The Modern Approach to Call Center Management

min read
The Modern Approach to Call Center Management

Even in the digital age, phone calls are still the go-to communication method for many consumers reaching out for customer service. And call center managers are under more pressure than ever to demonstrate effective call center management practices, and help their teams to continually improve the customer experience.

Taking a modern approach to call center management is a must for accomplishing those goals — and streamlining operations in the call center. Evolving to that approach requires focus and resources, both of which can be hard to come by for many call center operators. Research shows that call volumes have been increasing for call centers while the industry struggles to hire the right people for frontline roles.

Technology, including call center workforce management software, offers a solution for time- and resource-strapped call center managers facing these common challenges. This post explains how incorporating new technologies and workforce management tools for your call center can help you not only move to a modern approach to call center management but also accelerate your transition.

What Is Call Center Management?

In case you’re unfamiliar with the field of call center management, here’s a simple description of what the practice entails: Call center management involves overseeing the daily operations of a call center that handles inbound and outbound calls between agents and customers. 

As for workforce management in a call center, those responsibilities include hiring, onboarding, and coaching agents. Call center managers also handle workforce scheduling and monitor the performance of both agents and technology in the call center. There is also a compliance aspect to call center management in many highly regulated industries, like financial services and healthcare.

Understanding the Current Call Center Landscape

To understand the state of workforce management in a call center today, there are three major trends to be aware of that are driving transformation in many of these operations.

1. Changes in customer behavior

Customer needs and behaviors are always evolving. But new ways of shopping, communicating, and doing business that emerged or accelerated during the recent pandemic took things to a whole new level. Customers expect, and even demand, personalized interactions with brands online and offline. 

That includes the phone line. Phone calls to customer service definitely contribute to the overall customer experience. This is important for any business to understand, given that three-quarters of consumers say they are at least somewhat likely to make a purchase based on experience alone.  

2. Adoption of the latest technology and new communication channels 

Customers have become much more accustomed in recent years to using chatbots, live agent chat, and social media to communicate with businesses. They also value (and increasingly expect) to have omnichannel experiences when they interact with brands. 

So, it is incumbent on businesses to provide a seamless service across every channel they maintain to interact with customers. That includes the phone calls that customers make to call centers. Invoca’s research shows that despite the many ways consumers can communicate with businesses today, 68% still prefer to reach out by phone. 

3. Remote work and flexible schedules

Just like many other industries, the massive shift toward more flexible work schedules and hybrid and remote work arrangements has had a significant impact on workforce management in call centers. According to a recent survey by Invoca, only 20% of workers today work exclusively in an office. The majority — 64% — said they have a hybrid remote and in-office work arrangement. 

Managers with remote or distributed workforces often face call center workforce management challenges. Work-from-home agents might not be available at key times, and they could easily lose focus during the workday due to distractions like children, roommates, pets, and even deliveries. 

Plus, scheduling, compliance, and quality assurance (QA) can be challenging when managing a distributed team. It can also be tougher to manage and coach call center agents effectively without face-to-face interaction and the ability to help team members course-correct on the fly.

Overcoming New Challenges 

There are several challenges that call center managers must address, whether agents work in the physical call center, or remotely. These issues are due to the nature of call center work.

High turnover rates and agent burnout

Handling customer calls is a high-pressure responsibility, especially when the bulk of those calls come from unhappy customers with complaints about service, deliveries, or product malfunctions. Many agents must also often handle a high volume of calls for a sustained period, without significant breaks.

Dealing with a seemingly endless barrage of complaint calls can be stressful and demoralizing, especially if callers are verbally abusive. It is no surprise, then, that many agents suffer from call center stress syndrome. Burnout is common in the field, and employee turnover rates in call centers are high. Recent research by Invoca found that 60% of U.S. contact center agents are “very likely” to leave their job in the next six months. And nearly a third of agents surveyed said that poor work-life balance is a key factor in their decision to move on.

Managers can minimize burnout and reduce turnover with effective workforce management in the call center. That includes making sure that they hire the right people to work as agents and ensure that they aren’t overworked. Supporting employees with modern technology and targeted training and coaching also helps ease stress. So, too, does rewarding team members for good work, and offering perks that can provide some relief, like wellness programs.

Ensuring data privacy and security

Businesses the world over face strict rules and regulations for safeguarding customer data — and that includes how data is handled in call center environments. The Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Healthcare Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) are just some examples of data privacy and security mandates that can apply to call center operations.

Because noncompliance with regulatory requirements can lead to hefty fines, or worse, for a business, many companies rely on advanced call center technology to avoid missteps. Invoca’s AI conversation intelligence software, for example, which tracks and logs data from customer calls, is compliant with privacy regulations across major business sectors, including healthcare and financial services.  

Addressing language and cultural barriers

A key challenge for call center employees is navigating language barriers and cultural norms. Most consumers spend much, or all, of their time on websites in their language and generally prefer to conduct business in their own language. It stands to reason, then, that they would prefer to speak to someone in their own language when they need customer service or support.

Multilingual hiring or third-party call center services can help resolve language barriers for businesses that operate internationally or in states where a high population of residents speak languages other than English (e.g., Spanish speakers in Texas and California).

Even agents who speak the same language as customers can fall foul of cultural norms. For example, accents and dialects can create confusion, and agents may use cultural references that may not be understood by every caller. 

Clear communication is key in any language. So, no matter what language agents must use when interacting with callers, they should strive to be concise and straightforward and avoid idioms.

Dealing with difficult customers and conflicts

As we’ve already established, working in a call center can be very stressful. The pace of work, especially during peak periods, can be relentless. But there’s also the “people problem” that accompanies the work of … well … trying to assist people who may be frustrated, displeased, or downright irate when they pick up the phone to call customer service.

Thirty-seven percent of agents recently surveyed by Invoca for The State of the Contact Center report said they often deal with rude or angry behavior in the course of their work. Worse, one in five contact center agents said they regularly experience personal attacks and harassment.

The demands of call center jobs can lead to low morale and high turnover rates, making call center workforce management that much harder. That’s why call center managers should take a proactive stance toward acknowledging and, to the extent that they can, helping to ease daily pressures on their employees. Demonstrating empathy is a big part of that.

Empathy is a critical soft skill that customer service agents are asked to demonstrate when interacting with customers. So, managers should do the same with their agents. Consider taking things even further by creating an empathetic coaching culture within the call center. This includes empowering employees with the right technology, scoring calls fairly and objectively for QA, and using real-world examples to teach agents how to improve performance, deal with difficult customers, and manage or avoid conflicts.

Strategies and Best Practices for Modern Contact Center Management

There are additional strategies and practices that you can use to enhance workforce management in your call center. Here’s a look at some of the best practices that are likely to help you get the best results.

Emphasize customer experience and satisfaction

Striving for customer satisfaction in every call and focusing on the customer experience can set you far apart from many of your competitors. You might think you and your team members are doing these things already, but the question is, is there room for improvement? More than likely, there is.

Our recent blog post with statistics for call center managers in 2024 noted that simply saying, “Your call is important to us” isn’t enough. You have to prove it. To ensure that you can do that, you need to make investments in your call center that support a great customer experience, from hiring the right people to modernizing your operations.

Almost nine in 10 consumers want proactive customer service from the companies they buy from. So, using technology that helps call center agents know who is calling and why will give your call center operation an edge. Keep in mind, too, that those consumers are also prepared to pay more for a great customer experience — as much as 16% more. 

Leverage technology to automate processes

Technology is also vital to supporting smooth operations in the call center — and for your team. In fact, bringing the right workforce management tools into the call center can be downright game-changing. 

Call center workforce management software can help you manage workflow automation and set schedules for your agents. And you can complement these tools with AI technologies that are designed to automate processes at scale and give back time and resources to call center managers. 

QA should be a focus for automation. Are agents “sticking to the script” when handling calls, and are they in compliance with all rules and regulations regarding privacy and data security? Resources like Invoca can automate listening for 100% of calls and provide detailed analysis and objective scoring of calls for QA. That means you can spend less time looking for issues, and more time solving them because AI is doing the legwork for you.  

Prioritize employee engagement and development

Automated QA has another major benefit: You can use the results as part of an extended learning program for your agents. Well-trained employees are not only better at their jobs, but they also tend to stick around longer. Onboarding, training, and ongoing coaching are critical elements to reduce turnover. 

Invoca’s call center management platform delivers key insights from automated QA data in call transcripts and recordings that managers can use to create coachable moments for call center agents, providing on-the-job training at critical points along the agent’s career path.

Sample Invoca automated agent scorecard, powered by AI

Data is empowering for agents when they can access it easily and use it for self-coaching. And with Invoca, they can learn from their own and others’ mistakes in a streamlined and user-friendly interface. 

Invoca also frees managers from the need to manually score a random sampling of calls. And with access to data from 100% of calls, you’ll have more time for one-on-one or team coaching.

Create a culture of continuous improvement and innovation

The strategies and best practices outlined above can help a call center manager to establish the empathetic coaching culture mentioned earlier. This culture can help agents work more efficiently and effectively, feel better while on the job, and stay with the organization longer. 

Compensation is also a factor in driving continuous improvement in the call center. Managers should regularly reevaluate agent bonuses to make sure they measure up to industry and competitor standards.

Also, consider bringing employees into the process by asking for feedback on incentives. Are there perks and benefits they’d like to see that you aren’t currently offering?

This path of open communication should extend to more than just incentives, of course. Providing agents with access to scorecards, praising exemplary performance, and encouraging innovative ideas from the workforce also leads to better overall employee engagement.  

Implementing an omnichannel approach 

Another focus for modern call center management is omnichannel. Yes, phone calls are vitally important. But chances are that a caller will pick up the phone after they have reviewed a product or service online or seen a social post. Or they might have called a number they heard in a radio ad or saw in a TV spot. 

For this reason, your call center needs to be consistent with, and connected to, all the channels that a caller interacts with. The benefits of an omnichannel approach are obvious: It creates a stickier relationship with the consumer. And when it’s combined with personalization, an omnichannel approach can result in greater brand recognition and customer loyalty.

Invoca’s call center management platform plays a crucial part in achieving true omnichannel success by automating and accurately measuring the offline portion of a customer’s journey — that is, what happens when they pick up the phone. And Invoca can help you understand what led to their call, too. Invoca PreSense automatically feeds these online journey insights to contact center agents before they pick up the phone, so they can personalize the conversation to better meet the caller’s needs.

Implementing data-driven decision-making

All this leads to a final strategic best practice for call center management, which is to implement data-driven decision-making. By automating the collection of offline data from phone calls and marrying it with data tracked through a customer’s online interactions, businesses have a wealth of valuable data for driving good decisions that create bottom-line benefits.

Let’s just look at that from one perspective: marketing. According to conversion rate optimization consultant Invesp, businesses that employ data-driven personalization in their marketing see five to eight times the return on investment (ROI) on marketing spend

With all the data that businesses can get from online interactions and offline phone conversations, why wouldn’t they use that data to drive better decisions, make the most of their marketing dollars, and achieve optimal performance in the call center, too?

Enhance Your Call Center Management with Invoca

Invoca’s conversation intelligence software is a leading workforce management tool for call center managers leading teams on-site or remotely. Invoca not only records and transcribes 100% of your calls — it also analyzes them with AI, saving your managers time and legwork. 

The data provided from these calls can be used to automate QA scoring and ensure compliance with laws and regulations regarding personal data privacy. The data can even form the backbone of a coaching and collaboration process for managers and agents that drives employee engagement and development and, ultimately, boosts agent retention.

Additional Reading

Want to learn more about how Invoca can help you improve the contact center experience for your customers? Check out these resources:

Get in touch with Invoca today to learn more about how our technology can help you implement a modern approach to call center management that will help your call center agents perform at their best.

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