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5 ways leaders inspire amazing call center performance

5 min read


You cannot have a best-in-class call center without a rock star director.

This may sound extreme, but I assure you it isn’t. I’ve seen centers with solid potential downsized and closed far to often when they could have been salvaged with better leadership. I’ve also seen the amazing turnarounds happen in just a few months when the only dynamic that changed was the leader.

If you’re serious about results, invest in finding and developing the very best center leader you can and then have her work tirelessly to build a strong bench of leaders underneath her who could step in at any time.

Signs your leader is not ready for prime time

Before we get into the definition of “rock star” let’s start with signs of trouble. Perhaps you’ll recognize a few of these characters.

  • Cara is deeply invested and extremely stressed. You’re pretty sure she’s sleeping at the center. You see toothpaste and mascara hidden behind the toilet paper in the bathroom. She’s competent, but has a weak team she’s protecting rather than coaching to greatness.
  • Jason has “employee engagement” plans out the ying-yang, but absenteeism and attrition are out of control. Today is pajama day. Tomorrow is pancake Friday. Oh wait, now we’re talking like pirates — cute, and often effective in moderation in healthy centers. You can’t fix deep-seated issue with schmaltz.
  • Dennis is all about the numbers. His team knows exactly where they stand at any given minute of the day. Nobody can correlate force to load to sales and quality better than this guy. But the team is longing to know what to do to fix it. That question frustrates and scares him.
  • Megan is super nice. She has high-energy. Loves the reps, and gets deeply involved in supporting them in their personal and professional goals. All amazing qualities. If call center directors were an elected position, she would win hands down. But results are in the toilet. As you dig deeper there is little strategy and even less accountability for results.
  • Sarah is a high-potential executive, highly recommended, but needing large-team experience— that’s why she’s here. Sarah is smart–no doubt. But deep down she resents the rotation, and is skeptical about “these people.” She’s convinced they don’t care, and just has to get enough short-term momentum to get out of here.

5 signs your call center leader is a rock star

1. A wildly, passionate commitment to the customer experience

Helps the team understand, and believe in, what great customer service looks like and why it matters. Holds high-standards and takes any breach of great service as if it had just happened to his mother — no, make that his grandmother. His energy toward great service serves as a charismatic contagious vortex that inspires daily action.

2. A beacon of calm in the midst of chaos

Is not easily rattled. When the systems crash, the calls back up, the customer starts screaming, s/he takes a deep breath and moves into action. Can diffuse the negative energy in a crisis and channel it into productive action. Is highly responsive, but has the ability to consider implications before reacting.

3. An “I’m in it with you” attitude

Is seldom behind closed doors, but is on the floor, listening, observing and supporting. Won’t hesitate to hop on a call to deescalate a tough customer situation. Is an artful coach and works to draw out the best solutions from the team. Is not a blamer, but consistently works to bring the right people together to resolve the problem.

4. A legacy mindset

Balances day-to-day operations with a longer term view. Is constantly encouraging innovation and new ways to make the work more effective and efficient. Invests deeply in developing her leadership team. Knows that a true sign of success is what happens in the center when s/he’s not there.

5. A penchant for process

Understands that center leadership is a constant balancing between quality, efficiency, employee experience and financials. Is constantly considering cause and effect and the downstream impact of decisions. Approaches problems in a systematic way and explores alternative solutions before making decisions.

Karin Hurt is an experienced executive and founder of Let’s Grow Leaders. She was named to the “2014 Top 100 List of Thought Leaders in Trusted Business Behavior” by Trust Across America, and the Wiseman Group’s Multiplier of the Year in Business. Her experience is based on two decades of leadership and executive experience at Verizon in sales, marketing, customer service, merger integration, human resources and training. Her mission is to develop the next generation of trustworthy transparent leaders achieving breakthrough results. Follow Hurt on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

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