Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Call Center Management is not simple

A whole industry has been established around the idea of simplifying management. To read some of the literature produced by motivation coaches and solutions providers we can assume management is easy and if managers do not find it easy they are doing something wrong. Those involved in management development must first of all understand the complexities of management in order to define what exactly the development needs are. Perhaps the most realistic definitions of management are those that admit that it’s a complex and messy job:
Managerial work across all levels. . . is characterized by pace, brevity, variety and fragmentation. . . It is hectic and fragmented, requiring the ability to shi continuously from relationship to relationship, from topic to topic, from problem to problem. 
Management relates to all activities of the organization and is undertaken at all levels of the organization. Management is not a separate, discrete function. It cannot be departmentalized or scrutinized. An organization cannot have a department of management in the same way it can have a department for other functions, such as production, marketing, accounting, or personnel. 
So the first conclusions we can make about management is that it is far from simplistic, it can cover everything and it effects everyone and to a greater or lesser degree we all need to be able to manage. What we also know is that in call centres there are managers. These are the people who have a greater responsibility for coordinating the work of others as well as their own. They are the ones responsible for the workforce planning, performance measurement, motivating employees and ensuring agents have the information to actually resolve customer queries.
The International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), a US-based call centre consultancy service, defines call centre management as, ‘the art of having the right number of properly skilled people and supporting resources in place at the right times to handle an accurately forecasted workload, at service level and with quality’. This definition of call centre management is weighted towards the responsibilities of workforce planning; what can be described as the management of the tangible aspects of the organization, ensuring the department is running efficiently. However, as we know this is only one aspect of management; it fails to recognize that management in practice involves coping with contradictory demands, pressures and politics. The call centre is a great example of contradictory demands and call centre managers have to manage the constant tension between the sometimes opposing goals of service efficiency and customer service effectiveness.
The majority of a call centre manager’s work is not spent on workforce planning; in fact a significant proportion of this type of work is undertaken by specialists with the assistance of automated so ware planning tools. The majority of a manager’s time is spent on ensuring the intangible assets of the call centre, such as, knowledge, capabilities, group dynamics and culture are effectively being utilized to improve the effectiveness of the service to the customer. The ICMI definition of call centre management fails to recognize motivation.

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