Many contact centers have implemented a comprehensive, multi-hurdle hiring process to ensure that they attract and acquire the best agents possible. Few centers, however, have done the same to ensure that they have the best supervisors leading those agents.
The success of a contact center and the continuous improvement of its agents depends largely on how effective its supervisors are. Nevertheless, few centers have a serious supervisor selection process in place. 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 do little to drive agent performance and engagement, and a lot to drive agents out the door and into another job.
With so much of a contact center's success hinging on how supervisors perform, it only makes sense to dedicate ample time and effort to the recruiting and assessment of supervisor candidates. Following are what the most successful centers do to ensure that the people in charge of developing and motivating their agents are, indeed, super.
Groom existing agents for supervisor greatness. There’s nothing wrong with looking to an existing agent when seeking to fill a supervisor opening – as long as that agent has already proven he or she is worthy of such a promotion. Leading contact centers provide special training opportunities for aspiring supervisors, setting such individuals up for success long before a supervisor opening occurs. This training typically features a combination of classroom instruction, self-paced e-learning modules, and mentoring or job-shadowing (where experienced agents take time off the phones to work closely with a supervisor). Key topics covered – and practiced – include monitoring and coaching, team-building, motivation, and managing conflict.
Many successful contact centers don’t have a formal training program or career path for supervisor candidates, but involve experienced agents in key projects and initiatives that enable them to learn and to hone important supervisory skills. Examples include letting veteran staff serve as peer mentors, training assistants, quality monitoring associates, or inter-departmental interns/liaisons who work closely with other departments within the enterprise.
Tap assessment solutions to help identify top candidates. Where grooming existing agents for future supervisory roles helps them develop key competencies needed in the position, today's advanced assessment tools help the contact center determine who is, indeed, ready to take the reins. Supervisor assessment solutions can be used not only on internal candidates but external ones, as well. While it’s always nice to be able to promote from within, sometimes the best person for the supervisor position is someone from outside the organization who brings ample coaching and development skills to the table.
The best assessment solutions feature realistic supervisory simulations, problem-solving exercises and personality/attitude tests as well as comprehensive interview guides. Look for solutions that are fully customizable and that provide detailed assessments and hiring suggestions for each candidate.
Some solutions providers also offer more hands on and consultative assessment services, with dedicated hiring experts conducting an in-depth job analysis to define the specific supervisory job requirements for the client contact center. Based on said analysis, highly customized job assessments are developed and administered to each supervisory candidate. The hiring expert can also help the center’s management team analyze the results and make hiring recommendations.
Create a training course for newly selected supervisors. Where in-depth assessments ensure you select supervisors with the most potential, an initial training program specially designed for new supervisors sets them – and their agents – up for success.
Such training covers topics similar to those covered in the training for aspiring supervisors (discussed earlier), but usually with a sharper focus on the specific set of skills that will be needed immediately on the job. To help determine what modules and skills to include in the supervisor training program, leading contact centers seek input from their existing supervisors.
Initial training may set new supervisors up for success, but ongoing training and development is critical for ensuring it. The best centers employ a 360-degree feedback process – where agents, fellow supervisors and managers regularly provide input on the supervisor’s performance – to make sure each supervisor is achieving their potential and meeting the needs of their staff, the business, and, importantly, the customer.
About Greg Levin
Greg Levin, Founder of Off Center, is one of the most unique and refreshing voices in the customer care industry. He has been researching, reporting on and satirizing contact center management and customer care since 1994 – first with ICMI, a leading consulting and training firm, and now as an independent writer, speaker and rabble rouser.
Greg offers a wide range of valuable and compelling resources – all aimed at educating, empowering and entertaining contact center professionals worldwide. Most notable is his popular weekly Off Center blog and his critically acclaimed ebook, Full Contact: Contact Center Practices and Strategies that Make an Impact.
To learn more about Greg and what he brings to the table, go to: