How to Build a Supervisor Dream Team in Your Contact Center


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Contact Center Supervisor Dream TeamHow would you describe your contact center supervisors?

  • Ineffective?
  • Uncertain?
  • Overworked?
  • Undertrained?
  • Dream team?

The fact is having high-performing contact center supervisors is no longer an optional extra for organizations, but even the best organizations don’t have time to figure all this stuff out. So we thought it was best to reveal to you how to build your very own contact center supervisor dream team.

Today, every business around the globe needs a clear supervisor success path to follow based on the competencies of those that are high performers.

This contact center supervisor “stuff” has become too complicated to leave to chance — particularly if you are trying to have a positive employee and customer experience.

Just think about this from the Centre for Workplace Leadership:

  • The frontline is, in many ways, is a new frontier where organizations can change the way they respond to the environment. (Click to Tweet)
  • Frontline managers are no longer the limbs of an organization but the entire muscular-skeletal system. (Click to Tweet)
  • Leadership at the frontline is a competitive advantage that leads to a more profitable, agile organization. (Click to Tweet)
  • Frontline leadership, when aggregated to the company level, is just as important as senior leadership. (Click to Tweet)
  • As economic volatility increases, frontline leadership capability can have a greater impact on business outcomes than senior leadership. (Click to Tweet)

Make no mistake, Call Center Coach is not only the name of our business — it’s an industry need. According to an Executive Priorities report from Strategic Contact, coaching is the number one priority in contact centers.

In many circles, the thought of coaching is about supervisors coaching agents. But when it comes to supervisors, most of them go uncoached. Most organizations are doing an average job of not developing their frontline leaders, and also are limited in providing ongoing learning opportunities. Just as in other industries, frontline leadership development in the contact center industry has been very short-sighted.

So is it really any surprise that only 18% of organizations feel they have a supply of capable employees to fill frontline leadership roles. After all, is it really reasonable to expect the uncoached to be good at being a coach?

Only 33 percent feel their supervisor is effectiveWhen you look further down the path, only 33% of employees say they feel their supervisor is effective. And 80% of employees leave because of the relationship with their immediate supervisor.

So, if there’s not an ample supply of employees to fill supervisor roles and most supervisors are ineffective, and agents leave because of their relationship with their supervisor, this vicious cycle tells us very clearly that the lack of (or ineffective) skill development of the frontline supervisor is the root cause of this problem.

Just think, would you be engaged if you felt your immediate supervisor was ineffective? If you were a supervisor and your employee engagement skills have not been developed, could you really engage agents?

There’s no guessing needed here. It’s a fact, high-performing supervisors develop future supervisors. The best leaders develop more (and better) leaders and retain more people. Period.

The Supervisor Journey

It’s both exciting and frightening to know that 59% of contact center supervisors were promoted from the agent ranks. Seeing people get promoted from being a frontline agent is very exciting.

But what’s frightening is that 99% of supervisors do not receive any competency-based skill development in their new role. Can you say, “turnover problem”?

We all know that the skills needed to be a frontline contact center supervisor is dramatically different than being a contact center agent.

So just throwing the 18% of the ones capable of being supervisors into the role and not developing their skills is a major contributor to more than 50% of newly promoted supervisors failing. And the ones that make it – have a very long learning curve. It’s a sink or swim scenario.

Supervisors Sink or Swim

What happens in this sink or swim situation (this is the frightening contact center industry common practice) is that these failing or crawling supervisors cause significant levels of employee and customer dissatisfaction and turnover. That’s right, employees leave and customers leave because of the lack of frontline supervisor development quality.

Sink or swim happened to me. And as I go around to different contact center industry events, I talk with many current and former supervisors, we share the same sink or swim experience.

Contact Center Supervisor of the Year Adriana ThompsonAdriana Thompson, Contact Center Supervisor of the Year 2018, also shared a similar experience. During her journey to high-performance (Watch: 8 Vital Lessons from an Award-winning Supervisor) she had to create her own path. Great for her, she was able to swim.

The sink or swim thing is what’s always been done in contact centers. This obviously is a major contributor to our chronic agent and supervisor turnover problem. But why would you want to continue the common practice that should have been eliminated long ago? I’m sure you don’t.

It’s Preventable – Build a Dream Team

Another exciting part is that this supervisor development quality issue is totally preventable. Instead of sink or swim, just give supervisors a learning journey framework and pathway to success.

For organizations that have been able to leverage this approach they are seeing big returns. And the research shows (Source: DDI) when organizations develop their frontline leaders adhering to the success path and learning journey framework, development quality increases by more than 90% versus just 9%. This is how a Dream Team gets built.

Low supervisor development qualityLow development quality efforts consist of a simple class, book, or movie for people to watch and throw in a performance review process. The journey framework and success path are higher quality and more sustainable because they extend beyond development as an event and they incorporate more experiential and hand-on learning opportunities.

To capture a 90% improvement and greater performance quality in supervisor skill development it requires a continuous, experiential and holistic competency-based skill development approach and the use of tools such as virtual classrooms, micro-learning, videos, blogs, boot camps, podcasts, coaching and professional communities of practice.

Having a plan and pathway to skill development versus just receiving a book, movie or more than just a piece of knowledge should be the common practice. Let’s face it, their success is crucial to your success.

After 30-years of research into the highest performing contact center supervisors and obtaining the guidance and wisdom of industry leaders with over 200-years of combined contact center leadership experience – which includes lifetime achievement award honorees – we were able to determine six core competencies that needed to be developed and grown for people to be high-performing supervisors. To be a Dream Team member.

The competencies are:

  • Staff Development

Staff development refers to the process where employees are offered training and education, provided by employer, to improve and enhance personal knowledge, skills and attitudes that are advantageous to their role in the organization.

  • Customer Service and Sales

Customer service involves meeting and surpassing expectations of customers and showing how important he or she is to you and the business. By understanding the needs of the customers and how your products and services benefit them, it leaves a lasting impression to maintain their loyalty.

  • Results Orientation

Results orientation is setting goals for metrics and standards, and conveys a sense of urgency, removes obstacles and challenges, and focuses on accomplishing goals through and with others, for optimum outcomes.

  • Builds Collaborative Relationships

Building collaborative relationships is making a commitment to understand yourself as you work with multiple individuals while respecting and developing others in a joint effort to productively accomplish a task or project.

  • Communication and Change Management

Communication and change management is building trust with individuals and team, using the power of speaking, listening and presentations, while creating an atmosphere in which timely information flows; when an organization is in transition it is knowing what strategies help individuals understand their purpose amidst changes while helping them adapt.

  • Business Acumen

Business acumen views the contact center with an executive mentality by understanding the moving parts of a company, using both quantitative and qualitative bottom line financial focus, and assessing how well the moving parts are working together.

These six core competencies need to be taught, practiced, coached and tested. Merely teaching them in a classroom does not transfer to job performance. All learning professionals are acutely aware of the learning transfer gap.

This is why the success path and learning journey are so vital. It’s a continuous effort to build skills.

Driving Development Quality

To build your Supervisor Dream Team and capture 90% or greater of high level quality skill development, look to create a framework for this ongoing journey with multiple methods and levels of learning.

Training on the six core competencies. Validate knowledge and understanding and break learning into phases of mastery.

  • Micro-learning

On-demand or just-in-time courses that reinforce and provide greater insight into the six core competencies.

  • Quick Tips

On-demand or just-in-time access to information that targets key learning opportunities and real-world scenarios faced by supervisors.

  • Questions & Answers

Provide a way for supervisors to quickly get answers to questions about supervisor-type issues. This is not a company help desk about technical issues, but a frontline leadership resource.

  • Boot Camps

Also known as challenge courses. These give supervisors a way to learn and practice new success behaviors in short periods of time.

  • Industry Insights

Supervisors are pressed to be more innovation and creative. For this to occur, they need exposure to the outside of the organization.

  • Communities of Practice

Organizations that leverage a community of practice for peers in specific skilled jobs report a massive acceleration in skill development.

Constructing a Supervisor Success Path focusing on the six core competencies using various learning methods in a framework is how you build a supervisor Dream Team that actually prevents problems from happening. This is how you get a coordinated team that engages employees and customers and squashes turnover problems.

Evaluating your Supervisor Team

Your contact center supervisors are one of the most important parts of your company’s infrastructure, as they’re responsible for the success of your customer interactions, for the performance of your customer experience efforts, and for the overall effectiveness of your agents.

Take the First Step: Free Supervisor Team Audit

While supervisors may look wonderful on your reports or may “feel” like a good supervisor – objectively evaluating your contact center supervisor management team is an essential part of their skill development. In order to do so, you must first disassociate yourself personally in order to measure supervisors based on a set standard of skill performance.

Contact Center Supervisor Team AuditTo assist you in this endeavor and to see where your team of supervisors’ strengths and opportunities are with the six core competencies, we’ve created this free 85-question Supervisor Team Audit. It helps to evaluate and provides a to-do list while helping you compare and understand your contact center supervisor team’s (individuals too) skills and performance to top-performing supervisor teams.

We also go into greater detail to explain the framework and the Supervisor Success Path in the webinar: Contact Center Supervisor Dream Team and ending the Agent Turnover Nightmare.

Building a Supervisor Dream Team, even if you never been a supervisor, can be done. Just like building supervisor skills – you need a good framework and a success path that leads to success.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jim Rembach
Jim Rembach is recognized as a Top 50 Thought Leader and CX Influencer. He's a certified Emotional Intelligence practitioner and host of the Fast Leader Show podcast and president of Call Center Coach, the world's only virtual blended learning academy for contact center supervisors and emerging supervisors. He’s a founding member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association’s CX Expert Panel, Advisory Board Member for Customer Value Creation International (CVCI), and Advisory Board Member for CX University.


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