Effective call center management increases employee engagement and customer retention, lowers operating costs, and makes the most out of your investment in call center software.
But with customer and employee expectations constantly changing, developing and maintaining a strong management strategy is a challenge.
Finding the perfect balance between manual and automated customer support, increasing team productivity while avoiding agent burnout, leveraging AI without sacrificing personalization, choosing the right call center technology…it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
This post breaks down how to create a quality call center management strategy, highlights common call center problems, and provides actionable advice for optimizing call center operations.
- What Is Call Center Management?
- Call Center Roles and Responsibilities
- How To Effectively Manage A Call Center: Dos and Don’ts
- Call Center Management Challenges and Solutions
- Key Call Center Metrics Every Manager Should Track
- Call Center Software Improves Call Center Management
What Is Call Center Management?
Call center management is the ongoing process of developing, implementing, monitoring, and refining strategies for optimal day-to-day call center operations.
Effective call center management evaluates agent and customer experience, internal and external communication, and how business applications like contact center software, CRM platforms, and VoIP phone systems can improve existing business processes.
Creating a successful call center management strategy is a collaborative effort between customers, agents, managers, supervisors, executives, and company directors.
Call center management encompasses a variety of equally important components, including:
- Customer Service and Support: Available communication channels, live support vs automated customer self-service with IVR and IVA, chatbots, online portals and knowledge bases, proactive engagement and reminders, customer surveys and feedback
- The Agent Experience: Agent onboarding and training, performance evaluations, in-conversation assistance, employee engagement and recognition, available team collaboration tools, balanced workloads
- Business Processes: Manual vs automated processes like intelligent routing, call flow path design, call queue management, outbound auto dialer and lead list management, CRM call pops, AI-powered workflow automation, customer data collection, follow-ups and callbacks
- Workforce Management: Trend forecasting and agent scheduling, quality assurance and agent performance feedback, time tracking, attendance monitoring, call recording and monitoring, Workforce Optimization, real-time notifications for service level issues
- Business Software: Available features, pricing and plans, scalability and mobility, available integrations and API customizations, ease of use, provider support, security and compliance
- Analytics and Reporting: Real-time and historical KPI monitoring, reporting templates and customization, AI-powered Speech Analytics, CSAT and NPS scoring, overall call center activity monitoring, individual agent/ring group/department performance analytics, call volume
How Does A Call Center Work?
A call center works by providing a central platform for managing inbound and outbound calling, call center administration, and agent activity.
Call centers can be remote, cloud-based, on-premise, inbound, outbound, or blended (other call center types are also available.)
The goal of a call center is to provide customers/leads with the information they need as quickly as possible by connecting them to a live agent or pricing them with self-service options like an IVR system.
Call center software features like call forwarding, call routing, and call queueing ensure assistance is relevant, accurate, and efficient, while call center metrics identify opportunities for improvement and provide insight into your customer base.
Call Center Roles and Responsibilities
A well-operated call center has clearly defined roles with corresponding responsibilities and expectations.
The main roles within a call center are:
|Call Center Manager||Call Center Supervisor||Call Center Agent|
|Evaluates customer expectations and needs||Trains/monitors/assists call center reps with customer interactions||Speaks directly to customers/leads|
|Defines agent and supervisor roles||Ensures manager’s expectations are met||Resolves caller issues as quickly as possible|
|Determines KPIs to analyze call center performance||Alerts managers of key issues||Follows supervisor and manager instructions|
Call Center Manager
The call center manager is the lead operator (and often, the owner) of the call center. They are responsible for evaluating, defining, and meeting customer needs and expectations.
Call center managers must set agent and supervisor performance standards, explain how these standards will be met, and identify opportunities to increase customer satisfaction rates and sales revenue.
Common call center manager responsibilities include:
- Setting long and short-term call center sales and customer service goals and explaining how these goals are measured
- Creating and updating employee training materials
- Selecting call center and other business communication software (CRM platforms, team collaboration tools, workforce management apps, etc.)
- Hiring call center agents and supervisors
- Reviewing historical and real-time call center analytics and reporting
- Creating, monitoring, and updating call paths/call routing strategies
- Developing HR policies
Key call center manager skills include:
- Superior communication skills
- Ability to cater to multiple agent learning styles
- An understanding of business goals, customer base, and branding
- Task management and delegation
- Flexibility to adjust management strategies/business goals on the fly, according to customer and employee feedback
- Ability to interpret analytics and KPIs and make data-driven decisions
- Empathy and understanding to ensure customers and employees feel recognized and valued
Call Center Supervisor
Call center supervisors train, monitor, and assist call center agents with customer interactions.
They are responsible for implementing the strategies developed by the call center manager to ensure expectations are met. Supervisors are in near-constant communication with both agents and managers, and must be able to identify when adjustments to the management strategy need to be made.
Common call center supervisor responsibilities include:
- Employee training and onboarding
- Real-time call center/agent conversion monitoring and in-call coaching
- Administrative task management, including agent scheduling
- Alerting management to ineffective or outdated training materials or strategies
- Reviewing call recording and transcriptions to identify trends
- Evaluating individual agent performance
- Creating call center activity summaries and briefs to share with management
Key call center supervisor skills include:
- Technical understanding of call center software
- Workforce management and scheduling
- Ability to discern which information should be sent to upper management
- Soft skills (communication, active listening, problem-solving, etc.)
- Ability to provide detailed feedback to employees and managers
Call Center Agent
A call center agent is a representative that actually speaks to the caller with the goal of resolving each customer issue as soon as possible.
They are on the front lines, representing the business and carrying out the instructions of call center managers and supervisors.
Common call center agent responsibilities include:
- Providing live customer assistance or technical support
- Making outbound sales or marketing calls
- Confirming, canceling, or rescheduling appointments
- Taking orders or payments over the phone
- Providing order updates/shipping information
- Making account updates
- Collecting customer survey responses and managing customer complaints
- Discerning when to transfer calls or initiate the call center escalation matrix
Key customer service agent skills include:
- Communication, empathy, and problem-solving
- Strong knowledge of product/services
- Ability to prioritize calls and stay calm under pressure
- Conflict management and resolution
- Developing personal relationships with clients to increase sales and customer retention rates
- Teamwork and team collaboration
How To Effectively Manage A Call Center: Dos and Don’ts
The below table outlines the top do’s and don’ts of effective call center management.
|The Problem||What to Do||What Not to Do|
|Ineffective Customer Service and Low Customer Satisfaction Rates||– Re-evaluate employee training materials
– Integrate CRM software for easy access to customer data
– Send out customer surveys and ask for more detailed customer feedback
– Implement skills-based routing strategies to connect agents with the proper training to customers needing assistance
|– Blame the problems on individual agents
– Ignore the issue
– Over-rely on temporary or outsourced agents
– Fail to recognize employees for quality work
|Poor Agent Scheduling||– Use workforce management tools to optimize agent schedules
– Use forecasting analytics to predict busy seasons
– Use internal knowledge bases and pre-written agent scripts to allow for additional support from other departments during peak call times
|– Immediately hire additional agents
– Fail to plan ahead for high call volume times
– Overburden employees with extended shifts during busy seasons
|Low Call Quality||– Invest in new hardware like headsets, microphones, and desk phones
– Increase Internet bandwidth/speed
– Look for VoIP software with features like background noise suppression
|– Inadvertently use hardware that is outdated or isn’t fully compatible with any call center software you’re using
– Overlook BYOD, allowing agents to use their own smartphones/computers, which may have better audio quality, to make/receive calls
– Fail to analyze and measure call quality as you would any other metric
|Long Customer Wait Times||– Use automated callbacks to allow customers to receive a call back at the time of their choosing instead of waiting online
– Implement more IVR self-service options for customers
– Look for call queuing features that provide real-time insights into call queues, letting admins adjust agent workflow if needed
|– Overlook the importance of automation to manage routine tasks
– Fail to use tools like visual voicemail (which transcribes voice messages) to allow agents to prioritize callbacks and be fully prepared for each call
-Fail to call customers back and assume that if it’s “really important” the customer will eventually call again
|Unmanageable Call Volumes||– Higher geographically diverse agents across time zones so someone is always available
– Provide customers with estimated wait times
– Use workflow automation tools that expedite support ticketing, or collect caller contact information
|– Fail to consider adding additional communication channels like SMS texting, live chat, social media messaging, and more
– Encourage agents to rush through support conversations
– Fail to use analytics to assess KPIs like average handling time (AHT) or average call length
Call Center Management Challenges and Solutions
In order to effectively manage a call center, you need to be familiar with some of the most common challenges you and your agents will face.
The Problem: High Agent Turnover Rates
The average call center turnover rate is between 30-40%, with the majority of call center employees remaining on the job for just 1-3 years. (To put that number in perspective, the average turnover rate across industries is between 15-18%.)
It costs businesses nearly $6,500 to hire and train just one new agent — meaning high turnover rates quickly eat into profits.
Common reasons why so many call center employees quit include:
- Inflexible work environment
- Repetitive, unchallenging work
- Insufficient pay
- Abuse from customers and burnout
How To Decrease Call Center Agent Turnover
While you may not be able to address all the reasons for high call center turnover rates, a few small changes can help.
First, invest in cloud-based call center software that allows team members to work from any location, on any device.
Our study on remote work shows that giving employees the ability to work remotely can cut resignation rates by as much 50%, lead to a 15% increase in agent productivity, and save your company as much as $11,000 a year.
Next, look to call center solutions that offer advanced automation to eliminate much of the repetitive work your agents dread.
Features like IVR, automated data entry, AI-powered chatbots, and online customer knowledge can prevent agents from losing valuable time to redundant, basic tasks.
While it can be tough to increase agent salaries, even small improvements in pay rates make a big difference in agent retention. Increasing salaries by $5,000 can decrease turnover rates by as much as 15%. Automation, call center analytics, and accurate forecasting lets managers optimize available agents instead of hiring more.
Addressing employee burnout is also essential. Ask agents to identify the most frustrating parts of their work, then look for a way to improve them. For example, if poor scheduling strategies are to blame, try software that makes automated agent scheduling suggestions or allows agents to automatically adjust their own schedules in the dashboard.
Never overlook the importance of employee rewards and recognition. Performance gamification with incentives and wallboards are fun, boost employee engagement, and instill a sense of friendly competition while recognizing top agents.
Finally, design a clear escalation matrix and use a skills-based routing strategy to help cut down on the number of angry customers agents have to deal with. This ensures agents without the proper training know exactly who has the skills needed to deal with difficult customers.
The Problem: Employee Absenteeism
Sometimes, call center employees don’t outright quit when they’re dissatisfied with their jobs — they simply don’t show up.
Not only does this unfairly burden the agents that did show up that day, but employee absenteeism can cost businesses over $3,600 per year, per employee.
If agent absenteeism is a consistent problem, the onus is on call and contact center management to make some changes.
How To Decrease Agent Absenteeism
First of all, ensure employees are deliberately missing their shifts.
In many cases, you’ll find that poor scheduling, a lack of staffing planning, and outright miscommunication are really to blame for these “unexcused absences.”
Workflow management tools offer advanced scheduling functionalities that allow employees to bid on their preferred shift times, automate PTO requests, send shift reminders, and use schedule adherence monitoring to alert supervisors of absenteeism.
Agent absenteeism is also caused by a lack of employee engagement.
Today’s remote work environment may be convenient, but it makes it much harder to create a sense of teamwork and camaraderie among call center employees.
Team collaboration features like chat messaging tools, task management, file sharing and co-editing, whiteboarding, and face-to-face video calling apps build personal connections between agents and encourage them to work together.
The Problem: Low Customer Satisfaction Rates
There are few things more daunting than unhappy customers.
Common customer complaints and signs of a poor customer service experience include:
- Uninformed agents that don’t have the training or skills needed to assist with a specific issue
- Lack of customer self-service options
- Having to repeat their support issue to multiple agents
- A lengthy support resolution process
- Long hold times and inability to schedule a call back
- Lengthy IVR menus
- Lack of personalized customer service and support
- Not feeling like a priority
- Feeling the company doesn’t respect their time
- Lack of follow-up or request for feedback
How To Improve Call Center Customer Satisfaction Rates
Though it can be tempting to blame individual agents for unhappy customers, the reality is that poor management is a huge factor in low customer satisfaction rates.
To improve the overall customer experience, start by examining employee training materials. Are they outdated, missing information, poorly organized, or inconsistent? Employee training doesn’t just need to be up-to-date — it also needs to be accessible even after the onboarding process is complete. On-demand training materials for remote teams ensure agents can access essential information at any time.
Next, create a searchable internal knowledge base with details like:
- What-if scenarios
- Call scripts
- Software training
- Onboarding materials
- Escalation matrix
- Clear objectives/expectations
- Product/service information
- Peer learning/agent shadowing
- Explanation of how success is measured
Use AI-powered in-call features like automated Agent Assistance, CRM call pops, post-call summaries, and call dispositions to automate the support process, speed up resolution times, and streamline after-call work.
Ensure callers are connected to the best available representative by optimizing call routing strategies like skills-based routing, customer relationship routing, or time-based routing.
Enable the automated customer callback feature, so customers can choose when they’d like to receive a call back from an available agent to decrease call hold times.
The Problem: Low Employee Productivity
Call center agents spend about ¼ of their workday doing….absolutely nothing.
It’s easy to understand why a low level of call center agent productivity is undesirable, but much harder to understand why it’s happening and how to fix it.
Common causes of low call center agent productivity include:
- Inability to find relevant/needed information quickly
- Constant interruptions
- Frequent missed calls/callbacks
- Agent boredom and burnout
How To Increase Call Center Agent Productivity
In addition to implementing some of the suggestions we’ve already mentioned, there are several ways to boost employee productivity without overburdening agents.
First, implement call forwarding so agents no longer need to sit at their desks waiting for an important call to come in. Especially when coupled with real-time notifications for agents, call forwarding lets call center team members take care of other tasks or leave the office without worrying about missing a call from a major lead or client.
Next, look to automatic dialing tools to expedite lead list penetration, increase agent talk time, and grow sales revenue.
Auto dialer tools eliminate the need for agents to physically dial phone numbers, making lists much easier and faster to get through. Busy signal/disconnected detection, lead list scrubbing, voicemail drop, and simultaneous dialing save even more time.
Remember, auto dialers only transfer a call to a live agent when a “real person” is on the phone and ready to speak to them. Dialing speeds can be adjusted in real-time accordingly, and multiple outbound dialing modes like Predictive, Progressive, Power, and Preview further optimize cold calling.
Use agent call scripts and internal knowledge bases (wikis) in outbound calling campaigns. These tools are especially helpful if you’re facing an unexpectedly high call volume and need agents from other departments to assist. Even if they’re not quite as familiar with the topic at hand, call scripts and wikis give them the information they need to provide effective assistance.
The Problem: Not Knowing The Problem
You may think you know what’s causing problems at your call center — but there’s a good chance you haven’t correctly identified the root cause.
How To Identify Call Center Problems
One of the best ways to understand overall call center performance is to simply listen in on conversations between agents and customers.
Call monitoring tools like call recording and transcription, call whisper, and call barge give managers major insight into common topics, individual agent strengths and weaknesses, and where training materials are lacking.
Transcripts of these recorded customer interactions are often searchable, and many tools use AI to identify common keywords and phrases to create interactive word clouds.
Additionally, call center software today offers pre-made and customizable analytic templates for KPIs like call length, Average Handle Time, call abandonment rate, talk time, call transfers, hold time, and much more.
Make sure to examine both real-time and historical call center analytics and data to get a more complete understanding of the current and past activity.
Key Call Center Metrics Every Manager Should Track
Tracking essential call center metrics help you understand how well the solutions you’ve implemented are working and provide deeper insight into customer and agent behaviors.
Below, we’ll quickly outline the top 5 call center metrics to evaluate employee engagement and productivity, customer satisfaction, the quality of current customer support, and more.
1. First Call Resolution (FCR) Rates
First call resolution measures the percentage of customer service and support calls that are completely resolved during the first interaction between the customer and your call center.
This means that there are no additional calls or follow-ups needed. The ideal FCR rate is 70-75%.
The formula to measure FCR is:
FCR = (Total Resolved Cases ÷ Total Number of Cases) x 100
2. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
A Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a performance metric measuring the answer to just one question: “How likely are you to recommend our services/products/business to someone you know?”
Users respond with a ranking from 0 (least likely to recommend) to 10 (most likely to recommend.)
Call center supervisors should aim for a score of 20% or above.
The below image outlines how each number is scored as answers are divided up into “Promoters,” “Passives,” and “Detractors.”
The formula for calculating NPS Is:
% of Promoters – % of Detractors = NPS
3. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Rates
Customer Satisfaction Rates (CSAT) is a performance management metric that lets you know what percent of customers feel that your call center/agent/product/service met their needs and expectations.
Customers answer the question, “On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest,) how satisfied are you with the service you received today?” Note that both 4 and 5s are considered “positive scores.”
The average CSAT rate is about 15%, and 25% and above is considered a “good” score.
The formula for calculating your call center’s CSAT Score is:
CSAT % = (Number of Positive Scores ➗ Number of Total Scores) x 100
4. Call Abandonment Rate
Call Abandonment Rate is the percentage of incoming customer calls that are ended before a conversation begins (in other words, before a caller interacts with IVR or an agent.)
It’s a good indication of how effectively call center queues are operating, as well as the level of customer frustration regarding long hold times.
The average CAR is between 5-8%, and anything over 10% should be cause for concern.
The Call Abandonment Rate formula is:
Call Abandonment Rate = (# of Abandoned Calls➗Total Inbound Calls) x 100
5. Cost per Call (CPC)
Cost per Call (CPC) measures the average cost of each call and is an indication of overall agent efficiency, productivity, and of course, operational costs.
The Cost per Call Formula is:
CPC = Total Calls per Month or Year ÷ (Operating costs + Average Agent Salary)
Call Center Software Improves Call Center Management
In addition to putting the advice in this post into practice, investing in quality call center software is the key to better call center management.
Key features to look for in a call center platform include:
- Scalable pricing and tiered plans
- Real-time and historical analytics with pre-made and customizable reports
- CRM software integration
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Automatic Call Distributor (ACD)
- Multiple call routing options (skills-based, time-based, round-robin, list-based, etc.)
- Automation and AI
- Call queuing and automated callbacks
- Call monitoring and quality monitoring
- Outbound dialing modes (progressive, predictive, power, etc.)
- Workforce Optimization and Management
- Agent scripting and internal wikis
To learn more about which providers offer all of the above features — and much more — start by reading our overview of the best call center software. You may also benefit from omnichannel contact center software, which offers additional communication channels to contact center agents and customers instead of just phone calls.