How Companies Recruit Qualified Call Center Management: The
BY CATHRYN DEMARTINO AND DAVE HABERMAN, LUCAS GROUP
As call centers transition from cost-draining operations to profit centers, the
personnel managing a facility become even more important to its success. Having the right
call center leadership can make a tremendous impact on the bottom line. But in a growing
industry, and with record-low national unemployment, these professionals are in high
demand and often difficult to find.
The industry is changing. Companies that once hired passive customer service
representatives (CSRs) to handle incoming calls now desire aggressive, yet friendly,
personnel. The trend is for inbound customer service centers to also function as sales
centers and drive revenue by cross-selling and upselling while the customer is on the
line. For example, a credit card customer may call to inquire about the card's interest
rate. By glancing at the caller's profile, the CSR might say, "I notice you've
recently rented numerous automobiles. Let me tell you about our frequent rental
program." It requires marketing savvy to turn 'Hello, may I help you'" into a
Hiring A Call Center Manager
The right call center management is critical to this process. Cross-selling
skills, financial know-how and technical prowess are essential. Todays call center
manager has three to five years of experience and commands a salary of $50,000 to $70,000.
Following is an example of an interesting placement. A credit card company was seeking
a manager for an inbound sales and retention call center. The operation was a
revenue-generating facility with 180 phones. The company was hoping to find a candidate
with strong experience in a sales-oriented center.
An excellent candidate, Bill, was identified through industry contacts. He
had seven years of experience successfully running an operation for a paper company, as
well as eight years in unrelated fields. In the world of call center management, it is not
unusual and is often desirable for prospects to have experience outside a clients
industry because cross-pollination brings new ideas and valuable skills.
Although Bill had completed three years of college, he had not earned a degree. At one
time, this might have been an issue, but because good candidates are scarce, many
companies will make exceptions at the manager level if an impressive candidate meets other
requirements. The call center Bill managed had 75 phones and was primarily an outbound,
An initial phone interview was conducted by our recruitment firm to assess Bills
skills, and he was determined to be a strong contender. He was then provided with the
clients Web site address. The Internet is an outstanding resource to obtain
information about a company, and having a candidate contact a company and visit its Web
site is an excellent tool to determine initiative and encourage communication between the
client and the candidate.
Bill was set up with a first phone interview with the client, who was interested in a
meeting after reviewing his resume. The next component of the process was grueling. Bill
spent an entire day at the company. The schedule included a half-day panel interview with
the site vice president, the human resources director and another call center manager. The
afternoon included a series of tests to assess education and behavior to determine how the
prospect would treat people in the workplace. Even with the tight employment market, many
companies today use tests to screen candidates. Their philosophy is that the wrong hire is
worse than making no hire.
Bill cleared the interviews and tests with flying colors. One more in-depth meeting
occurred before an offer was extended. He met with the site vice president for a
situational interview. The client asked questions to determine the prospects
strategic thinking abilities. How would you handle this situation? he was
asked. What would you do the first week on the job?
Once again, the client was impressed. The negotiations for salary and benefits began.
Bills annual base salary with his former employer was in the $50,000 range. Bonuses
were limited due to low profit margins. He was motivated to change jobs because the paper
industry was stagnating. He did not wish to relocate, and coincidentally, the new position
was in the same Midwestern city.
The final offer included a $60,000 range base salary, a sign-on bonus of $5,000 and the
opportunity to earn more though a performance bonus. Additional enticements included
participation in the companys stock plan and four weeks of vacation during the first
year. The base salary was a bit higher than the 20 percent it usually takes today to
entice candidates to make a change. The client, however, was delighted with the candidate
selection. With continuing enticements from an industry desperate for qualified personnel,
the outstanding offer could help ensure loyalty should another job opportunity arise.
Hiring The Call Center Director
While the process to hire upper management (directors or vice presidents) for
call centers is similar, there are differences. Directors should have five to eight years
in the industry with strong experience managing profit and loss statements. A
masters degree in business is preferred, but again, lack of candidates sometimes
leads companies to overlook this requirement. Salaries usually range from $70,000 to
As another example, a high-tech manufacturing company initiated a confidential search
through our recruitment firm to hire a call center director. John, a candidate
with 15 years experience as a call center director and about 10 years of additional
experience, was identified. He was located in another city, made in the $80,000 range
annually and had a Bachelors degree. In his present position, John was responsible
for starting up a center that expanded from 0 to 595 seats in his first year and received
12 million inbound calls annually.
The client has a 300-seat station, which handles businessto-business calls from
about 800,000 customers. CSRs answer administrative and technical questions about the
companys products. Although annual call volume is lower than those received by
Johns current employer, the revenue potential for each call is greater. While the
clients facility functions primarily as an inbound call center, an outbound group
exists. The company wants to switch gears and move from a cost center to a
revenue-generating operation. With that in mind, the client sought a candidate with
outstanding experience in a sales-oriented center.
The initial interview was conducted by a high-level human resources manager via
telephone. With her strong recommendation, the hiring executive then conducted his own
phone interview. They then proceeded to personal interviews, flying everyone to the job
location, where John also met with the head of technical operations. Following an
extensive background check, the client offered a base salary in the $90,000 range with a
20 percent target bonus (if the operation reached certain goals). The offer included a
generous relocation package of $30,000 and John could keep unused funds.
Acquiring A Call Center Vice President
A vice president was recently recruited for another clients call center. These
positions usually require 10 to 15 years experience and a Masters degree
in some cases, this requirement is not negotiable. Salaries range from $100,000 to
$150,000. The client operates a facility that handles outsourced calls from other
businesses. They needed a candidate with solid strategic experience who could handle sales
and negotiations with the companys clients.
This opportunity took advantage of a serendipitous occasion on which a resume was
submitted to us at the same time this clients search began. It couldnt have
been a better match. The resume was from a woman who was a college graduate with 17 years
of call center experience, including strategic planning and analysis for a large company,
and had personal experience starting and owning her own outsourced call center. Her
employer had just sold the business and she was concerned about job elimination. She was
seeking a vice president position with a well-respected company.
Personality played a huge role in this hire. Everyone involved simply clicked. She
interviewed with two other vice presidents and then, based on their recommendations, flew
back to meet the companys CEO. He gave her a thumbs up. The offer amounted to
$120,000 in salary plus $5,000 in stock and a $20,000 relocation package. Her previous
annual base income was in the $90,000 range.
Several methods exist to recruit top-notch call center management. In these real-life
examples, money certainly played a critical role. Each of the candidates required
significantly more money to make the transition. But finding the right person demands more
than money. Screening tests and background checks play important filtering roles, but
in-depth, probing interviews provide an opportunity to scrutinize the prospect and
determine how they interact on a personal level. In each case presented, careful screening
took place. Even in the final incident, in which a decision was based largely on instinct,
a final meeting with the companys CEO was scheduled to ensure a good decision. In
your quest to operate a successful call center, remember the right management plays a
Cathryn deMartino is vice president of Lucas Group, a national recruitment firm
specializing in financial, executive and military searches. Based in Atlanta, deMartino is
responsible for managing the divisions national search activities and overseeing
specialty markets, such as the call center industry. Dave Haberman is a senior recruiter
with 15 years call center experience.