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The Frontline Supervisor: The Call Center Linchpin

Thursday, January 19, 2017
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When I began my call center supervisor career, I did not truly understand the importance of my job. Now I realize that the frontline supervisor is vital to an organization. In fact, the ability of an organization to function rests solely on the shoulders of the supervisor. 

Day-to-Day Connector to Long-Term Success 

Think about the importance of the supervisor. They are responsible for ensuring the day-to-day operations of the call center, where most customer interactions occur. If all aspects of these daily interactions are not handled well, the organization will fail. Given the core importance of supporting and assisting the company’s customer asset, you would suspect companies would seek business excellence.

While senior management may have the best of intentions, their lack of experience and skill in call center operations creates additional dysfunction. I recall having a conversation with a senior vice president of a multibillion-dollar manufacturing company. He shared with me that the company had just gone through a reorganization, and the senior leadership team had met to talk about whom the call center was going to report to.

He said that nobody wanted the responsibility. They said, “Those people are weird, and not like any other business unit in the company.” Personally, I take pride in this uniqueness. They’re the weird ones. 

Why Supervisors and Senior Management Struggle 

Many organizations struggle with daily operations—and the relationship between senior management and the supervisor is a main reason. One of the causes for this is because the supervisor often comes into the role with an outsider perspective compared with the rest of management.

In most cases, the supervisor is hired into the position from the nonmanagement group (the agents). Yet many supervisors then must supervise their old team. This would be a very precarious situation for anyone. Rarely are promoted supervisors prepared for the career changes and new set of job competencies that they must now master. 

Supervisors Must Connect It All 

Despite the struggle between the supervisor and senior management relationship, the customers need to be served. So take a look at the scope of the responsibilities of the supervisor.

Customers: Supervisors must be the linchpin between the company and the frontline agents that interact with customers. Even for online companies, the call center is vital and the supervisor is the steward of the customer experience.

Competition: Supervisors link the company to its competition. As the front line captures competitive information, it is the supervisor who can aggregate this information and relay it to appropriate leaders.

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IT: Supervisors are the linchpin connecting the front line to IT. All companies need systems to improve the customer experience and contain costs. The supervisor can capture insights on system function and give it to IT for planning and action.

Legal: The supervisor can capture information on products, policies, customers, and employee actions that can expose the company to legal risk and forward needed information to risk management or the legal department.

Performance Management: The supervisor is responsible for employee productivity and managing the company’s performance management standards. Quality assurance, evaluations, reviews, feedback, discipline, promotion, and terminations are all part of the supervisor responsibility.

Human Resources: The call center is the largest employee group for many companies, so supervisors have the largest need for HR resources. They must be aware of federal, state, and local laws about employment and the company policies.

Senior Management: Even though they struggle with senior management, supervisors must link senior management and the front line. The mission, values, and purpose of the organization must be disseminated effectively to boost employee engagement. 

The Supervisor Success Path 

Successful supervisors do not just happen. While some individuals may lead intuitively, most need to continuously develop and grow to stay successful. And all need a system to follow.

Being a linchpin and connecting all of these areas to the call center is demanding, exciting, and challenging. The supervisor role requires more time, energy, commitment, and skill than ever before. They are unsung heroes who make it all happen for customers. And employees. And senior executives. Their success depends on being prepared.

The Call Center Supervisor Success Path is how a supervisor works with people to create clear direction, vision, and mission and build effective teams. They focus on customer needs and how to deliver to those needs with sound business management.

Skills can be learned and developed. Great agents can become great supervisors. Great supervisors can become even better through a combination of experiences, relationships, training, and coaching.

The supervisor success path allows for development, and a way to enhance their strengths. It helps them find ways to overcome limitations and turn them into opportunities for growth.

When I started in call center operations, I never thought it would be a career. Twenty years later, I’m fortunate to have gained the wisdom to learn otherwise.

About the Author

 

Jim Rembach is a strategic and tactical adviser who specializes in using analytics for leadership, organization development, employee engagement, and customer engagement to improve customer experiences. Jim is a certified emotional intelligence practitioner, a Certified Contact Center Auditor, a Better Place to Work Certified Expert, and an Employee Retention Specialist. He holds a U.S. trademark for the Servant Teamwork leadership and organizational transformation methodology. Jim has authored nine books on contact center quality, employee engagement, customer experience, and leadership development. He is also an Advisory Board Member for Customer Value Creation International and an expert for the Customer Experience Professionals Association and host of the Fast Leader Show podcast. He is a speaker, a blogger, a vlogger, and an industry-recognized thought leader. Learn more about Rembach at www.BeyondMorale.com.
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