Effective call center management means happier customers, more productive agents, and clear communication strategies that speed up the resolution process.
With customer expectations higher than ever, improving call center operations is about much more than just playing pre-recorded messages or having agents read from a script. Instead, it’s about combining strong management practices with the advanced features of today’s call center technology.
Below, we’ll tell you what you need to know to operate a successful call center, tackle common call center problems, and improve the overall customer experience.
Table of Contents:
- 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
Call center management is the process that call center supervisors develop, implement, and monitor to streamline inbound and outbound communication between agents and existing customers, prospective customers, and each other.
Call management isn’t just about customer satisfaction. It’s also about ensuring agents have the information and tools they need to do their jobs effectively.
Business operations and communications that fall under the umbrella of call center management include:
- Customer service and technical support
- Agent training and employee engagement
- Workforce management and agent scheduling
- Outbound calling and lead list management
- Real-time and historical call center data analysis
- Call path/call flow design
- Business process/customer service automation
How Does A Call Center Work?
A call center works by serving as a central space for inbound and outbound calls related to customer service and support, sales, product information, appointment management, and more.
Call centers can be remote, cloud-based, premise-based, inbound, outbound, or blended (more detailed information on different call center types is available in this post.)
The goal of a call center is to provide customers/leads with the information they need as quickly as possible, either by speaking to a live agent or interacting with an automated IVR system.
To ensure that any assistance provided is relevant, accurate, and personalized, call center software provides additional call management features like call routing, call forwarding, call queueing, and more.
But call center management isn’t just about implementing the right technology. It’s also about effectively managing and optimizing agent performance.
A well-operated call center is one with clearly defined roles and their corresponding responsibilities.
The main roles within a call center are outlined in the table and further defined below.
|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. Their main goals are to evaluate and meet customer expectations/needs, define agent and supervisor performance standards and how they will be met, and identify opportunities to increase customer satisfaction rates and sales revenue.
Common call center manager responsibilities include:
- Setting call center sales and customer service goals and defining ways to measure them
- 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
- Creating customer surveys
- Developing HR policies
Key call center manager skills include:
- Ability to clearly communicate expectations
- Short-term and long-term goal setting
- Strong knowledge of the current customer and employee engagement
- Flexibility regarding goals, products, and services offered, etc. based on changing customer base and employee feedback
- Task delegation
- Understanding of analytics and KPIs to make data-driven decisions
- Ability to make customers and employees feel recognized and appreciated
Call Center Supervisor
Call center supervisors train, monitor, and assist call center agents with customer interactions. Their main goals are to ensure that the manager’s customer service strategies are carried out and that their expectations are met.
Common call center supervisor responsibilities include:
- Employee training and onboarding
- Real-time monitoring (listening in, barging in, etc.) on agent calls with customers
- Administrative task management
- Alerting management to ineffective or outdated training materials
- Reviewing call recording and transcriptions to identify trends, then passing along these findings to upper management
- Evaluating individual agent performance
- Agent scheduling
Key call center supervisor skills include:
- Technical understanding of call center software
- Workforce management and scheduling
- Ability to discern the types of information that should be sent to upper management
- Soft skills (communication, active listening, problem-solving, etc.) and the ability to teach them to others
- 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 their 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
- Taking customer complaints
- Collecting customer survey responses
- Discerning when to escalate calls
Key customer service agent skills include:
- Communication, empathy, and problem-solving
- Strong knowledge of product/services
- Ability to prioritize calls and maintain calm under pressure
- Conflict management and resolution
- Developing personal relationships with clients to increase sales revenues and customer retention rates
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
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 can quickly eat into your 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 drastically reduce that number.
First, invest in cloud-based call center software that allows team members to work from anywhere, 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 even a more robust online customer support forum can prevent your agents from losing the majority of their days to tasks that could easily be automated.
While it can be tough to increase agent salaries, even small improvements in pay rates can make a big difference when it comes to agent retention. Studies show that increasing salaries by $5,000 can decrease turnover rates by as much as 15%. Plus, automation, detailed call center analytics, and more accurate forecasting prevents managers from hiring too many agents while allowing them to optimize the ones they have.
Addressing employee burnout is the biggest challenge here, but the best way to understand agent frustration is by asking your agents directly about what they find problematic. Maybe it’s workplace inflexibility, poor scheduling, insufficient training, or of course, rude and angry customers.
We’ll speak more about the importance of quality employee training later, especially when it comes to keeping customers happy. For now, know that gamification and friendly competition can go a long way towards improving the work environment. Not only is gamification genuinely fun, but it’s also an effective way to make sure employees are properly recognized and rewarded for their work.
Finally, designing a clear escalation matrix prevents agents who don’t have the training or the knowledge to assist a customer with their current issue and lets team members know who they should turn to when facing an irate customer. Skills-based call routing, as well, helps customers to connect with qualified agents, drastically reducing the chance that the customer will get angry.
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 it can also cost you over $3,600 per year, per employee. While there may be nothing you can do about a few bad apples, if you notice that absenteeism is a consistent problem, the onus is on you to make some changes.
How To Decrease Agent Absenteeism
First of all, ensure your 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, send out automated shift reminders, allow admins to automatically approve PTO requests, and alert employees and supervisors if an employee suddenly cancels a shift.
This makes it much easier for your call center team to know when and where they’re expected — and for you to identify and remedy dates and times that need more agents.
Unfortunately, a lack of employee engagement and a failure to feel like a member of a team can also cause agent absenteeism. Especially as call centers managers move towards remote and blended workplaces, the distance and lack of personal connection often feel even greater.
Team collaboration features like messaging tools, file sharing and co-editing, whiteboarding, and of course, face-to-face video calling apps go a long way towards reminding your agents that they’re a part of a team. Task management tools also make it clear to agents what’s expected of them for the day, foster communication between employees and allow for better planning.
The Problem: Low Customer Satisfaction Rates
There are few things more daunting to both agents and call center managers than unhappy customers.
Common customer complaints and signs of a poor customer service experience include:
- Connecting with an uninformed agent who can’t help them with their current issue
- Having to repeat themselves to multiple agents every time they interact with a representative
- A lengthy/extended resolution process
- Long hold times
- Not feeling like a priority
- 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.
When was the last time you updated them? 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. Create on-demand training materials for remote teams, organized clearly by topic, that agents can access at any time and ensure it includes things like:
- What-if scenarios to improve communication skills
- Call scripts
- Software training
- Onboarding materials
- Escalation matrix
- Clear objectives/expectations
- Product/service information
- Peer learning/agent shadowing
- Explanation of how success is measured
In addition to providing customers with well-trained reps, you also need to ensure you’re connecting them to agents that are the most likely to be able to resolve their issue quickly.
This means taking advantage of proper call routing strategies for inbound calls, especially skills-based routing. Use analytics to understand employee strengths, then create — and frequently monitor and update — call routing paths accordingly. Proper call routing (and call forwarding to additional agent phone numbers) speeds up resolution time and optimizes agents.
Also use automated callback tools, which allow customers to choose when they’d like to receive a call back from an available agent instead of staying on hold, to decrease wait times.
Finally, invest in quality CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software that integrates with your VoIP call center. CRM tools provide features like CTI screen pops, which automatically display all of a customer’s data on an agent’s screen when making or receiving a call. This means instant access to key information the caller has already provided, which reps they’ve previously spoken with, order history, and more. Agents will be prepared for the call before they even connect with the customer.
The Problem: Low Employee Productivity
Call center agents to 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 actually happening — and how to fix it ASAP.
Common causes of low call center agent productivity include:
- Inability to find relevant/needed information quickly
- Constant interruptions
- Frequent missed calls/callbacks
How To Increase Call Center Agent Productivity
In addition to implementing some of the suggestions we’ve already mentioned in this section, there are several ways to boost employee productivity without overburdening your agents.
The first thing you can do is implement call forwarding, which eliminates the need for agents to sit at their desks for extended periods of time just waiting for that important call to finally come in.
Call forwarding automatically sends incoming calls to multiple phone numbers for the same agent if their first phone number isn’t answered after a set number of rings. For example, if the agent doesn’t answer their desk phone, the call could be forwarded to their smartphone, then their home phone, then to their voicemail box, or even to another agent altogether.
Especially when coupled with real-time notifications for agents, call forwarding lets team members take care of other tasks 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 boost overall productivity levels.
These tools eliminate the need for agents to physically dial phone numbers, making lists much easier and faster to get through. Features like voicemail, busy signal, or disconnected number detection save even more time by automatically filtering out these calls and updating lead lists accordingly.
Best of all?
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 and strategies can be adjusted in real-time according to need and preference thanks to a variety of outbound dialing modes.
To learn more about different auto-dialing modes, best practices, and additional benefits, check out our guide to outbound auto dialers.
Finally, make sure to use agent call scripts and internal knowledge bases (sometimes called wikis. Instead of having to call customers back because they don’t know how to help them, agents can instead turn to pre-written call scripts or searchable customer service databases.
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 especially if things haven’t improved, there’s a good chance you haven’t correctly identified the root cause.
In addition to misunderstanding the overall flow of your call center, you could also be missing out on essential, game-changing insights about your customers.
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 areas that need better training materials. Transcripts of these recorded customer interactions are often searchable, and many tools use AI to identify common keywords and phrases to bring them to your attention.
Additionally, call center software today offers pre-made and customizable data and analytic templates on KPIs like call length, call handling time, 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. (We’ll address the specific call center metrics and KPIs supervisors should track in the next section of this article.)
To understand how well the solutions you’ve implemented to solve some of the above problems or to get a deeper insight into both customer and agent behavior, you’ll need to closely monitor and track essential call center metrics.
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 agent and caller.
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
Our post on how to improve first call resolution rates provides additional tips.
2. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
A Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a performance metric designed to answer the 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
More detailed information is available in our guide to understanding your Net Promoter Score.
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 Customer Calls) x 100
Our post on Call Center Abandonment Rate provides more detailed information.
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)
To learn about additional KPIs to track, or for more information on any of those listed above, check out our guide to call center metrics.
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.)
- 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.