15 Contact center management header

If you've just taken on a manager or supervisor role in a contact center—or even if you've been running one for a long time and just want a refresh—this guide is for you.

Maybe your KPIs are a bit static, or maybe you’ve just hired a group of new agents who aren’t super familiar with contact center functionality and processes yet.

As a Support Development Coordinator at our contact center in Dialpad who’s also held leadership roles in contact centers for over 20 years, there are some contact center best practices that I’ve noticed are especially important to running a smooth operation.

And I’ll be sharing them in this blog post! Skip ahead if you like:

What are the different common roles in a contact center?

Whether you’re building out a small contact center team or growing different departments of 100+ agents, the most important step is hiring.

Make sure to lay out precisely what that specific contact center role requires—I’ll give you a quick rundown with examples in just a bit—and provide a 30, 60, 90 plan. (That’s a description of what you expect from someone in the role after they’ve been in position for 30, 60, and then 90 days, and we use that here at Dialpad when we write job postings!)

I really like the STAR method when interviewing. It’s a structure for questioning that invites candidates to describe:

  • Situation: A particular circumstance they’ve encountered in their employment history.

  • Task: What role they played in the situation—essentially the goal they were working towards.

  • Action: Which specific actions they took to meet the needs of the situation. Why they chose those actions, and what in particular were they responsible for.

  • Results: How their actions led to the successful resolution of the situation. What they achieved and how it helped.

This method has been very helpful in highlighting the best fits for roles across the contact center for me in the past.

Now, let’s look at a few of the common roles you'll find in a contact center:

Agent

Contact center agents are the heart of the operation. Responsible for handling inbound and outbound calls, messages, and emails, they're on the front line interacting directly with customers.

Listening, empathy, critical thinking, and dedication are just some of the skills and traits you should look for in a contact center agent.

There are two main types of customer calls and messages that agents handle; inbound and outbound. Usually, an agent will be assigned to one or the other. In a contact center, agents handle—in addition to phone calls—texts, email, social media, and on occasion faxes and incoming mail.

Contact or call center agents working on inbound calls typically respond to customer inquiries, offer product help, take complaints, or place orders. Agents placing outbound communications typically call leads or customers with promotional offers, collect data through surveys, or make appointments.

Sometimes, though, a contact center can also use outbound agents for proactive customer service. For instance, a team could make outbound calls to customers who are impacted by company issues to avoid escalations.

Managerial and supervisory positions

Usually, in a contact center, there’s a VP, Director, different managers or supervisors, and then team leads. Managers usually handle lots of reporting and manage various team KPIs. The supervisors manage teams of team leads.

Team leads

Team leads are the bridge between agents and supervisors (and the other more senior positions in the center). They’re directly responsible for their teams, and are the ones who handle escalated issues that are beyond agent control.

Team leads are often responsible for providing high-level overviews from consistent monthly 1:1s with their agents. This allows the leads to assess if there will be any negative or positive impacts to the organization.

Supervisor

Supervisors oversee the contact center’s teams of agents and team leads. Running day-to-day operations, having an input in hiring, supervising contact and call center training, managing employees—the duties of a contact center supervisor are endless (or it can at least feel that way).

Focus, empathy, and a talent for multi-tasking are essential skills for any contact center supervisor!

Operations manager

A contact center operations manager's role is right there in the title—they're managing the frontline and behind-the-scenes operations of the contact center. Operations managers are in charge of reports for the Director as well as making sure team leads have all the tools they need to succeed.

They implement programs that help with growth, track KPIs to make sure everything’s running smoothly, and look for gaps within operations and create roles that will help fill those gaps.

Contact center operations managers focus on the micro and macro of the business, and should be able to problem-solve at a high level. They should also have strong verbal and written communication skills, as they interact with customers, agents, stakeholders, HR, vendors, and contractors.

Customer service director

A customer service director is likely to work closely with operations managers. This director is the one who approves of the programs that managers want to implement to provide excellent customer service. This person will have their hand in all aspects of the business, and is the one who’s responsible for delivering key service outcomes.

A customer service director will typically look for new technologies and make sure the team is following regulatory compliance, like with GDPR and privacy measures. They shouldn’t be handling escalations, because their job is less about helping the individual customer, and more about hiring the right people who can handle the escalations.

(Directors need more time to focus on the performance of their department, CSAT, NPS, morale, and ensuring things are running smoothly!)

Human resources

Contact center turnover is high, and everyone knows it. Finding ways to invest in employees to combat turnover is key. One way to do this is to have a good human resource (HR) team to assist in the hiring, training, and oversight of employees.

As technology advances and self-service becomes a more widely used option, contact center agents will need more specific skills to handle complex interactions. HR teams will need to be aligned with the contact center managers on retention efforts and finding employees with the right skills.

Learning and development manager

Having a Learning and Development Manager allows your operations department to focus on service. The learning and development manager, meanwhile, can focus on monthly training material and training new hires to make sure your agents understand their roles and responsibilities—and are well equipped to do their jobs.

Quality control

In many larger contact centers (or if you’re very lucky), you’ll also have a dedicated quality manager and team of analysts.

Quality manager

A quality manager’s job is to help make sure agents are providing great customer service. Having someone who is skilled in quality at your contact center will help you make improvements and spot problem areas faster.

Quality analyst

A quality analyst in your contact center will analyze data and measure KPIs to make sure you're meeting your goals, and also employee performance.

A skilled QA knows that certain keywords and phrases are useful when handling retention or specialty team concerns. QAs also work closely with team leads to make sure agents are learning from their mistakes and performing at a high level overall.

If you can't afford quality analysts for your business, or you just want a more direct hand in analyzing the quality of your customer interactions, having a good contact center solution can give you the tools you need to analyze call quality yourself.

For example, Dialpad Contact Center has heat maps that show you how call volumes are trending:

heat maps in dialpad

This is very helpful if you need to keep an eye on calls coming in and whether you need to make scheduling changes—even if you don’t have a quality analyst.

A quick note: call centers vs contact centers

Call centers used to be very popular, but today, many of these are evolving into contact centers.

The main difference is that contact centers handle customer interactions via more channels like phone calls, messaging, emails, texts, social media, online, and more. Call centers mainly only handle phone calls.

4 best practices to start optimizing your contact center operations

When you think of your contact center operations, look at it in the context of, “How would you like to be represented as a business?” NPS scores, CSAT, and the BBB will have a huge impact on your organization.

Some people look at customer service as the bottom of the barrel when in fact, it’s the backbone of the organization. Be intentional about your needs and always try to frame any challenges or problems within the big picture of the business as a whole.

1. Be on the channels that your audience is on

To optimize your call center operations—and turn them into contact center operations, make sure you equip your team with the tools to provide multichannel or omnichannel service and support.

Your customers or prospects are on all kinds of devices, and ideally, you should be meeting them where they are.

With omnichannel support, you can provide one seamless experience—and that’s good for not just your customer, but also your team.

And if you’re already using a CRM, make sure to choose a contact center platform that integrates with it. That way, when customers contact you, their customer information and interaction history with you will automatically pop up and be logged.

For example, Dialpad’s contact center platform integrates with Salesforce, Kustomer, HubSpot, and other popular CRMs:

salesforce dialpad integration

2. Have self-service options too

The best way to help your customers and optimize your contact or call center experience is to make information readily available and easily accessible.

If you have an online self-service portal, that means your customers can look up information for themselves to troubleshoot problems—which reduces your call volume and frees up your agents' time to handle more complex issues.

There are a few different ways to do self-service. You can have an FAQ page or knowledge base, set up a good routing or interactive voice response (IVR) system, or even use chatbots (although this is something that many people don’t prefer to use).

One neat thing about Dialpad is that our IVR feature comes with analytics that show you which menu options people are using, and which ones they aren’t, so that you can keep refining your menu using this data:

ivr analytics in dialpad

3. Think of ways to do training and coaching at scale

Customers don’t like long wait times or dealing with new agents who aren’t experienced. That’s not really news—but how can a few team leads help coach and oversee tens or hundreds of agents?

This is where choosing contact or call center software with a good call quality monitoring feature can help you efficiently fine-tune your customer experience.

For example, Dialpad’s Voice Intelligence (Vi) technology really helps with call quality monitoring because it can transcribe calls—in real time:

real time transcriptions in dialpad

But beyond that, it also does live sentiment analysis, so that one manager can keep an eye on all the active calls going on:

sentiment analysis in dialpad

If they see a call going south, they can click to see the running transcript and decide whether they need to jump in.

And Vi helps with agent training and performance in another cool way: with Real-time Assist (RTA cards). You can customize these RTA cards to pop up whenever certain keywords are spoken, and fill them out with notes to help your agents speak to those topics.

For example, if I notice we get a lot of questions about how to port phone numbers over, I can create an RTA card to help agents talk about it—it’s a great way to use automation to do training at scale, so supervisors don’t have to sit in on every call:

real time assist card in dialpad

👉 Dialpad tip: There are a ton of contact center solutions out there with different features, and if you’re shopping, think of how those features help you make customers your top priority. How does a certain feature benefit your customers and help you streamline processes while making the customer experience as seamless as possible?

4. Define your key KPIs—and stick to them

KPIs (key performance indicators) are an absolutely essential resource for optimizing your contact center.

Having real-time call center metrics lets you easily monitor ongoing calls, average speed to answer, agent availability, and many more important metrics.

It’s also a useful way to benchmark performance and measure if you’re improving over time.

Here's a look at some of the KPIs to consider tracking:

Net promoter score (NPS)

What it is: NPS measures customer loyalty to your company.

How to calculate it: Ask customers how likely they are to recommend you on a scale of 0-10 with a single-question survey. You'll come up with the following:

  • 0-6: Detractors or unhappy customers who have had a negative experience.

  • 7-8: Passives, satisfied but unenthusiastic customers.

  • 9-10: Promoters or loyal customers who will keep buying and recommend you to others.

To get your NPS score, divide each response group by the total number surveyed. Subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters—that's your NPS score.

Aim for an NPS above 50%. Anything lower means you have more detractors than promoters.

Why you need it: NPS is a reliable way to determine quantitatively how your customers feel about your business, product, or customer service experience.

Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)

What it is: Measures customer service satisfaction as a percentage. Helps you see customer satisfaction and agent performance with real data.

How to calculate it: CSAT is measured by asking customers a specific question about their agent interaction, like "was the agent able to resolve your issue?" An agent's scores are calculated by dividing the total scores they received by the total number of surveys received. Or, you could just use Dialpad, which lets you create a CSAT survey that plays automatically after a call:

creating a csat survey in dialpad

Why you need it: CSAT indicates how happy your customers are with your service or the quality of your product. While 100% is ideal, aim for a score between 75% and 85% depending on your industry.

👉 Dialpad tip: A root cause analysis team is another great option for tracking customer satisfaction, especially if you’re dealing with lots of escalations in your contact center. This team can take data, like a not-so-great CSAT score, and drill down to find the root cause of dissatisfaction (probably how the team got its name).

Average handle time (AHT)

What it is: AHT is the average time it takes one of your agents to handle a call. This metric includes time on the phone with the customer, time spent on hold, and follow-up time after the call to complete any related tasks.

How to calculate: Divide the combined time of talk, hold, and follow-up by the total number of calls answered.

Why you need it: AHT is best used in conjunction with other KPIs. Keep in mind a short call isn't always a successful call—agents may need to spend time on an issue to find a resolution.

👉 Dialpad tip: Sometimes, you’ll need to take the broader circumstances into account. For instance, your center’s average handle time and wait time might have increased, but that’s because you just launched a new product that requires more customer service.

Average speed to answer

What it is: Average speed to answer measures the amount of time from a customer's first inquiry to when an agent contacts them with a response.

How to calculate: Divide the total time spent waiting for all inquiries by the total number of inquiries. Again, Dialpad’s heat maps show you this in an easy chart so you don’t have to calculate anything:

average speed to answer heatmap in dialpad

Why you need it: People don’t like waiting on hold! This is also a useful metric because it can be an indicator that your contact center might be overwhelmed. Also, fun fact: Dialpad has a service level alerts notification that you can customize—if your service levels dip below a certain point, the supervisors will be notified automatically:

service level alerts in dialpad

First contact resolution (FCR)

What it is: First contact resolution or first call resolution (FCR), measures how many issues were resolved on the first communication with the customer. It shows how often your contact center can resolve an issue with no follow-up.

How to calculate: Divide the total number of calls (or contacts) resolved at the first attempt by the total number of incoming contacts and multiply the result by 100. To calculate net FCR, divide the total number of contacts resolved first time by the total number of incoming contacts minus cases that can't be resolved on the first attempt, and multiply that result by 100.

Why you need it: You actually might not need this one. While this is traditionally a commonly used metric, be careful with FCR because focusing too heavily on it can compromise your customer experience. (Your agents should be focusing on helping customers solve their issues, not getting rid of the customer as quickly as possible.)

8 tips for continuous contact center and call center management over the long term

1. Have a good onboarding plan

Putting together an effective onboarding plan for your contact center is one of the most important things you can do.

Comprehensive materials and engaging agent training will prepare your new hires and save you follow-up training down the road. Information retention is unique to everyone, so mix it up—try gamification or have new hires shadow experienced agents.

We use Dialpad’s call analytics, but for new hires, it can also be helpful to give them call recordings and transcripts to review. Dialpad’s coaching playlist feature is nice because we can create a “playlist” of the best calls (or calls that are good learning opportunities) for agents to listen to on their own:

creating a coaching call playlist in dialpad

2. Prioritize your agent experience

As I mentioned earlier, contact centers have notoriously high turnover rates. Investing in tactics to improve the employee experience can result in better employee engagement—which also leads to better customer service.

Listen to what your team members are telling you so you can make adjustments to improve their experience. This will go a long way to preventing turnover and agent burnout!

Allowing your employees to work from home is also key. Work-from-home jobs are in high demand right now, so why not invest in a good contact center platform that lets you run a remote contact center easily?

For example, with Dialpad, we can spin up new contact center teams and manage everyone’s accounts and phone numbers right in the online account:

adding or managing phone numbers in dialpad

3. Use customer feedback

Use the feedback you get from customers to make the most of your contact center! Customer feedback is one of the most important pieces of information you have at your fingertips, and will help you improve and adjust your processes, so you can offer the best possible customer experience.

You can collect feedback in a bunch of different ways, through phone, email, or social media surveys. If customers have negative experiences with your business (and they do) and churn or leave, this feedback will help you figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.

Dialpad can help with this too! I mentioned earlier that Vi can transcribe calls and automatically pop up RTA cards when certain keywords are spoken. Well, there’s also a “Custom Moments” feature, which basically tracks any keyword phrase that’s spoken on a call.

For example, if I’m worried about churn and want to see why customers are asking for refunds, I can create a Custom Moment in Dialpad to track every time “refund” or “money back” comes up on a call:

creating a custom moment in dialpad

I can then see this in a graph that shows the occurrences over time, and dig into the transcripts to get more context for this customer feedback:

contact center analytics in dialpad

4. Always, always QA

To ensure an excellent customer experience, you have to carry out quality assurance (QA) on a regular basis. Call monitoring and scoring is the best way to test QA—it gives you the chance to listen to your agents' calls to see where improvements can be made.

With Dialpad, we have pretty much all the quality monitoring tools we need. From sentiment analysis to live transcripts that are updated in real time (as the conversation is happening!) to speech analytics, Dialpad’s AI makes monitoring customer service much easier.

5. Stick to the schedule

Time management and productivity are crucial for any business, but even more so for contact centers. Call after call can add up and stress your team. Stress can take its toll on employees, time management, and agent productivity.

To combat this:

  • Create and stick to a well-planned schedule.

  • Make sure your agents have enough time to recharge, with short breaks and meal breaks.

  • Account for peak hours, agent coverage, and shift changes.

Dialpad actually has an integration with Playvox, which gives supervisors even more contact center superpowers. Together, the integration creates a robust workforce engagement management (WEM) solution that lets you do forecasts, scheduling, and day-to-day workforce operation management.

6. Establish a continuity plan

It's important to know what your business is going to do if disaster strikes. Do you have a plan if a hurricane warning is issued for your area? What if there's an Internet outage?

Continuity plans are especially important for contact centers because, well, if your customers aren’t taking a break, then in most cases, your team will have to be online, right along with them. If not, you might have a customer churn problem on your hands.

Here are a few thing to consider when you’re establishing a continuity plan:

  • Determine what systems are most at risk, particularly any business-critical systems.

  • Assign key personnel to handle and implement continuity plans if things go south.

  • Provide expectations and information to all employees about continuity plans.

  • Test the continuity plan to determine what works and what doesn't.

7. … And an airtight communication plan

Keep employees in the loop and offer coaching through regular communication. Encourage employees to suggest process improvements—they're on the front lines and have the best idea of how the contact center process is working (or not working).

8. Do A/B tests, especially for new scripts and processes

When you introduce new call scripts or processes into your contact center workflow, the best way to make sure they're working is to do A/B tests.

A/B testing, or split testing, takes two alternatives—let’s say two different scripts—and compares them through testing to see which performs better with customers.

For example, if you're running an outbound center, A/B testing can show you which script resonates best with leads and gets you more sales.

Run an efficient contact center with these best practices

Improving contact center or call center performance doesn’t have to be hard. It does take time and thoughtfulness when you’re planning your processes.

You have all the best practice tips you need to optimize your operation, turn it into a true contact center, and provide your customers with an exceptional service experience. When you feel like your contact center could use a refresh, go over these points again to see what can be improved.

Looking for a better way to run your contact center? Book a product tour of Dialpad Contact Center to see how it can empower remote agents and supervisors to provide a better experience!

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