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The Call Center Linchpin – The Frontline Supervisor

Jim Rembach | Dec 30, 2016 44 views 2 Comments

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When I began my call center supervisor career I did not truly understood the importance of my job. Now I realize the frontline supervisor is a linchpin (def. a person or thing vital to an enterprise or organization) that links together many parts of an organizations success. In fact, the ability for an organization to function rests solely on the shoulders of the Supervisor.

Day-to-day connector to long-term success

Think about the importance of the Supervisor. They are responsible for ensuring the day-to-day operations of the call center – where most customer interactions occur. If all aspects of these daily interactions are not handled well, the organization will fail. Given the core importance of supporting and assisting the company’s customer asset, you would suspect companies would seek business excellence.

While senior management may have the best of intentions, their lack of experience and skill in call center operations creates additional dysfunction. To make this real, I recall having a conversation with a Senior Vice President of a multi-billion dollar manufacturing company. He shared with me that they just went through a reorganization and the senior leadership team met to talk about who the call center was going to report to.

He said that nobody wanted it. They said, “Those people are weird, and not like any other business unit in the company.” Personally, I take pride in this uniqueness. They’re the weird ones.

Why Supervisors and Senior Management Struggle

Many organizations do struggle with daily operations. And the relationship between senior management and the Supervisor is a main reason. One of the causes for this is because the Supervisor often comes into their role from a foreign perspective compared to the rest of management.

In most cases, the Supervisor is hired into the position from the non-management group (the agents). As an agent they were top performers and displayed some management qualities and initiative. Regretfully the Supervisor is often promoted and then must supervisor their old team. This would be a very precarious situation for anyone. Rarely is the promoted Supervisor prepared for the career change and the new set of job competencies that they must now master.

Supervisors must connect it all

Despite the struggle between the Supervisor and senior management relationship the customers need to be served. So take a look at the scope of the responsibilities of the Supervisor.

Customers: They must be the linchpin between the company and the frontline agents that interact with customers. Even for online companies, the call center is vital and the Supervisor is the steward of the customer experience.

Competition: They provide the link to the company and their competition. As the frontline captures competitive information it is the Supervisor that can aggregate this information and relay it to appropriate leaders.

IT: They are the linchpin connecting the frontline to IT. All companies need systems to improve the customer experience and contain costs. The Supervisor can capture insights on system function and dysfunction and give the insight to IT for planning and action.

Legal: In today’s world the fear of lawsuit looms heavy for organizations. The Supervisor has the opportunity to capture information on products, policies, customers, and employee actions that can expose the company to legal risk and forward needed information to risk management or the legal department.

Performance Management: The Supervisor is responsible for employee productivity and managing the company’s performance management standards. Quality assurance, evaluations, reviews, feedback, discipline, promotion, and terminations are all part of the Supervisor responsibility.

Human Resources: In many companies the call center is the largest employee group in the company. They have the largest need for HR resources. The Supervisor must be aware of federal, state, and local laws about employment and the company policies.

Senior Management: Even though they struggle with senior management, they must link senior management and the frontline. The mission, values, and purpose of the organization must be disseminated effectively to boost employee engagement.

In my opinion, the Supervisor job is a vital role that requires more diversity in skills than that of senior management. What do you think?

The Supervisor Success Path

Successful Supervisors do not just happen. While some individuals may lead intuitively, most need to continuously develop and grow to stay successful. And all need a system to follow.

Being a linchpin and connecting all of these areas to the call center is demanding, exciting, and challenging. The role requires more time, energy, commitment and skill than ever before. They are unsung heroes who make it all happen for customers. And employees. And senior executives. Their success depends on being prepared.

The Call Center Coach Success Path is how a Supervisor works with people to create clear direction, vision, mission, and build effective teams. They focus on customer needs, and foster how to deliver to those needs, with sound business management.

Skills can be learned and developed. Great agents can become great Supervisors. Great Supervisors can become even better through a combination of experiences, relationships, training, and coaching.

The Supervisor Success Path allows for development, and a way to enhance your strengths. Find ways to overcome limitations and turn them into opportunities for growth. And by adding support from peers and seasoned experts in a convenient way accelerates learning to doing.

Supervisors are Desperately Needed

As the world continues to become more service based, the need for skilled call center industry supervisors is increasing. Those Supervisors that master the supervisor competencies perform higher and have greater freedoms and opportunities. The freedom to: seek more responsibility, greater pay, work location, shift choice, promotion, and more.

When I started in call center operations, I never thought it would be a career. Twenty years later, I’m fortunate to have gained the wisdom to learn otherwise.

This is Alive

I want to hear from you. This article is a living article. Please leave your comments below and share how you see the Supervisor as a linchpin and I will add your great insight to it.

I am also interested in your supervisor stories. I want to interview you on the Call Center Coach Podcast. Are you up for it? Notify me here.

Originally Posted on Call Center Coach

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2 Responses to The Call Center Linchpin – The Frontline Supervisor

  1. Greg Salvato December 31, 2016 at 10:47 am (1 comment) #

    Couldn’t imagine a better issue for business and contact center leaders to consider and act on as we gear up for 2017, Jim. It’s vital to the success of any organization to understand and acknowledge the contact center supervisor’s unique and fundamental role in achieving success at the customer, partner and shareholder levels. Many (sadly, most) organizations provide insufficient support for supervisors (for various reasons), but there is likely no investment with greater potential for measurable ROI (reduced attrition, higher sales/quality/compliance/morale/engagement/operational efficiency, etc., improved customer experience, and so much more) than a continuous, intelligent, data-driven program of tailored training, mentoring, coaching and other types of professional development, motivation and support for frontline supervisors.

  2. Jim Rembach January 1, 2017 at 9:54 pm (2 comments) #

    Greg, Thanks for sharing your feedback and insight. I am optimistic and based on the gap you stated, and that so many are aware of, that we can help improve many lives by supporting the frontline supervisor to be more successful. Many lives can be improved; including the customers that are served.

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