Friday, April 20, 2012

Management Development in Call Centres


Prior to defining the management development practices in call centres it is important to first of all define what exactly is meant by the term ‘management’ and place it in a call centre context. The starting point of any training and development project is identifying the training and development need. For example, the training and development need in an induction course would be for employees to be sufficiently trained in the organization’s systems, products and culture to effectively answer customer queries. In management development this may be slightly more difficult to define and it may involve the identification and development of individuals with the potential to manage departments or functions in the future. In addition, it may be the development of individuals who can supervise people to undertake predefined work processes, and also be the strategic development of individuals who are already in existing management positions.
Those involved in the design of management development should start by asking the following question: ‘What exactly is meant by management within our organization?’ A clear understanding of what is expected from managers within a call centre will allow trainers and educators to assess the management development requirements of the department/organization/individual, plan and design how the need will be met, deliver the required training and then measure the success of it against the previously defined objectives.
‘Management’ and ‘manager’ are generic terms that are interpreted differently from call centre to call centre. In some organizations a team leader responsible for the activities of a collective of call centre agents may be called a manager. In other organizations the term ‘manager’ is specific to the strategic hierarchy at the very top of the organization.
The 1995 edition of The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines management as the ‘professional administration of business concerns’. In essence, the ‘occupational group that organizes and coordinates, and makes decisions about what work is done, how it is done (and) by whom’. In call centres the term ‘manager’ is usually applied to those who oversee the administration and, in large centres, the administration of certain functions such as training, HR and planning will be overseen by functional specialist managers. These management specialists will report directly to an individual who oversees all call centre operations. They may not have the title manager but they will be responsible for the management of the centre. Figure 1 gives a basic overview of a typical call centre departmental structure.

Figure 1: A typical call centre organizational chart
Peter Drucker (1974) and Charles Handy (1993), two of the most widely acknowledged theorists within the area of management, argue that management cannot be defined and a empts to do so are meaningless. This is largely based upon the idea that management, by nature, is something that permeates throughout organizations to all levels of employment. A number of authors argue that management encompasses so much of an organization that all employees, to a greater or lesser degree, must have the ability to manage. Torrington et al  argue that, ‘Management is not just a job done by people called ”managers”, it is an aspect done by all those who have to cope with the problems and opportunities of organization.’ The repercussions of this for training and development is that in essence everyone has to have an ability to manage, whether it be individuals managing their own workload or their personal development plan, relationships with colleagues or large multi-site call centre operations.
The BBC has an approach to management development that reinforces the idea that management skills are not just required for those with the word ‘manager’ in their job title. A management development information pack from the BBC includes the paragraph:
Fourth and most important, management training is available not simply for line managers, but for anyone with a management component in their job. In practice this means most of us. We all have to manage our time, our priorities, the resources we use, our colleagues and our boss.
We are all managers to a greater or lesser extent as we all have some degree of control over our life and a process within the business in which we are employed. The interdependent nature of the modern working environment means we all call on resources and employees to get the work done. Management therefore is a phenomenon that is pivotal to the complexities of modern day life.
Furthermore, despite the organizational re-engineering, restructuring, mergers and outsourcing, practices that dominated the global business climate in the last decade, the number of managers is actually increasing. A report by the Chartered Management Institute identified that the numbers of managers had substantially increased during previous decades and this was expected to continue


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