Many of today’s youths have been leveraging the services of contact centers for years. Since their mobile devices are always close at hand, any product or service issue is quickly directed to one of these centers. Quite a few of these same young people have also worked as agents—or Communicators, as we call them—in one of these customer care facilities. According to a USA Today article, an estimated 5 million Americans are employed in about 66,000 contact centers in the United States.

Contact center leadership criteria

If your goal is to become a customer service manager, you should be able to integrate and manage customers, constraints, quality and people—to achieve business goals. Being able to lead effectively also requires the ability to analyze and troubleshoot complex problems.

Job advancement will further depend on your knack for influencing, negotiating with and persuading others. Can you motivate employees to achieve business goals? That, and an ability to assess a situation, propose solutions and choose the best option, will put you in good stead as a management candidate.

Effective communication, including the ability to express thoughts clearly, as well as to listen carefully and respond appropriately, is a skill of particular value in a contact center leader. It requires accurate conveyance—using proper grammar, spelling and sentence structure—of business information through communication channels such as email, chat and instant messaging.

Another general vocational criterion for success in the contact center is, of course, a desire to provide service to customers—and contribute to the common good. Consider the focus of a contact center: Inbound centers administer product support or information inquiries from consumers. Outbound centers are operated for telemarketing, solicitation of charitable or political donations, debt collection and market research.

Developing leadership competencies

Good leadership within an organization is the foundation for strategic efforts to challenge competitors, build talent and install optimal processes. When Communicators strive for advancement, contact center leaders should be there to help them develop the skills that will be used later to build a more robust contact center.

Proper coaching and training now will allow future frontline contact center managers to handle responsibilities that encompass the fast-paced turnover of systems, processes, technology and resources.

While formal training can build the awareness and fundamentals necessary for leadership, more valuable yet may be learning by observation and imitation. Apply the following principals to your actions to guide the development of leaders within your contact center:

  • Immerse yourself in the business: Knowledge is power. Understand and be able to articulate the business strategy to better execute the cadence of the organization.
  • Coach and mentor: Promote accountability in direct reports through action and results. Teach others what you’ve learned. Help people discover and explore their strengths and improve on weaknesses.
  • Network/build meaningful relationships: Do this at all levels of the organization, especially with customers and suppliers to build influence, branding and alignment.
  • Align with critical organizational core competencies: Take identified core leadership skills and create your own unique, appealing know-how.
  • Set standards for performance: Lead by example and influence people to act the same way. This requires building credibility by being authentic and fair, and inspiring those around you to meet the standards you’ve set.

These principals cannot be executed in a vacuum. Your organization needs to be set up with systems and norms that can be enacted regularly to develop leaders from within and close any management gaps.