Call center manager leaning over the desk of call center agents and pointing something out on a computer screen.
PHOTO: Atstock Productions

Call centers aren’t going anywhere. About 46% of global contact center decision-makers project their contact centers to grow 5% to 10%, according to a 2020 report from Get Voip. And 13% of call centers experience a combined annual revenue of more than $25 billion.

With the growth, comes the need for consistent leadership from call center managers. A call center agent can be a thankless job without proper inspiration, feedback and a trusted leader overseeing the heart of the call center and caring for their agents. What are some skills and traits a call center manager should possess?

Staying Positive

One of the biggest traits of an effective call center leader is a positive attitude, according to Brooke Grasley, founder of Restore, Decor, And More who ran her own call center for over 10 years and has trained leaders in the process.

“Call centers can be notoriously negative environments, so having a positive leader will make a big difference in morale as well as productivity,” she added.

Problem-Solving Skills

An effective call center leader should have good problem-solving skills, Grasley added. Whether it's customers, equipment, employees or software there are bound to be issues that come up frequently. “A good leader can solve problems quickly and efficiently,” she said.

Wesley Exon, CEO of Best Value Schools agrees that one of the most important skills for a call center leader is problem-solving. “Being skilled at problem-solving will help the leader both be able to handle customer issues effectively as well as train their teams to become problem solvers as well, which could potentially reduce the number of call escalations and give employees greater autonomy,” Exon said.

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Patience, Empathy

Mikkel Andreassen, customer experience manager at Dixa, said a call center environment includes work that is very sensitive. You often need to experiment with different approaches to get the desired response from individuals. “The only way to persist is to arm yourself with lots of patience and empathy,” Andreassen said. “People often get stressed doing this job and the leader has to understand their feelings, but also inspire them to work harder. I would prioritize these two traits over any kind of technical knowledge individuals may possess.”

Patience will serve a call center leader well because it will allow them to be able to handle customer service issues as well as take care of employees when their emotions run high, Exon added.

Call center leaders have an important role in ensuring that both their teams are taken care of as well as customers. As a leader, they’ll be dealing with both customers and employees whose emotions are running high, according to Gabriel Dungan, founder and CEO of ViscoSoft. “Empathy allows you to understand the feelings of others and communicate with them in a way that reduces tension rather than adding to it,” Dungan said.

Marina Vaamonda, founder of PropertyCashin, said empathy is essential in customer service because it allows you to connect with customers faster. “A lack of empathy would make understanding the customer’s situation difficult, making the conversation robotic,” she said. “The result would mean a lower customer satisfaction rating since the customer feels like representatives can’t fully understand their problem.”

Desire To Expand Skillset

An effective call center leader should be able to continue developing their skills, while at the same time also passing knowledge of those new skills to the agents they are coaching, according to McKay Bird, chief marketing officer at TCN. A leader is only as effective as their team, so the best leaders will be able to hone and expand the skillset of their team just as seamlessly as they develop their own self-development, Bird added.

Accessibility and Approachability

Another critical skill of a call center leader is the ability to be accessible and approachable. “In busy call center environments, agents need constant interaction with managers and if there is a toxic relationship or work environment, or if the agent simply doesn’t feel like he or she can go to their managers with questions, it can be difficult to communicate effectively,” Bird said.

Related Article: Call Center Employees: The Superheroes of Customer Experience

Change Management Skills

In the call center space, agents and their leaders are facing constant change, according to Bird, including new regulations, new tools and processes, new business goals, etc. “An effective leader in this industry should be able to quickly adapt to these changes and incorporate new or updated information into their workflows, and then teach their teams how to do the same,” Bird said.

Conflict Management Skills

Call center leaders need to be skilled in conflict management and resolution to be able to handle issues swiftly and with positive outcomes, Dungan said. “This is an essential skill to be able to calm angry customers,” Dungan said, “reassure them that their issues will be solved, and to provide overall top-notch service when calls get escalated.”