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Call center management: Best practices and top KPIs to elevate operations

Effective call center management helps you keep customers and support agents happy. Here's how to do it right.

Von Peter Alig, Contributing Writer

Zuletzt aktualisiert: January 22, 2024

Call centers remain a support staple as customer service becomes a bigger priority for businesses. The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2023 found that 73 percent of companies saw increased customer service requests over the past year. To meet growing demand, call center management is crucial.

Given the enduring popularity of the phone as a support channel, your inbound call center plays a vital role in shaping the customer experience. Meeting higher expectations requires more effective call center management, including continually reviewing and improving call center processes and agent capabilities. Read on to learn successful call center strategies and best practices.

What is call center management?

Holding phones

Call center management is how call center leaders oversee daily call center operations. Call center managers are responsible for both customer satisfaction and agent satisfaction. Running a call center entails:

  • Monitoring inbound and outbound calls
  • Designing call flows

  • Hiring and training agents

  • Creating schedules

  • Forecasting and tracking metrics

  • Staying compliant with telecommunication laws

“Call center management” and “contact center management” used to be different terms, but now they’re synonymous. More and more consumers are connecting with companies over digital channels such as email, chat, messaging apps, and social media. Companies began using the term “contact center” to mark this transition to omnichannel communication.

Call center roles and responsibilities

Like other organizations, call centers have a hierarchy. The number of roles in that hierarchy depends on the company’s size.

Large call centers generally have a manager, at least one supervisor, and many agents or representatives. However, small call centers may not need supervisors.

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19 call center management best practices

Writing in notepad

Call center agents balance the stress of supporting the occasional angry customer with the need to meet their team goals. Effective call center management means giving them the tools to find that middle ground. We break down the best contact center best practices below.

1. Focus on employee engagement

You can’t keep customers happy if your call center agents aren’t happy. It’s tough for agents to provide excellent support when they aren’t focused or motivated.

To boost employee engagement:

  • Schedule monthly meetings with your agents to set performance goals

  • Regularly ask how you can help them achieve their objectives

  • Encourage them to report challenges

  • Empower them to make important decisions

It’s important for your team to feel heard, too. Say an agent has an idea for speeding up call resolution times. Give them a month to test their theory and see if it improves customer satisfaction levels from the previous month.

2. Provide a comprehensive training program for agents

Our 2023 CX Trends Report revealed that 60 percent of customers will choose one brand over another based on the quality of service they expect to receive. With rising consumer expectations, call center training is especially critical.

Prepare various training formats—such as video, text, and quizzes—to accommodate different learning styles. Host workshops and let new agents shadow more experienced agents so they can learn best practices from them. Providing ongoing training opportunities also helps everyone’s skills stay sharp.

3. Integrate call center technology with other tools

Agents can provide better experiences when you integrate your call center software with your other business tools. These can include:

  • CRM software

  • Ecommerce platforms

  • Social media accounts

  • Client portals

  • Help center software

With all the customer details at their fingertips, agents don’t need to ask as many questions for context, saving valuable time.

IVR systems are essential call center technology, too. IVRs use automation to funnel calls to the correct support agent based on the customer’s voice prompts. They even answer common questions, freeing agents to focus on more complicated requests.

4. Give your customers a voice

2023 CX Trends Report stat

Customers can help you discover where your call center needs improvement. It’s imperative to collect this type of feedback: Our 2023 CX Trends Report shows that 73 percent of consumers will switch to a competitor after multiple bad experiences, and more than half of customers will leave after only one poor experience.

So, send surveys after each support interaction to gauge customer satisfaction. Frequent complaints might reveal that your agents need better training or that there’s an issue with your product or service. Make sure your call center software can send surveys, collect data, and display the information in a dashboard for analysis.

5. Centralize call center data

In our recent CX Trends Report, only 22 percent of business leaders said they believe their teams share data well. If you manage a large call center, implementing a centralized dashboard can increase access to data across teams.

Say your agents spend an average of 20 minutes resolving issues—five minutes longer than last month. This increase could mean your agents have trouble accessing resources that speed up resolution time. A centralized dashboard and fast, easy access to customer data will improve your agents’ service and your contact center management.

6. Partner with your product team

Call center agents are more successful if they know your products inside and out. Establish a process that enables the call center and product teams to share information.

Each time a new or updated product hits the market, the product team should:

  • Send full specs to the support team

  • Write a product fact sheet

  • Prepare agents for common product questions

This enables agents to effectively help customers who may be experiencing problems with their product. If agents repeatedly hear the same complaint, it might point to a product defect, and they can alert the product team.

7. Prevent agent burnout with proper scheduling

In our Employee Experience Trends Report, one in three support managers predicted their churn rates will rise within a year. Battling burnout and properly scheduling your team are essential for agent success and retention. Employee turnover and call center burnout hurt your overall performance.

Burnout occurs when managers don’t anticipate peak hours, employee ability, and customer needs. You can limit agent burnout with a few strategies:

  • Give your employees the time they need to recharge.

  • Offer the support they need to do the job well.

  • Consider mixing veteran agents and new hires on a shift.

  • Use workforce management solutions included in call center software.

8. Work with your recruiting team

Considering the call center turnover rate hit 42 percent in 2021, managers should stay proactive in helping recruiters screen customer support agents.

Create profiles of your top-performing agents and send them to recruiters to help them in their initial interviews. Share your call-volume forecasts with recruiters and the time required to train a new agent to ensure proper staffing at all times.

9. Regularly review call center regulations

Call centers must abide by national and international privacy guidelines. Protect your agents from accidental violations by reviewing call center guidelines regularly.

For example, some states require all parties (customer and agent) to agree to call monitoring or recording. Make sure your agents know to ask for permission when chatting with customers in particular states.

10. Create self-service resources

Empower customers to solve problems independently by offering customer self-service options. These may include:

  • Detailed FAQ pages

  • Product guides

  • Videos

  • Blog posts

  • Community forums

Self-service resources not only reduce the number of customer calls and lighten agents’ loads, but they can also help drive sales. In our 2023 CX Trends Report, 29 percent of agents said a lack of self-service options frustrates customers. On the whole, customers will spend more with companies that allow them to find answers themselves.

2023 CX Trends Report stat

11. Establish etiquette guidelines for agents

While agents shouldn’t sound fake or disingenuous, they should offer respectful support. Set call center etiquette rules so every agent offers polite customer service.

Call center etiquette is especially important when dealing with angry customers. To help agents de-escalate tense situations, suggest using positive phrases such as:

  • “I can certainly check on that for you.”

  • “Let me see if I can find a way to make this right.”

  • “Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.”

12. Offer performance incentives

A recent report from Achievers states that agents who feel supported and valued will stay in their roles. Specifically, employees said recognition for their achievements was the second biggest reason for staying with a company. This recognition, paired with performance incentives, can improve call center performance.

Encourage high-performing agents to stick around by recognizing them for meeting performance goals. Say you send a customer satisfaction survey after each call, and one agent averages the highest score for six straight months. Acknowledge their accomplishment by giving them an extra day of vacation, a bonus, or another reward.

13. Conduct periodic quality assurance checks

Quality assurance checks help managers chart an improvement plan for underperforming agents. This supports agents who might not understand why they fall short of expectations.

Inform new agents that you’ll record random calls for their performance reviews. Seasoned agents can help managers review calls, too. If multiple agents experience the same problem, managers may need to update their call center policies.

14. Draft call center standard operating procedures

A standard operating procedure (SOP) guides a department’s or company’s day-to-day operations. Call center SOPs help agents follow expectations, optimize workflows, and meet performance objectives.

Call center SOPs should contain the following:

  • Human resources policies, which describe attendance requirements and how to request time off

  • Call center software user guides, which reinforce agent training on critical support tools

  • KPIs, which reiterate call center standards for call resolution time and etiquette

Managers may need to update SOPs as legislation and policies evolve. Tell agents each time a new SOP is available.

15. Encourage outside-the-box thinking

Call center support teams should leverage technology for innovative approaches to service. Personalization, conversational support, and AI assistance can introduce new strategies.

You can also encourage creativity from the early days of customer service training by role playing—present difficult support scenarios and let agents find creative solutions. This exercise helps agents think on their feet and respond organically.

16. Incorporate agent feedback

Customers aren’t your only source of feedback. Regularly speak with your support agents about common issues and areas for improvement. You can collect agent feedback:

  • After each performance review

  • During exit interviews

  • Through an employee survey

  • Via company review sites (like Glassdoor)

Because agents have an under-the-hood view of your process, they can make suggestions customers wouldn’t think of. Additionally, they can spot operational issues before they create problems for customers.

17. Know your business’s offerings

Base your call center operations on tools and qualities unique to your business. In other words, don’t run your call center like a generic inbound call center. Instead, leverage brand-oriented solutions that make you stand out.

Our 2023 CX Trends Report shows that 60 percent of consumers purchased something from one brand over another based on the service they expected to receive. Set yourself apart from the competition by offering promotions, services, and approaches unique to your brand.

18. Break down data silos between sales and support

When teams are isolated, they lose out on valuable data and approaches that improve the customer experience. Our 2023 CX Trends Report shows 72 percent of business leaders believe that merging teams and responsibilities around the customer experience will increase efficiency.

Breaking down silos between sales and service can vastly enhance call center operations. Sales teams provide valuable data about customer pain points and desires. Support teams can leverage this information to improve their service. Ultimately, businesses that align their sales and service are 6.7 times more likely to see an increase in per-customer spending.

19. Prepare for common call center problems

Even well-managed call centers run into challenges. The best contact center management necessitates facing call center issues head-on. Staff working in contact center management should prepare for:

  • High agent turnover rates

  • Low morale

  • Low budgets

  • Low agent productivity

  • Poor customer satisfaction

  • High call volumes and long wait times

Instead of finding unique solutions for each problem, look for broad solutions that improve operations across the board. Invest in call center software that boosts productivity, automates rote tasks, and offers self-service options. From there, managers must think of other ways to cut turnover and improve agents’ performance, such as switching to a virtual call center.

Prevent call center problems

Following the above call center management tips will teach you how to improve call center operations overall.

Best metrics to track when managing call center operations

Successful call center managers keep their finger on the pulse of agent performance. So, managing a call center involves monitoring these key call center metrics.

Boost your bottom line with effective contact center management

CX Trends stats

Following customer service call center best practices can lead to positive support experiences and a healthier bottom line. According to our CX Trends Reports, 60 percent of consumers have purchased something from one brand over another based on the service they expect to receive.

Whether you run an inbound or outbound call center, start by investing in your agents. When you give them the resources to do their jobs well, they become brand ambassadors who grow your business. Set them up for success by providing robust onboarding, training, and best-in-class customer service software.

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