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Super Supervisors: Tips for Choosing a Call Center Manager

A common statement I have heard for the past 20 years is “Why do companies promote the best engineers into management positions when they have no experience in managing people?”

If you replace the word “engineer” with any other professional position the same argument can be made. Should the person who manages a call center, coaches in a call center or supervises in a call center necessarily come from a call center background? Let’s explore this a bit further.

Look at the call center agent. The mostly likely call center agent to get promoted will be one that has the highest performance standard in the center. The logic being, if this agent knows what it takes to succeed, then s/he can teach others to be like her/him. Is this actually the case though? What if the main skill the agent has is a tolerance to not let angry callers bother them.

Is this trait of impermeability something that can be taught or is it an issue of personality? What if an agent is a very effective communicator on the phone with the callers? Is this something that they can learn to teach or coach someone if they are promoted to coach or supervisor? The answer is a solid maybe.

There is evidence for both points of view, evidence of great agents making good supervisors and assistant managers and other evidence of good agents making horrible leaders simply because they do not know how to teach others what they do so well. The critical item, before taking your best agents and potentially making them so-so or poor coaches or supervisors, is to determine if they can teach others their skills.

If they can, then you have the chance to get a great multiplier by having this agent share best practices with others. If they are unable to teach others then it is best to leave them as productive agents and find someone who can teach others even if they are less skilled. In the end, this gives you the best net positive benefits for your center.

The same rules apply for the call center manager and assistant manager with one exception-outside ideas. Promoting from within is good for career ladder movement, it is good for morale and it allows the same rules and policies to reinforced throughout the whole organization.

What it does not allow is for new ideas to enter from the outside, a fresh new way of viewing the call center operation. So if you are in need of a new and fresh set of eyes, then hiring outside may be the way to go for a supervisor or manager, if your processes are solid and updated, then promoting from within is often the best choice with the maximum benefit for the center.

 

About the author

David Butler PhD., is a contact center expert. In addition to serving as the executive director of the not-for-profit National Association of Call Centers (NACC), and director of the Call Center Research Laboratory at the University of Southern Mississippi, he is also the Author of Bottom Line Call Center Management.

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