair to all applicants. Employers are responsible for ensuring that the hiring process does not unintentionally (or intentionally) unfairly favor one group of people over another.

By taking time to confirm that the hiring process is equitable for all groups of people, companies reduce legal exposure, build a positive reputation, and can build a more diverse, high-performing work environment.

Yes, there is the risk of making a mistake in supervisor hiring (see Figure 2), like hiring any employee. We’re only human. The key is that when they happen—and even if you are aware of these pratfalls ahead of time, we will forget – is to learn from them so that the process goes more smoothly the next time you need to recruit.

Figure 2: Seven Common Supervisor Hiring Mistakes

  1. Hiring for technical skills. Companies often err by hiring people who excel in one job but lack the skills to perform other roles (e.g., leadership skills).
  2. Unclear job expectations. Companies frequently fail to define managerial positions’ roles, responsibilities, and expectations before hiring, causing a mismatch between the company’s needs and employees’ skills and abilities.
  3. Overlooking cultural fit. Candidates with the right skills and experience may struggle to manage their team effectively if they do not share the company’s values. Ignoring cultural alignment can lead to problems down the line.
  4. Marginalizing internal candidates. Sometimes, companies overlook potential managerial talent within their ranks. Promoting from within can be beneficial, as these candidates already know the company culture and operational procedures.
  5. Hiring too quickly. Companies sometimes rush the hiring process to fill vacancies quickly, failing to evaluate applicants’ capabilities effectively.
  6. Ignoring leadership style. Different teams and organizations require different leadership styles for optimal performance. Failing to consider this during the hiring process can lead to poor team dynamics and reduced productivity.
  7. Neglecting diversity. Companies can often fall into the trap of hiring similar managers in background and perspective, leading to a lack of diversity. A diverse leadership team can foster innovation and broaden the company’s outlook.

Conclusion

As contact centers adapt to the evolving needs of customers and businesses, supervisors play a pivotal role in building high-performing teams and ensuring exceptional CXs.

Recognizing supervisor jobs’ changing requirements and challenges is crucial for successful recruitment and hiring. By defining the ideal profile, leveraging a thorough assessment process, and investing in continuous learning, organizations can attract and retain top talent for these pivotal roles, thereby maximizing the potential of their contact center operations.

Brent Holland

Brent Holland

Brent Holland is the cofounder of Intelliante, a talent growth company transforming contact center hiring into a fast, adaptive, data-driven process that delivers quarter-over-quarter gains in KPIs and retention. Intelliante believes every person matters, so they invest in applicants by providing them with free professional development resources, incentivizing them to complete the hiring process.

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