Orit Avital, General Manager at Ottorita, suggests three routines that managers should add to their schedules to continuously improve contact center performance.
Contact center managers get up for work every morning and they will supposedly know what their day looks like. In practice however, there are always surprises.
Contact center management routines are essential for running an efficient and effective operation.
Yet, for most of you, a routine is a blessed reality.
“A Routine Day In the Contact Center”
The statement “a routine day at the contact center” usually reflects a day in which everything happens, including unexpected events which you suddenly find out about through the customers. There are also situations which require reconsideration of decisions, constant risk management and so forth.
In most contact centers, this is what routine looks like!
If you love your job, it will likely be thanks to these characteristics – the pressure, the energy and the need to always keep your finger on the pulse. Yet, there will be moments when it feels too much.
The Three Improvements
Each of the following ideas are accompanied by a common sentence, which you may have heard from your team, in order to emphasise the benefit of implementing each routine.
Also, remember that a routine is a routine, so these ideas need to be implemented on a full-time basis in order for the contact center to realise the full benefits.
1. Develop an “Unplanned Routine”
“You cannot really manage a schedule with all of these unplanned occurrences”
Is that so?! Yes, there are many unplanned events and situations that are impossible to prepare for. Some of which you have already experienced enough to foresee in advance, while others manage to surprise you time and again.
When this is the case, tasks are postponed from one day to the next and there is already a pile of those which you have forgotten about and that you need to deal with… sound familiar?
So, how can you introduce a routine that will help better prepare you for the unforeseen issues? The answer is to schedule times in your day, preferably around peak hours, to fire-fight, i.e. create an “unplanned routine”.
How to Best Implement an “Unpanned Routine”
Implementing an unplanned routine indicates that you recognise the fact that your schedule must be flexible enough to be able to meet all of the management tasks.
If you have not been working with an organised schedule up to now, it is definitely time to start. And, if you have been, but you still find it hard to meet all of the time-limited tasks, this is the routine for you.
An unplanned routine in the management of the contact center, is a routine which includes fixed timeslots in the schedule during which you do not perform any predetermined tasks, but are free to cope with the ongoing events.
Remember, this is not time for e-mails, nor is it time for meetings. Instead, this is the regular time during which most of the problems usually arise, and you, without knowing what the issue is, are ready, free and available to provide a managerial response.
But, how can you practically go about creating an unplanned routine? Here are four steps that will help you do so.
Step 1 – Examine what are the main peak hours during the day when you are most frequently approached. Once you know this, define the periods of time in your schedule for which you plan to firefight.
Step 2 – Manage your calendar such that these hours will be blocked and you cannot be invited to a meeting during those hours.
Step 3 – We recommend to also talk to your direct manager (i.e. your boss) and explain that these are times in which your presence in various meetings comes at the expense of the contact center’s operation, and therefore should be avoided as much as possible.
Step 4 – During the time-slots which you determined, go around the contact center – be on the floor! Things will reach you already before the fire breaks out! Give an immediate response, follow-up on the team’s functioning and make sure that the managerial team reporting to you indeed meets all of its tasks.
In other words, make “the unplanned” a routine! Thus, you will slowly be able to reduce all of these cases which suddenly arrive and require special, complex and lengthy treatment.
By doing so, you will also make clear to the rest of the team when you are not available – meaning that you can go about your other tasks without the risk of distraction.
2. Implement an Open-Door Routine
“This is how it is, whoever shouts loudest gets attention first”
Is that so?! We know that the natural tendency of managers at the contact centers is to seek the fire and act to extinguish it as soon as possible, this is part of the daily reality. However, there are situations in which the immediate response generates more harm than benefit.
By implementing an open door policy in your contact center, you can proactively engage with the team and promote two-way communication, as everyone feels confident coming forward with their questions.
How to Best Implement an Open-Door Routine
An open-door routine is part of a management policy that allows the contact center team to transparently approach the management team and the contact center manager as they wish.
Usually, this expression is uttered by many managers, however, in practice, when you are in between meetings and gatherings, briefings and analyses – do you really have time and availability for the advisors?
When you do talk to an advisor, do not allow it to happen after a “drama” in the contact center, as the message relayed to the entire team is that indeed – “this is how it is, whoever shouts loudest, gets attention first”.
In order to genuinely make the open-door routine, so that it is not impacted by “drama management” throughout the day, here are a few ideas to help with your implementation.
Set regular and routine open door days – While the effectiveness of this option will depend on the size of the contact center, the dates should be consistent with a day of the week with lower than average contact volumes, so that the advisors can really use it and you can be available to listen.
Issue an official email and notice – This issue can be sent to each member of the team regarding the next day and hours during which your office door will really be open and wait for them.
Define time-slots of 15-20 minutes – Is the contact center team too large to allow everyone to arrive at the same time? Ask advisors, through the team leaders, to email in advance and book a time, keeping this issue under control.
If you already have an open door policy (and stick by it!) consider asking all senior managers to go out and speak to a member of the team that they would not usually speak with at the start of every day.
This can be a great way of boosting team cohesion.
3. Create a Control and Monitoring Routine
“A new procedure is issued here every day, they will probably forget about it tomorrow”
Is that so?! These kinds of statements are not expressed only by advisors. Many managers, at different levels, can empathise with this statement and use it often.
You sat down, gave it thought, planned it and brought a procedure to the floor, aiming to develop and promote the work processes at the contact center. Only a few know of the work behind the scenes – the time, energy and thought invested. Most people know a “new procedure” and that is where it ends.
The procedure is provided to the team during the briefing and therefrom, it often dissipates into the current operations, the routine. Sound familiar?
If this does indeed sound familiar, it is likely that you need to set aside time to routinely control and monitor new procedures to ensure that the contact center is continuously improving.
How to Implement a Control and Monitoring Routine
Learn from the experience of many managers who extensively invest in the building of work processes and eventually see no use of them in the current operations.
Attribute the appropriate respect to your resource investment and fulfil a significant part of your role in the contact center management by consistently performing control as a routine.
That is easier said than done, right? To help, here are four steps to help you on you way.
Step 1 – Upon the introduction of a new procedure to the floor, ask a team leader or a senior advisor, who may want a little more responsibility, to provide you with a quick update of the impact it’s having on the contact center floor.
Step 2 – Do not stop there! Define the desired results which you will follow-up – be as accurate and clear as possible. Refining the desired result will help the entire team to get on board for the benefit of actual implementation.
Step 3 – Set regular times in the schedule for control. During these times, stop everything and make sure the procedure is indeed being implemented on the floor, according to the results that you defined.
Step 4 – Speak to the team and gather their thoughts on the procedure, even in an incidental conversation. Keep your finger on the pulse, that is a key duty of every manager.
Many contact center managers have been promoted from other positions within the contact center and will carry on by following the lead of their predecessor and be drawn into constant “fire-fighting”.
However, implementing new processes is key to the contact center’s progress, and to some extent the wider organisation’s growth. So, it’s important to set aside routine times to but all of your focus on ensuring these procedures are implement to the best possible standard.
The management of a contact center manager includes many routines which we implement for the continuing benefit of everyone in the contact center.
Not all of these routines are simple to implement, but they help to ensure advisors are engaged and that our schedules are flexible enough so that the contact center continuously improves.
While you may already have implemented at least one of these routines into the contact center, let’s hope there’s something here for you to put into action tomorrow morning.