Friend or Taskmaster? Considering Call Center Management Styles
Talk to an experienced call center agent, and he or she will likely have a plethora of stories about managers and their management styles. Chances are good some stories will be recounted with respect, and others will be “nightmare boss” anecdotes. The manager is the point around which the entire contact center pivots, so getting a manager to adapt his or her style to the “tone” of the organization is critical.
“Some call center teams respond better to a supportive manager that downplays the distinction between management and labor for a ‘we’re all in this together’ philosophy,” wrote Ciarlo. “With a responsible team the results may be impressive – but there must be some oversight to make sure agents are not taking advantage of an informal managerial style.”
This style may work better with more experienced agents, or for a company trying to foster a warm “family” feeling among its workers. For other contact centers, informality may not be appropriate. Ciarlo describes the second type of manager – the “taskmaster” – using a sports analogy.
“He or she drives the team like a college football coach, with inspiring motivational speeches and continuous urging to go the extra mile for the company,” he wrote. “Some agents will respond to this more aggressive approach, but others may fold under the pressure or be worried about falling short of expectations. Just remember that the best coaches always make time for their players, to help them be the best they can be.”
The right approach for any organization is always going to be the one that creates the most enthusiasm and employee engagement among workers. Many managers may need to seek a middle ground between formality and informality, a laid-back approach or a taskmaster approach. Each agent is an individual and different people will be driven by different motivators. Ciarlo recommends that managers talk to agents to determine what their needs are.
“Ask them if there is something they are not getting from you, whether that’s guidance or support or even criticism,” he wrote. “The more you can match your approach to the temperament of your agents, the better the odds of a successful call center.”
Ciarlo noted that most managers perform their duties in a way that is an extension of their personalities. It can, however, be helpful to consider whether a change in approach might be beneficial to workers. Traditionally, contact center workers tend to be most engaged when they feel properly trained, empowered to use their own initiative sometimes in solving customer issues, and when they can easily see a path for their own advancement by meeting formalized goals laid out clearly in their performance management programs.
When the manager can match his or her management “style” to the agents, turnover can be reduced, productivity can go up and customer engagement can receive a big boost.
Edited by Alicia Young