By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
“I need to find a good manager.”
This statement is simple and its occurrence common. I’ve heard it many times over the years, including when I worked in call centers, when I consulted for call centers, and now that I write about call centers.
Despite the straightforward nature of this basic need, its successful culmination is anything but easy. Quite simply, if you make the wrong selection, the future of your operation is in jeopardy. It only takes a few months of bad management to undo years of work spent building a smoothly functioning machine.
The problem is that the downward spiral is seldom realized until after the damage is done. By then, good employees have left, remaining staff is demoralized, longtime clients are gone, and callers are fuming. Despite the careful vetting process, employment screens, interviews, background checks, and personal references, your handpicked manager – the golden child who would solve all your problems and make your job easy – has failed to meet expectations. And you’re once again pressed into finding a good manager.
The options before you are deceptively simple – there are but two: you can promote from within or hire from without.
Promote from Within: When you promote existing call center employees into management, there are several items working in your favor. First, you know them and their work ethic. Next, they have already proven themselves, perhaps as a shift supervisor, a trainer, a lead agent, or maybe all three. Third, they know your business; they will not need to be trained in how your organization operates. Last, they know the industry; they “get” call center work and understand the toils of being an agent.
The downside is that they seldom have management experience. That means management training will be required, followed by close supervision as they grow into their job. And that does not happen quickly. Along the way, they will make mistakes. The hope is that the mistakes will be minor and that the successes will greatly outweigh the errors.
Hire from Without: The other approach is to hire an experienced manager. This solves all the issues surrounding management training. Yes, the new manager will still require some oversight in the beginning, but the time frame should not be nearly as long as for someone with no managerial experience.
The disadvantage of hiring from the outside is that you have no history together; you don’t know their work, and they don’t know your business or your operation. It will be likely that they lack call center experience and don’t understand the industry. And if they do have call center expertise, you may be faced with needing to retrain them to fit your operation.
There is no easy approach when hiring a good call center manager. There is a real art to it –but that’s what makes this industry fun. After all, if anyone could do it, then everyone would!