May 23, 2023
Most contact centers recognize the importance of team leaders. However, the team leader role is also one of the most overlooked from a skills development perspective. This article uses insights from the following research to reveal the quantifiable impact of contact center team leaders on employee satisfaction, retention and performance.
- COPC Inc. US Employee Engagement Research Report
- COPC Inc. Global Benchmarking Series, Contact Center Training and Development
Team Leaders: The Key to an Engaged & Motivated Team
Research shows that an effective team leader can help improve employee satisfaction and retention. Honing a team leader’s skillset is fundamental to broader contact center employee engagement initiatives. In this webinar with Harte Hanks, we have a research-backed discussion about the impact of investing in team leaders.
Enabling Team Leader Success
COPC Inc.’s Employee Engagement Research uncovered a crucial takeaway for effective team leadership in the contact center industry: the power of education and skill building. Team leaders with the proper knowledge and abilities can better guide and support their agents resulting in more satisfied and committed employees.
The data shows that when agents feel that their team leader has the appropriate skills and knowledge, their job satisfaction increases three times, with 84% intending to remain with that company for at least another year.
However, when the agents strongly disagreed that their team leaders had the right skills and knowledge to be effective in their roles, job satisfaction dropped to 28%, and only 23% intended to stay with the organization. Investing in team leaders’ education and leadership competencies can boost employee engagement, retention and satisfaction.
The ideal training program prioritizes essential leadership qualities like identifying, managing and leading a high-performing team. According to Harte Hanks, team leader training is more effective with coaching, usually from their direct manager.
Empowering team leaders with effective communication and active listening techniques is crucial to steering their teams toward success. Managers who model these skills equip their leaders with the tools they need to motivate and guide their teams with confidence.
For example, a unique training program that Harte Hanks offers is called the Supervisor Onboarding Boot Camp. This program gives high-performing team leaders insight into what’s ahead and helps them prepare for the transition to supervision. The boot camp teaches critical skills like leading by example and setting expectations for what it means to be a successful supervisor. With comprehensive training, team leaders can confidently step into their new roles and motivate their teams toward success.
Contact Center Recruitment Quality
Recruitment is critical to any organization and can significantly impact employee satisfaction and retention. COPC Inc. Employee Engagement Research found that accurately depicting the agent’s role during the recruitment process can dramatically influence how agents feel about their role when they start working.
The study found that 95% of agents were satisfied with their jobs and intended to stay with the organization when they strongly agreed that the organization accurately depicted the role. Conversely, when agents strongly disagreed with the depiction of the position during recruitment, none were satisfied with their jobs or planned on staying with the organization.
Contact Center Manager-to-Staff Ratio
Finding the proper manager-to-staff ratio in contact centers ensures frontline leaders can effectively support their agents. COPC Inc.’s Global Benchmarking Series research found that the typical ratio is one team manager to 16 agents, but may vary for some organizations.
Instead, consider several factors to determine the correct ratio, such as the complexity of inquiries and the risk level. If agents are not fully prepared for their role and lack access to practical knowledge management resources, it’s necessary to reduce the ratio to provide more support to the agents.
Harte Hanks’ Senior Director of Human Resources, Katy Crighton, suggests the ideal supervisor-to-agent ratio is between 1-15 and 1-17. However, this is not a fixed number and will shift over time. One or two team leaders assist each supervisor at Harte Hanks.
Crighton says that because team leaders are closer to the frontline staff, they play a critical role in partnering with supervisors and helping them become more effective. Taking on a team leader role also helps prepare the team leader for future promotions. The team leader learns how to supervise and assist agents in performing at a high level.
Harte Hanks differentiates the team leader and supervisor roles so that the coaching relationship in the team leader role goes both ways. Supervisors support team leaders while team leaders provide frequent performance management and mandatory weekly touch bases with each agent. These meetings help to ensure quality conversations and the rapid rollout of any necessary changes.
The Value of One-on-Ones
Organizations can ensure agents feel valued through frequent one-on-one reviews between frontline leaders and their agents. These conversations allow leaders to evaluate an agent’s performance and enable agents to voice their concerns. One-on-ones provide an opportunity to discuss agent development goals and receive feedback and coaching from their managers.
Despite the apparent benefits of one-on-one meetings, many contact centers need to hold them with sufficient frequency. In fact, according to COPC Inc. US Employee Engagement Research Report, only 15% of centers have weekly discussions with their agents. Furthermore, less than 50% hold even monthly talks.
However, the impact of these conversations on agent satisfaction and commitment to the job cannot be understated. According to the same study, 84% of agents who have weekly one-on-one meetings are satisfied with their job. Satisfaction drops rapidly as the frequency of meetings decreases.
Moreover, the frequency of one-on-one meetings also significantly impacts agents’ intention to stay with the organization. Ninety percent of agents who have weekly meetings with their leaders want to continue with their organization. Those who have one-on-ones less than once a month show much less job commitment.
The benefits of these conversations extend beyond boosting agent satisfaction and commitment. Regular one-on-one meetings allow managers to root out and address issues before they become significant problems. For example, if a sudden influx of customer complaints is causing stress and dissatisfaction, managers can address the issue with targeted interventional training.
Additionally, frequent one-on-one meetings enable managers to identify high-performing agents who may be ready for promotion or leadership roles. At Harte Hanks, for instance, 76% of their customer care leaders started as agents. Coaching and development provided during one-on-one meetings enabled those agents to work their way up in the organization.
COPC research and Harte Hanks’ successful practices clearly show the importance of having a solid team leader program. Developing effective team leaders requires a combination of well-crafted training programs and ongoing coaching from direct managers. With careful planning and execution, these tactics pave the way for strong leadership within your organization.
Leveraging team leaders in the agent recruitment process to evaluate and provide candidates with an accurate depiction of the agent role leads to higher job satisfaction and commitment levels. Lastly, enabling team leaders to have weekly, meaningful conversations with their agents genuinely helps drive an engaged and motivated contact center team.
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