New Years Resolutions for Contact Center Managers
Illustration by Alex Fuller

These seven New Year’s resolutions will give you a head start in making 2016 your best year ever!

1. I will remember that customer calls are not “call volume,” “talk time” or an “expense.” They are the reason for our existence.

Customers pay our bills and keep us in business. When a customer calls, it is a good thing. It gives us a chance to help them, save them, right-size their account and increase their loyalty.

It is a terrible thing when a customer simply cancels their service or stops buying our product without giving us the opportunity to retain them. A customer who does NOT call may reduce daily call volume. They may save us a few minutes of departmental talk time. They may reduce our call-handling expense for the day, which makes our department look better in some executives’ eyes. But, a lost customer means lower company revenue, reduced market share and a lost opportunity for upsells and referrals.

2. I will tie every objective back to our company’s main vision.

Have you ever heard the saying, “If you don’t have a target, you will never hit it”? Having objectives—like an average handle time (AHT) of 400 seconds or a service level (SL) of answering 80% of calls within 20 seconds—provides a target that you can track. However, meeting those types of objectives can become an end in itself. That makes it easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, which is about providing exceptional customer service.

To prevent this, explain to your agents how each objective ties into your company’s overall vision. For instance, having call quality scores of 95% or better provides a great customer experience and positions your company as an elite service provider. People will be more motivated when they realize that every agent objective contributes toward their company’s overall performance.

3. I will share positive customer experiences with my team.

There is a phenomenon in call centers known as “complaint brainwashing.” It occurs when agents get hammered with so many complaint calls, they lose faith in their company. For example, while only 10% of your customer base may call in each year, 100% of the calls that your agents take is from that small pool of disgruntled customers. So it is easy for agents to believe that every product your company makes is defective and every service that your company provides is poorly executed.

It is vital to provide positive experiences to boost your team’s morale and restore their faith in your company. These positive experiences can be either agent success stories or customer success stories. Agent success stories can be about how one of your team members helped to resolve a customer issue or “save” a customer who called in to cancel their service. Sharing these stories and recognizing exceptional agent performance improves morale. It also lets agents know they make a difference on every call, every day.

Customer success stories, on the other hand, show how the other 90% (the customers who do not call) love your products and services. This will give your agents a sense of perspective and confirm that most people like your company. This is an important psychological counterpoint to all of the pounding your agents receive on a daily basis from disgruntled customers.

4. I will remember to say “thank you” to at least one member of my team each and every day for something well done.

Another way to combat the “complaint brainwashing” effect is to thank your agents for the great work they are doing. Find reasons to give praise and express your appreciation. Appreciation does not always have to be in the form of prizes or gifts. Sometimes, the most meaningful form of appreciation is just a sincere, “thank you” for a job well done.

To make your thank-you even more effective, give specifics as to what the agent did well. For instance, don’t just say, “Cathy, great job!”—be more specific. If Cathy’s call quality scores were exceptional this month, you should say, “Cathy, you did great on your call quality scores this month. That shows me that you give your customers the best service possible!”

The first statement—“great job”—sounds like a platitude. Cathy has no idea what she did great, or why you are saying this to her now. The second statement tells Cathy exactly what she did well: “You did great on your call quality scores this month.” The next sentence builds upon that to tell Cathy why call quality scores are important: “That shows me you give your customers the best service possible.”

After that type of thank-you, Cathy knows what she did well and why it is important. She also knows that you cared enough about her to recognize her contribution and thank her for it. Remember, in study after study, having a good relationship with your boss ranks second only to compensation as the main reason why people enjoy their workplace.

5. I will take 10 minutes every day to think about how to make my department better.

This is one of the toughest resolutions to keep. It may also be the most important. As a former call center training manager, I know how easy it is to get swallowed up in the day-to-day activities of running a contact center. There are so many fires to put out, so many urgent issues to address, and so many demands on your time. However, many of those fires, urgent issues and demands can been prevented if there are better processes in place.

Take just 10 minutes a day to think about the following questions:

  • What was my biggest challenge today?
  • What ideas do I have to prevent this issue from happening again?
  • How can I implement those ideas immediately?

You may not be able to fix every issue. But taking a few minutes a day to think about how to fix those hot-button issues is a great way to start.

6. I will attend at least one contact center conference this year.

I will use an example from the medical profession to illustrate this point. Who would you rather see: a doctor who has not learned anything new since medical school, or a doctor who frequently attends industry conferences and events? Going to a contact center conference is a great way to stay current on the latest trends within the industry. It is also a great opportunity to hear leading experts talk about social media, workforce management, crisis management and the latest technology trends.

Every time I go to a conference, I come away with great ideas to improve my company’s performance. It also gives me an opportunity to network and build connections with like-minded professionals at other companies. I depend upon my network of contacts for advice about the latest industry trends, how to deal with challenges, and where to find the best vendors for my business.

7. I will read at least one industry-related book, magazine or online article each month.

Since you are reading this blog, you already know the importance of staying current on industry trends. But how do you find the time to do that every single month?

Here are a few tips: Take an industry-related book or magazine with you on your next plane flight, bus or train ride. Take advantage of those spare moments to increase your knowledge of the contact center industry. I have found that reading about new ideas keeps me fresh and helps me find solutions to everyday problems.

Or if you’re like me and don’t want to lug a book around all day, you can access or download many blogs, books and magazines onto your smartphone, tablet PC or ebook reader. That is a great way to read while waiting for an appointment or filling a few spare moments at home.

If you are not into reading, you can also find many books available on audio. These are usually read by the author and are made available as a CD that you can play in your car. Many books are also available as an MP3 file that you can play on your smartphone, iPod or other portable music device. The whole point is to listen, think and grow your ability to manage your contact center more effectively.

There are also excellent contact center industry groups you can join on LinkedIn. You can post questions, start discussions and answer other people’s questions on those pages. Or if you would rather step back and just observe, you can follow the conversation threads and still learn quite a bit from these discussions.

In addition, Twitter features tweets from many thought leaders within our industry. So, if you would rather read online and interact through social media, LinkedIn and Twitter can be superb resources.