The Call Centre Managers Job.

by Niels Kjellerup, Senior Partner Resource International Pty Ltd, Ashgrove 1997.

Background

Very few management jobs are so diverse and demanding in so many skills areas as that of the Call Centre Manager. Yet rarely, if ever, is the Manager given the basic platform to develop own skills. Formal education has until recently been non existent and the only education has been in the firing line on the job experience. No wonder an experienced manager is such a sought after commodity. In fact, next to software developers, no other job experience is higher on the head hunters list than the proven Call Centre Manager anywhere in the World. Currently business schools and Universities in the US are scrambling to put together formal Certificate programs for a Call Centre education.

This series of articles will help provide you with a simple, realistic model on how you get a better grip on the Managers job. The first article will help you build a Job Description for the Call Centre Managers position. Others will contribute their experiences and insights to these pages and in the end we could have a knowledge bank of what it takes to be a successful Call Centre Manager.

Experience over the past 15 years has taught me, that the failure of the Call Centre Manager to fully understand their role in the organisation, is the single most important reason why Call Centres fail and are disbanded. Often the Manager thought the Call Centre was doing well, handling customer interaction. Recently I lost one of my favourite direct bank call centres in Copenhagen as part of a re-structure which took everyone by surprise; a 180 man call centre gone in 2 weeks.

 

Articles... " The Call Centre Managers Job" :

(This is the first in a series of articles on the subject of People Management)

1. How to create The Call Centre Managers Job Description.

 

 

 

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The Key Ingredients of the Call Centre Manager Job.

Any manager worth their salt will tell you that the success of the Call Centre consists of 1) 60-70% People Issues , 2) 10-15% CTI, 3) 10-15% Management support and 4) 5% External issues (location, integration..). This is, if you care to examine it, the same breakdown as your cost-factors in running the Call Centre.

A job, any job, can be broken down into the following key ingredients :

I. Purpose- why are you there and what is expected of you vis-a-vis the Company you work for?

II. Product - what is the product/service you are producing that some one else is willing to pay for? The product will help you, and others, know how well you are doing.

III. Customers - who are they, and how many levels of customers are there ?

IV. Duties - how should your time be spent?

V. Skills - what skills are necessary and what skills are desirable ?

 

Key ingredients defined (These definitions are generic in nature) :

Purpose

A purpose is an idea or a goal which drives you in your life or work. It is nearly always a... "I want to...." or " The group wants to..." or " The company wants to..." statement.

To get a company to function, it must have a stated purpose which applies to all employees; a purpose which inspires all individuals in their job function to pull in the same direction. It is never a bloodless unemotional statement of intent, since such statements do not inspire to great achievements. Mission statements conceived by a committee are too often generic generalities with little or no dynamic content. Consider GE Capital’s stated purpose : " To consistently exceed customer expectation by delivering faster, better and cheaper service " and note how the customer is given the centre stage and how the dynamics never permits anyone to rest on their laurels. Once again GE has set new standards and demonstrated an intricate understanding of the need to inspire everyone in the company to pull in the same direction.

In case you missed it, your purpose is what get you up in the morning and it’s the fuel which drives your life, so spend some time taking a good look at this "purpose -concept".

Product

A valuable final product (VFP) is goods or services delivered into the hands of the customer for which they are willing to exchange a valuable (money or other products). It must be final, i.e. need no further action on your part. The real test of defining the VFP for a job is whether or not the VFP can be measured in such a way as to reflect both the quality and volume of products being produced. Without a numerical statistic reflecting the value of the job, it will cease to exist or transform into other job-tasks which need to be done. The definition should enable the person performing the job to answer these key questions .... How do I know if I am doing a good job ? By what measuring stick am I adding value to the company ?

Customers

It is critical to define which customers are served by the position. Are they external or internal? Is there more than one group of customers ? If so, how should time and effort be prioritised to the various groups ?

You will find that other customers are more important to your job, than your boss, who often take up a disproportionate amount of your time; it's frequently the lack of well defined product measurements which is the reason.

Duties

How should the person in this position be spending their time? What are the duties and what proportion of their time should each take? Ensure that the duties are specific and clearly outlined. In many cases a list of duties is all a person gets when taking up a new job.

Skills Identify the critical job requirements - knowledge, skills and abilities; the definitions you have already decided upon will assist with this. Secondly, identify desirable job requirements.

 

Creating a sustainable Job Description for the Call Centre Managers position.

Now it’s really up to you. No one else can do it for you. In the People Management seminar I have presented over the years, this part is the hardest and since I cannot be with you I’ll offer small tips and advice as we go down the list, but please realise I’m second guessing your thoughts in the process. If you get stuck somewhere you’re always welcome to send me an Email editor@callcentres.com.au . When you have done this for your own job and come out the other side, maybe your Call Centre staff should do it, at least the other managers and supervisors.

 

Purpose : Ask yourself why was the call centre set up in the first place ? What was the stated business reason ? Is it still the same or has it changed without being publicly stated. Why am I here .. really really, yes I know you need the pay, but look deeper for your personal reason. Go as deep as you dare. Figure out how the business purpose of the Call Centre and your personal purpose pull in the same direction. Draw a couple of vectors from the same starting point and work out how they pull, the length of the vector symbolises the strength of the purpose. The direction of the two arrows (vectors) will tell you how fast you and the Call Centre are on the way to achieving great things. Maybe the purpose needs to be completely redefined. In some cases, Call Centre Managers believe they run a call producing factory and the only revenue created is on the phone bill. Trust me on this, that is not the business purpose because it leaves the customer out of the equation. That is the phone companies’ purpose in encouraging the establishment of Call Centres. You will find that the Call Centre has several purposes, just make sure to get the overall purpose and then ensure the other purposes align with that one and enhance it.

 

Product :

With the Call Centre business purpose in mind what are your really producing ? Who considers that valuable and how do you measure it ? Customer satisfaction is NOT the product; if the customer is satisfied, did it result in more business at lower cost ? How valuable is it to whom ? These are tough questions, but the epitaph of most Call Centre Gravestones should read "Here lies a Call Centre, who’s manager thought Customer satisfaction was the business purpose of the Call Centre". Forget it, the Call Centre either produces revenue or reduces cost per order or both.

Remember that when you decide on a measurement that is what you are going to get. The measurement itself will create its own dynamics, and must be revisited all the time, or you get drowned in false statistics.

Don’t finalise the product definition just yet. You need to compare with the Customer groups you identify and realise that the Call Centre will have many different products, but you must decide on THE one.

 

Customers : List them, group them and keep going over the list and adding. Compare it to the purpose and the product. Compare them and ensure the integrity of your findings, i.e. they’ve got to add up. When you realise that your people in the Call Centre are your most important customer group you’re getting closer. A good idea is to read the book : "Customers come Second" (see the bibliography). Did you know that your people will treat the customers exactly they way they are being treated by their managers ? That’s why skills training of staff has limited durability unless you train the supervisors and managers first. You have got many, many customer groups. The only reason senior management is so important is because you’re not sure the Value of your Product is properly understood by them. If you are producing lots of Valuable Final Product which aligns to the business purpose of the Call Centre and documenting it, then all management will ever do is ask you what resources you need to produce more. Dream world? No. Your need for assurance that you’re safe in the job and high on list of promotions stems from this fact. It’s the lack of tangible results which keeps you busy promoting yourself and the centre.

Suggest you revisit the Call Centre Purpose again, make sure you get it right; this is what you should discuss with senior management and then, of course, what the product should be and how the measurements flow back to the Call Centre. This will create internal turf-fights and the integration of the Call Centre into the core business will become one of your main jobs.

 

Duties

If you have done the above then this is piece of cake. Because all you have to do is list what you have to do, to actually achieve the Purpose of the Call Centre. Break it down into time-usage and watch out for too much meeting time. The measurements of the products produced should give you all the raw data you need to evaluate what’s happening in your centre. If you're in doubt try noting down for a day or two what you actually spend your time doing.

Skills

To be promoted out of the job as Call Centre Manager you must prepare this list well. Remember what you had when you got the job; focus on what makes you a success and don’t mistake critical skills for desired skills.

 

Afterthought - I frankly don’t know how this little exercise has worked for you. I don’t think it has been attempted before on the Internet. As I’m currently in Brisbane, Australia, and although I go to Europe and the USA 3-4 times a year to conduct People Management seminar for managers I have a great need to know if it worked for you. So do please contact me (editor@callcentres.com.au) and let me know.

And although I give you this know-how to read and use, the material is copyrighted and the methodology has been developed by me so you’re not at liberty to re-issue it or use it commercially.

 

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