23 Things Every Contact Centre Manager Needs to STOP Doing in 2023

Stop sign with blurred coloured background
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Are you guilty of doing things the way they’ve always been done? Looking to make some positive changes, but don’t know where to start?

Look no further! We asked our panel of consultants for the things contact centre managers really need to stop doing – as soon as possible – to help rejuvenate their customer service operations. Here’s what they said…

What Contact Centre Managers Need to Stop Doing:

1. Looking for Opportunities to Present Themselves

Michelle Ansell, Managing Partner at Douglas Jackson
Michelle Ansell

We speak with lots of people who are unhappy or unfulfilled. Perhaps they don’t feel their voice is being heard, development has stopped, or their line manager doesn’t have time for them.

What can you do to help yourself? Is there a different way you can approach a problem you are facing? What self-development can you do in your own time that will help you in your role – books, audio books, podcasts, webinars – and can you bring that activity and learning to your team?

Who else is there in the business who might be affected by what is bothering you? Can you create an ally elsewhere and a fresh pair of ears?

Contributed by: Michelle Ansell, Managing Partner at Douglas Jackson

2. Accepting Poor Performance

Sangeeta Bhatnagar, Founder of SB Global
Sangeeta Bhatnagar

…Because of fear of the attrition numbers!

Instead of worrying about losing the poor performers, the focus should be on retaining the highly engaged performers with a strong work ethic.

This is important because high-performing team members with a strong work ethic become resentful to leadership, and disengaged, when poor behaviours by others are accepted and not acted upon.

Contributed by: Sangeeta Bhatnagar, Founder of SB Global

3. Cutting Headcount to Save Money (Be Smarter Instead!)

Cost pressures will be coming at you internally and they will naturally force you to think ‘reduction’ – but be clever – you need to reduce the right things, or you’ll create more pain.

The first place everyone goes is people, seeking to find several ‘heads’ that can be reduced. You need to play super-smart; there are other ways.

For example, a temporary set of reduced-hours shift patterns, sabbaticals, or tapering to retirement could be very attractive to people right now – ask the question!

You could also reconsider your opening hours, which might mean shifting rather than reducing opening hours in some cases, or investing in self-service options.

Contributed by: Nicola Eaton Sawford, Managing Director at Customer Whisperers

4. Assuming Agents Are Just There to Answer Questions

Shep Hyken, CAO (Chief Amazement Officer) at Shepard Presentations LLC
Shep Hyken

Contact centre managers and leaders should stop thinking their people are there just to answer questions and resolve issues and complaints. That is a big part of their job, but more important is to make sure that the customer wants to come back.

They must deliver their answers and resolutions in a way that shows care and empathy and creates trust and confidence with their customers.

If they do that, then the customer likes it and continues to do business with them. Done right, customer service doesn’t cost. It pays.

The best contact centres make the company money and keep customers coming back.

Contributed by: Shep Hyken, CAO (Chief Amazement Officer) at Shepard Presentations LLC

5. Ignoring Wider Sources of Customer Insight

Customers don’t always give us verbal feedback and when they do, it may not be easy to interpret accurately.

But contact centres are full of employees (not just the frontline) who see what goes unsaid by customers, who feel customer joys and frustrations, who can see ambiguous feedback and know instantly what it relates to.

Contact centre managers shouldn’t overlook this and should engage their teams more widely in understanding the voice of the customer.

Contributed by: Katie Stabler, Founder and Director at CULTIVATE Customer Experience by Design

6. Letting Agents Tell Customers “I’m New…”

There are several phrases agents sometimes use that potentially give a customer a bad impression of you and your company, including:

  • “I’m new here.”
  • “I’m in training.”
  • “It’s my first day.”
  • “I don’t know.”
  • “I think …”
  • “I believe …”
Bill Quiseng, Chief Experience Officer at billquiseng
Bill Quiseng

Be the customer. If you’re going to pay your hard-earned money, do you want to be served by a rookie? Your customer is no different.

The customer is seeking the best value for their experience, they don’t care about your agent’s confidence. When an agent says that they are in training, the service is seen to be poor value for the customer experience.

Instead of letting this continue in your contact centre, explain the importance of coming across as experienced (even when they aren’t quite sure) and ask them to start using phrases such as “That’s a great question. Let me find out for you.”

Contributed by: Bill Quiseng, Chief Experience Officer at billquiseng.com

7. Expecting Agents to Write Fresh Email Responses Using Stale Templates

Managers somehow expect customer service agents to write fresh, customized email responses even when the template collection they rely upon is stale, overly formal, or out-of-date.

This is profoundly unfair because agents are scored on email productivity, accuracy, and use of templates. When the templates are poor quality, the agent gets punished.

Because knowledge quality and the health of the email template library is the manager’s responsibility, they should have a concrete, timely plan for reviewing and revising email templates. Yes, updating templates can be a tedious task, but it must be done. It’s simply impossible for a contact centre to provide accurate and rapport-building responses using tired old templates.

Contributed by: Leslie O’Flahavan, Principal and Owner at E-WRITE

8. Excluding Agents From Strategy and Decision-Making

We know that employee experience drives customer experience, so when managers don’t include employees in decisions, it sends a signal that their voice doesn’t matter.

They could stop engaging and caring, and that eventually dilutes team collaboration, morale, trust and, ultimately, the experience that is delivered to the customer – not to mention agent turnover. You also miss out on new ideas to help optimize the call centre.

What can contact centre leadership do?

  • Provide opportunities for team members to share their voice, then care about and implement the feedback.
  • Have strategy and tactical sessions where employees can offer their feedback on how to improve the team, processes, etc.
  • Regular one-on-ones with employees will provide opportunities for manager and employee to optimize the contact centre team and grow together.
  • Train and develop agents. Give them opportunities to learn; providing the why on what they are doing will help them understand their role, and take ownership.
  • Help teams build empathy and curiosity into their DNA, so these behaviours manifest when interacting with customers and other organizational teams.

Contributed by: Sue Duris, Founding Principal at M4 Communications, Inc.

9. Being Afraid of Automation

As a contact centre leader, your instinct may be to dismiss chatbots, SMS, and other automated services in favour of a live agent team.

Automation can be an unknown, and maybe you don’t know where your place is in a programme supported by such bots. You may say live agents have their faults, but they are people who can’t be replaced by robots.

However, we implore you to move past that apprehension of the unknown, because automated services can be a huge support to your live agent teams.

Especially in areas where they may be struggling, like high call volumes for tier 1 issues. They can also be cost-effective for your clients and increase customer satisfaction.

Contributed by: Neal Topf, President of Callzilla – The Quality-First Contact Centre

10. Caring More About Numbers Than People

Garry Gormley, Founder, CEO - FAB Outsourced Solutions
Garry Gormley

We talk so much in the contact centre about performance, service levels, adherence, average handling time and more that sometimes we forget there are people behind the numbers.

So, am I saying we abandon all the metrics that we talk about in our one-to-ones and that they aren’t important?

Absolutely not, but my top tip for team leaders for 2023 is to stop focusing so hard on the metrics and start thinking about how people feel.

Balance the conversation around what motivates them, why do they get up in the morning, what excites your team, how are things outside of work.

If they are working remotely, how are they managing their workspace, how are they making sure they get away from the screen and are they taking breaks and what are they doing to take care of themselves? This all helps to show that you care and that you value them as individuals.

More engaged team members will apply more discretionary effort if they feel they are valued and that their efforts are recognized.

Contributed by: Garry Gormley, Founder, CEO – FAB Outsourced Solutions

11. Using the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to Measure Individuals

Mike Aoki, President of Reflective Keynotes Inc
Mike Aoki

While the Net Promoter Score (NPS) can be a meaningful evaluation of your overall organization, it is unfair as an individual agent evaluation.

That unfairness becomes more pronounced if you tie individual agent NPS scores to their shift bid preferences and bonuses.

Why?

Most customers do not separate a company’s performance from an individual agent’s performance. Everything from website design, product quality, shipping and billing affects NPS. Most of which is beyond an agent’s control.

For example, a mortgage contact centre agent who politely asks about a large down payment – in accordance with procedures against money laundering – may receive a highly negative NPS score even though they did their job well. C-SAT (Customer Satisfaction) surveys suffer from many of the same challenges as well.

Instead of NPS, try focusing on quality monitoring that evaluates how an agent is supporting your customers.

Is the agent demonstrating empathy, active listening, diagnostic skills, and providing helpful information? Then tie those results into a training and coaching programme that builds agent knowledge, skills and performance.

Contributed by: Mike Aoki, President of Reflective Keynotes Inc.

12. Expecting Agents to Do Three or Four Live Chats Simultaneously

Leslie O'Flahavan
Leslie O’Flahavan

The vendor who sold the contact centre the live chat software promised loads of per-contact savings because chat agents can participate in four, or even five, chats at once.

While this many chats may be possible in some rare instances, simultaneous chats hurt customer experience and contact centre goals.

Too many chats make the agent slow to respond, less accurate, and less capable of expressing empathy or building rapport. And customers can tell when chat agents are distracted.

Being unable to get or keep the agent’s full attention is the kind of thing that makes customers rage-y and impossible to handle. It’s kind of obvious, isn’t it? If you ask agents to do too many things at once, they will do each thing less proficiently.

Yes, agents can handle more than one live chat at a time, but contact centre managers should collect enough data to know where chat quality and customer satisfaction drop off.

Is two chats at once the maximum? Can a few expert agents handle three? Can agents handle three simultaneous chats on simple topics, but only two on complex topics?

Managers should do enough research to answer these questions honestly and require agents to do only the number of at-once chats they can do well.

Contributed by: Leslie O’Flahavan, Principal and Owner at E-WRITE

If you want to know how to start calculating concurrent chat support, read our forum article: What Is the Formula for Concurrency in Chat Support

13. Being Too Professional About Everything

2023 is also the time to bring your WHOLE self to work – all of those human skills that sometimes get left at the door as we swipe in and put our ‘professional’ hat on.

You are going to need every ounce of your humanity, so let all that good stuff come forth, bring it with you through the door and let’s use it.

Never has it been more important to be able to relate to the lives of other people, staff and customers, and show solidarity. Contact centres will become a more emotional place.

Contributed by: Nicola Eaton Sawford, Managing Director at Customer Whisperers

14. Prioritizing AHT Over Customers’ Buying Patterns

Stop focusing on the wrong metrics! For example, Average Handling Time (AHT) is an important metric, but is often used for the wrong reason.

If you’re measuring how many calls can be handled in an hour, the agent may feel pressure to end calls quickly before the customer has been completely satisfied.

They are nervous about being criticized (or even fired) for spending too much time with the customer. That creates a toxic environment and can erode the customer service experience.

Even if the customer says they were happy, that doesn’t mean they are coming back. And that is a metric that most companies often overlook.

If AHT is important, look at the reasons customers call, the agents’ capabilities (more seasoned professionals may be faster than others), and compare those to what it takes to get positive feedback from customers.

And even if the customer says they were happy, that doesn’t mean they are coming back. And that is a metric that most companies often overlook.

It’s the customer’s behaviour. Specifically, it’s about the customer coming back. Understanding your customers’ buying patterns and cadence helps you understand and appreciate the effort you make in servicing the customer.

So, asking customers questions about whether they are happy or willing to recommend you is great.

But also consider asking yourself the question: “Does the customer come back?” That is a measurement and behaviour worth understanding.

Contributed by: Shep Hyken, CAO (Chief Amazement Officer) at Shepard Presentations LLC

15. Settling for Outdated Supervisor and Manager Tools

Sheila McGee-Smith, President & Principal Analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics, LLC
Sheila McGee-Smith

Contact centre managers should stop settling for outdated supervisor and manager tools.

The latest generation of workforce management, quality management, and analytics tools – typically enhanced with artificial intelligence and machine learning – are far superior to those most contact centre managers are forced to use today.

Educate yourself on the possibilities and build your own business case for up-levelling your management tools. You, your agents, and your company will benefit!

Contributed by: Sheila McGee-Smith, President & Principal Analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics, LLC

16. Ignoring the Fluffy Stuff

There are those in our ‘Worlds of Business’ who just don’t want to talk about emotion, but that is a mistake!

An unengaged customer needs two things from an interaction with a contact centre, success and satisfaction.

Success means the customer achieves their goal (basic need) and satisfaction means they did it easily and quickly (basic want).

But who wants an unengaged customer?

Contact centres are an opportunity to create engaged customers, customers who are actually brand advocates and brand loyal.

In order to become an engaged customer, a customer not only needs success and satisfaction they need sentiment too (the three S’s).

They need something, even slightly over and above to make them feel a happy peak in emotion.

A headshot of Katie Stabler
Katie Stabler

This could be anything from feeling really listened to or feeling surprised by excellent service. It doesn’t have to be from grand gestures, discounts or freebies, just something positive that they will remember.

Contributed by: Katie Stabler, Founder and Director at CULTIVATE Customer Experience by Design

17. Compromising Your Agents’ Ability to Do a Great Job

Contact centre managers really need to stop hiring people on their ability to be great with people, and then asking them to work in an environment where they don’t allow them to be great!

Be honest… How many people have you hired for their great attitude and passion, or customer-focused approach, only to put them into a position where they cannot properly solve customers’ issues – for example, with strict AHT targets?

Or making them so busy delivering reports that they don’t have time to help and support their people to develop and grow? It needs to stop – for everyone’s sake.

Contributed by: Michelle Ansell, Managing Partner at Douglas Jackson

18. Communicating in a Style That Is Comfortable for THEM

We all desire an increase in communication effectiveness. For this to occur, the leader speaking must adapt to the person listening. It is important for leaders to adapt to the person they are speaking with.

For example, if the manager is a fast-paced, task-oriented communicator, but the person they are speaking with is more people-oriented, soft-spoken, and speaks at a slower pace, then the manager should adapt to meet the person where they are at.

This does not mean they have to be fake or totally different, it just means they need to adapt and maybe slow down the pace, bring in the human aspect instead of just listing off tasks.

Leaders need to ADAPT!

Contributed by: Sangeeta Bhatnagar, Founder of SB Global

19. Seeing Digital Customer Experience as a Poor Relation to Human Experiences

Nicola Eaton Sawford, Managing Director at Customer Whisperers
Nicola Eaton Sawford

Spoiler alert – sometimes digital customer experience is MORE satisfying for customers than human experience.

There you go, I said it! We were transforming a client’s IVR approach, injecting some personality, making the journey faster to resolution, more informal and satisfying.

One of our outcomes was that IVR CSAT outperformed Agent CSAT for the first time ever.

No one wanted to tell the team, but why not?

This is simply about allowing customers to use the channel that suits them best in that moment, and banishing the crazy notion that human is always better. It’s just not true. Simple digital experience elements that ‘just work’ are invaluable in customer journeys.

Customers learned a lot through the Covid/lockdown periods. Almost everyone learned how to do more digitally, especially around things like the use of video-conferencing.

We must capitalize on the skills customers have acquired because we all know, if you don’t use it, they will lose it.

Sure, there are potential benefits for organizations in terms of reduced cost (but don’t assume digital always equals reduced cost, it doesn’t) and IF those are passed on to customers, you’re helping them with maintained or lower prices too, and we all need a bit of that!

Contributed by: Nicola Eaton Sawford, Managing Director at Customer Whisperers

20. Being Reactive to Customers’ Needs

Sue Duris, Founding Principal at M4 Communications, Inc.
Sue Duris

Customer expectations continuously change. Since the contact centre, in many situations, is the first contact that customers have with the brand, they MUST be proactive to customer needs and customer-centric.

If you put policies above people, customers will leave. If you don’t deliver on the brand promise or customer expectations, customers will leave. And believe it or not, more brand loyalty can be made or lost in the contact centre than you think.

What can contact centre managers do about it? Here are a handful of suggestions:

  • Ensure that the contact centre is a vital part of the customer journey, so gaps and opportunities can be identified, and improvements made.
  • Determine how the contact centre can align with other key teams, like CX, Marketing, Sales, and Product. Aligning with these teams can provide opportunities for contact centre agents to promote products and services and other items customers want.
  • Identify key metrics that not only drive contact centre success, but also what drives customer and operational success.

Contributed by: Sue Duris, Founding Principal at M4 Communications, Inc.

21. Giving Feedback in a Reactive Manner

When leaders just react quickly to give feedback, they may think they are “coaching”, but when the conversations are purely reactive, in the heat of the moment, the desired change will not be transformational.

There is a difference between coaching and just giving feedback. Delivering feedback correctly does require leaders to adapt to have a sustainable change.

Contributed by: Sangeeta Bhatnagar, Founder of SB Global

22. Having Your Usual 1-2-1s

It is often the case that managers might only have monthly or quarterly 1-2-1s. Let’s face it, there will be some who have none – perhaps just an annual performance review.

Why not ask yourself how many of your team look forward to their 1-2-1? Is it a tick-box exercise or is there real value to be had from these conversations?

Is it time to add these questions into the mix to drive real value?

  • “What have you learnt?”
  • “What are you most proud of?”
  • “What would you do better?”
  • “What can I do for you to help you be happier, develop, and grow?”

Contributed by: Michelle Ansell, Managing Partner at Douglas Jackson

23. Only Focusing on Digital Transformation

Neal Topf, President of Callzilla - The Quality-First Contact Centre
Neal Topf

Digital could potentially save money and time in how customers interact with brands, but humans are still going to inform the customer experience. Think ‘analog transformation’, not ‘digital transformation’.

Employees and leaders are going to design experiences and processes and will train the frontline employees that are going to interact with customers.

We need more artists to create the art and scientists to conduct the science. A digital transformation is not about replacing humans but repurposing them for more complex and dynamic roles.

Contributed by: Neal Topf, President of Callzilla – The Quality-First Contact Centre

Thanks for reading! We hope this list has given you a strong starting point for deciding which things you need to stop doing in your contact centre. Good luck!

For more great insights and advice from the experts, read these articles next:

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