What is call center management? Best practices and KPIs for success

Call center management describes how call center leaders manage incoming and outgoing communications from customers as well as the people who are responsible for making those communications happen. Here's how to do it right.

By Greg Cummings, VP, Channel Sales NICE inContact, @inContact

Published June 12, 2019
Last updated March 23, 2022

Your contact center is a key part of your customer experience. Now more than ever, expectations of agent performance are high. And with technology constantly changing, it can be hard to know where to begin. Here are some call center management best practices that will ensure that customer calls get the attention they deserve.

What is call center management?

Call center management describes how call center leaders manage incoming and outgoing communications from prospective and existing customers as well as the people who are responsible for making those communications happen. It includes both customer satisfaction and agent satisfaction.

Call center management best practices

Gone are the days when it was enough to just answer incoming calls and shuffle them from department to department. Advances in customer service technology and higher customer expectations have changed the way we work. Managing a call center efficiently in today’s environment is no small task, but it can be done well with the right approach.

1. Focus on employee engagement

Some businesses focus only on the best customer experience, and forget all about the employee experience. Why is this so important? A Gallup study found that highly engaged teams create 21 percent more profit. Those who score in the top 20 percent in engagement show 41 percent less absenteeism, and 59 percent less employee turnover. When your team feels empowered and heard, agent productivity and agent engagement goes up. And that's good for your customer experience - because happy agents are more likely to have higher customer satisfaction scores.

2. Up your performance management game

More data, big data, too much data, not enough data: it seems we hear or say those words/phrases all too often these days. It’s true that companies today have access to more data than ever before, but it does not mean we are using it in the right ways to drive the behavior we want. Data can be a powerful tool when used correctly or a crippling one when over thought. In relation to call centers, the ones that are truly successful have figured out how to harness data to meet customer expectations and boost agent productivity.

It’s important to create the reports that management wants to see on a monthly or quarterly basis, and I bet you have a team of people that do just that. KPIs, analytics, call center performance, and call volume will all make their way to the executive team where they’ll recommend a change or dig in on a key trend. This is fine and something that shouldn’t go away. What I’m suggesting is take your data to the agents. When we share, educate, and collaborate—part of the quality assurance process—we positively improve their knowledge of how the business runs and ultimately improve the customer experience.

Start by looking at the KPIs you share with your team today. Do agents get a weekly balanced scorecard? Are center agents able to see KPIs in near real-time, and not just calls in queue or average handle time (AHT)? Are you still using TVs or whiteboards to display center-wide metrics? Here are some things for a supervisor to consider in performance management:

  • Create a training program (make it fun, because numbers aren’t) that explains WHY the KPIs you measure are so important. You know the value of high NPS (Net Promoter Score), but do the agents care?
  • Incorporate a real-time metric/KPI reporting tool that’s part of the agent desktop
  • Move away from measuring average handle time and focus on first call resolution
  • Share the data often with everyone in the company and reward your achievements

3. Invest in technology

For many call center managers, the search for new technology is nothing new. Focused on transformation, your IT team, leadership, and tiger team are all probably constantly evaluating new technology that will usher in the next solution to improve the way your call center operates. Setting a goal and driving to that objective be it with one technology or a technology stack will ensure you implement the best solution possible.
Some things to consider in call center software:

  • Will the solution improve or hinder agent performance? Be sure to focus on technology that consolidates the agent desktop, unify applications, and streamline workflows. And don’t forget to ask: is it usable and useful?
  • What can I automate by using artificial intelligence? For example, interactive voice response systems can help funnel calls to the right department (or answer questions before they reach a live customer service agent)
  • Is it in the cloud? If not, it probably should be.
  • Will it support a virtual call center? In today's distributed world, when so many people are working from home, this lets your remote agents take inbound calls from wherever they are.
  • Consider creating a knowledge base that gathers common solutions, which will help agents save time and increase efficacy.

4. Give your customers a voice

Leverage the feedback you receive from customers, both active (things they tell you) and passive (things you can infer based on what they contact you about. For example, if you have a lot of questions about a particular product area, it might be hard to use, broken, or not documented well. Your call center is a wealth of information for your company, so share the data you collect.

Learn how 8 companies deliver exceptional customer experience at scale

5. Build relationships

No one is an island, and that includes you and your team. You’re part of a larger customer experience, and that means you need to work together with other departments so you can ensure a seamless customer experience. For example, your team should have access to product specs and accurate technical information so they can better understand your offerings and serve your customers. You should stay in the loop with new product development and marketing efforts, too, so your team can weigh in with their insights.

6. Partner with your product team

Ensure they hear feedback from customers, and that your contact center team is kept up to date on new and upcoming developments. it’s very unpleasant to find out about a product change from a customer who’s having a problem with it, and the feedback your team receives from customers every day has great value if your product team can turn that into product improvements.

7. Work with your recruiting team

Build a demand model that takes into account increases in demand due to increased sales, attrition (both internal and external), and the time involved in recruiting, hiring, and training to fill a spot. Every department faces these challenges of course, but you should be prepared to fight for the resources you need to meet customer support needs, and ideally have them in place by the time you need them. waiting to recruit to fill a spot when your team is already overloaded is only going to make things worse for your customers.

8. Schedule for workforce optimization

Working in a call center can be a demanding job. And that stress can have a negative impact on your customer service employees. If they feel overwhelmed the moment they start the day, their ability to perform at a high level will plummet. That’s where scheduling can help. Giving your employees the time they need to recharge and the support they need to do the job well will pay off in the long run.
Make sure your managers are considering peak and low hours, employee availability, customer needs, and the ability mix of the agents on a shift. You wouldn’t want to put all the new hires on the same shift without a few veterans to help if things get sticky.

Call center metrics and KPIs to manage call center performance

To manage call center performance, here are five call center metrics and KPIs to track.

  1. Average talk time: Helps measure a team’s ability to handle different types of customer service scenarios.
  2. Missed and declined calls: Missed calls are when an agent doesn’t answer the phone in time, so the customer is sent back to the queue. Declined calls mean the agent actively refused the call, most likely because they were on the line with another customer.
  3. Transfer rate: The percentage of inbound calls that agents end up transferring to another team member or department.
  4. Abandoned in queue: The total number of customers who hang up while waiting to speak with an agent.
  5. Average Speed of Answer: How long it takes a customer to reach an agent once they’ve been routed to the right department and placed in the queue.

Boost customer experience with these 8 call center management tips

Delivering a great customer service experience is so much more than answering support calls. Use these 8 tips to keep your contact center running productively, and your agents happy to avoid call center burnout.

Learn how 8 companies deliver exceptional customer experience at scale

Learn how 8 companies deliver exceptional customer experience at scale

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