Care and Feeding of New Contact Center Supervisors

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call center supervisorMany contact centers put a lot of time and effort into training and on-boarding new agents. Relatively few centers, however, do the same for new supervisors.

That’s unfortunate, since the success of a contact center and the continuous improvement of its agents depend largely on how competent and comfortable the center’s supervisors are.

More often than not, supervisors rise from the agent ranks as star performers. The trouble with this is that not everybody who can work wonders with customers knows how to work wonders with workers. Thus, many centers end up with supervisors who are much better at fostering agent dissension and anger than they are at fostering agent development and engagement.

With so much of a contact center’s success hinging on how supervisors perform, it’s essential to invest in the proper care and feeding of those new to supervisory roles. Here’s how the best centers do just that.

Proactively groom experienced agents with super potential. In successful contact centers, the care and feeding of new supervisors starts even before they ARE new supervisors. These centers groom and engage experienced agents who show leadership potential by giving them opportunities to tackle select supervisory tasks. Examples include letting them serve as peer mentors, task force leaders, and/or quality monitoring/coaching assistants coaches, as well giving them permission to use the center’s tranquilizer gun whenever an overwhelmed agent has a conniption. Letting top agents expand their role in such ways is a great way to bolster their skills and confidence and set them on a course for supervisor stardom.

Some centers even have special training tracks for aspiring supervisors. In these centers, skilled and ambitious agents – in addition to participating in the aforementioned activities – complete supervisory training modules and work closely with one of the center’s existing supervisors in hopes of stealing their job.

Develop a comprehensive assessment & selection process for supervisor candidates. This may not sound like a “care and feeding” type of practice, but taking the time to carefully gauge whether or not a supervisor candidate has what it takes to succeed helps that candidate tremendously. Those who don’t make the cut receive valuable feedback on what they still need in order to thrive in a supervisory role; and those who DO make the cut enter into their new supervisor role knowing that they already have the core attributes that will keep them from crashing and burning.

Publically celebrate supervisory promotions. Throw a little party and announce to agents that one of their own is moving on up. Doing so makes new supervisors feel truly valued. More importantly, it gives them a chance to publically express sincere gratitude that will help them gain the favor and support of their former peers who will soon be fetching them coffee.

Set new supes up for success via a formal training program. Even with good grooming and comprehensive candidate assessments, new supervisors still need to complete dynamic training specific to their position prior to donning their new hat. Such training should address the biggest challenges facing new contact center supervisors, including:

  • Getting agents who yesterday were their coworkers to welcome them as their leader.
  • Time management
  • Coaching and performance evaluation
  • Fostering agent motivation and engagement
  • Managing virtual agents (if applicable)
  • Safely using cattle prods to keep agents in adherence.

Training for new supervisors is best when it’s more practical than didactic – that way they can learn by doing rather than merely wasting away in a classroom or completing e-learning modules. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to incorporate realistic simulations and role-plays as well as job “shadowing” and mentoring into the supervisor training program.

Give new supervisors ample support and encouragement during their initial months on the floor. Even after completing a solid training program, new supervisors will still need some additional hand-holding and coddling to ensure they’re at home in their new and important role. The center’s managers and experienced supervisors should treat newly minted supervisors as their little brothers and sisters. This doesn’t mean teasing them and giving them wedgies – as fun as that can be – rather it means looking out for the newbies, providing daily encouragement, lending a hand with some of the trickier tasks, and, most importantly, beating up any agents who bully them and steal their lunch money.

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