A day in the life of a support supervisor in 2023 (Part 2)
September 2, 202210 min read
There aren’t many empathetic contact center supervisors that help agents acquire new skills and navigate maddening escalation situations while fulfilling the expectations set by the management and working on challenging tickets.
Fair to say, Allen is a ball of fire.
In part 1, we looked at Allen’s daily schedule and exhaustive list of to-dos. We learned about his responsibilities and motivational drivers. As you may have realized, contact center supervisors don’t have it easy — it takes grit, grind, and skills to overcome those challenges.
Let’s explore the challenges Allen faces in depth and discover the tools and skills he needs to get better at his job.
What are Allen’s not-so-favorite parts of the day?
Being a contact center supervisor is exciting, but it also means confronting a host of challenges. From tracking the right key performance indicators (KPIs) to agent attrition, here are some of Allen’s least favorite parts of the day.
Monitoring KPIs and subpar agent performance
Customer obsession is the most critical element to building a successful brand. Perhaps for supervisors like Allen, the stakes are high — as they are accountable for keeping tabs on important customer service KPIs and delivering quality support to customers.
According to Harris Interactive, 75% of customers feel wait times to reach a live customer service agent are long.
Despite prioritizing tickets based on complexity and urgency, agents often breach SLAs and fail to resolve issues at the first point of contact, resulting in poor customer experiences.
Key barriers to excellent customer service
Lack of workflow automation forces agents to contend with manual work, which impacts their productivity and performance.
Gaps in training and coaching impede agents’ ability to handle complex customer issues. Plus, data silos offer no visibility into previous interactions with customers.
How to overcome these barriers
Assess the quality of calls and agent performance with call monitoring tools
This is essential for people working in support centers. For most support centers, a “good customer call” should have an empathetic tone, a reassuring voice, and a short wait time.
An in-depth analysis of calls can provide a sense of how agents engage with customers. This enables supervisors to update new hire-training modules and documentation to accommodate agent needs.
Empower agents with rich customer insights and built-in case information
From actionable data insights to internal data sharing, a cross-functional collaboration between different customer-facing departments allows agents to deliver faster responses.
Simply put, the more actionable customer data an agent has, the easier it is for them to address concerns.
A supervisor like Allen can wear the hat of a facilitator here. He can promote efficient cross-team collaboration and provide agents with all the information they need to delight customers.
With Sprinklr’s AI-powered agent audit and quality monitoring and analysis,supervisors can identify agent skill gaps to create training plans. In addition, the AI-based early warning systemsmonitor metrics like sentiment, customer satisfaction (CSAT), tone, and channel hops to alert supervisors of a possible escalation.
Agent attrition and complicated agent onboarding
It’s no secret that there’s a huge disparity in the turnover rates between contact center agents and employees in other functions of an organization.
A study by Harvard Business Review states that the average call center turnover rate is as high as 45% — twice the average turnover rate in other departments. And it takes anywhere from four to six months, and sometimes more, for new agents to gain complete proficiency. Worse, the average training costs for these agents range from $115,200 to $345,600.
Allen and his higher-ups have lost sleep over this.
Gen Z agents prefer a work environment where they get to take ownership and grow their careers.
Unfortunately, most support centers offer agents little autonomy. Needless to say, if an agent feels like a cog in the wheel, they will eventually bow out.
Other causes of high agent attrition
Sporadic coaching, one-size-fits-all training, and ineffective quality assurance (QA) and feedback sessions
Absence of one-on-ones and lack of motivation and recognition
Feelings of isolation, burnout, and lack of positive reinforcement
Minimal or lack of access to subject-matter experts in the organization
Lack of ownership
How to overcome these challenges
Acquaint agents with their career path
Most agents want to grow in ways that align with their current or future roles.
As a supervisor, Allen can support them by clearly defining their roles, laying out expectations, and chalking out the growth trajectory they need to land their dream jobs. It’s a small step that goes a long way in boosting agent morale and driving success.
Be open-minded and approachable
Agents want a leader who is approachable, accommodating, and open-minded. What their supervisors focus on and how they react to their challenges matter a lot.
Agents engage, listen, and act in the organization’s best interest when they feel comfortable sharing their problems.
Nothing sums this up better than Gallup’s State of the American Manager Report.
Provide contextual training, coaching, and feedback
Every customer interaction is an opportunity to unlock hidden agent potential and spot gaps in knowledge transfer. By analyzing these conversations, supervisors can create customized training programs to fill lacunae in agent performance.
Gallup’s study on employee engagement strategy revealed that during the height of the pandemic, highly engaged teams were more resilient than peer groups. That said, a common trait observed in high-performing teams was the presence of diverse skill sets.
Agents love upskilling because it enables them to adapt to any situation, not to mention it’s a brilliant confidence booster.
Supervisors can identify skill gaps and provide contextual coaching using feedback surveys and call monitoring insights, enabling agents to take ownership of their careers.
In addition, through one-on-ones and agent-assist programs supported by HR, supervisors and managers can coach agents to improve their hard and soft skills needed to achieve their goals faster.
Sprinklr’s AI-powered learning management system allows supervisors to assign courses to agents based on past performance and equips them with the necessary skill sets needed for their respective work queues.
No clear view of agents’ productivity, daily activities, and accomplishments
As a supervisor, Allen has to assist agents during escalations, analyze their daily workload, and simultaneously build training programs for new hires.
Productivity reports can only go so far.
Providing relevant guidance can seem like a never-ending task without knowing how much time agents are spending on each case or what queries are complex for them.
How to overcome this challenge
Monitor agents' omnichannel activities
It’s a huge relief when supervisors can get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on with their agents, their workloads, and ticket status.
That’s where a supervisor console comes in handy.
Supervisors get to monitor agents’ daily activities and workload, tap into real-time customer conversations, and whisper messages or add insights (that only the designated agent can see) when an agent is struggling with a customer complaint.
This minimizes call transfers and significantly speeds up handling times. Besides, supervisors are able to see if agents are online, offline, on-call, or on a break, helping them align resources and change queues as needed.
With Sprinklr’s AI-powered unified supervisor console, supervisors can track active caseloads on agents and monitor their performance during each customer interaction, including wait times and CSAT, within a single pane. They can also share relevant resources and insights with agents to better serve customers.
Inaccurate and inconsistent reports on agent performance and call statistics
With multiple disparate systems, workflows, and digital channels intertwined, getting accurate and consistent insights, reports, and case statistics is challenging.
To improve agent performance and customer experiences, supervisors need vital details such as:
How many times has a customer called?
How many call transfers were made?
How many calls have been put on hold?
Manually collating such critical information and relying on spreadsheet data dumps make reporting costly and error-prone.
How to overcome this challenge
Get consistent, real-time reports on agent performance and quality scores
Automating reporting by eliminating manual data accumulation can relieve supervisors, as manual work is error-prone. Implementing AI-powered reporting dashboards can help supervisors understand where and why customers drop off or need their cases escalated to agents — and highlight improvement areas.
Inconsistent answers to the same customer question
Customers expect support centers to be responsive on all channels. They want consistency as part of the experience and are easily annoyed when agents fail to provide accurate and consistent information across channels.
This can harm the brand’s reputation. Inconsistencies are common where the information resides in silos, and agents have to refer to different sources while answering a customer query.
How to overcome this challenge
Eliminate silos for better visibility
Customers jump channels frequently, and that’s inevitable.
To be consistent across channels, supervisors and agents must have access to a holistic view of customer interactions as they pass through various touchpoints.
A comprehensive solution that pulls together rich, contextual data from multiple channels can help supervisors improve the quality of customer support. Agents can solve customer issues faster with a 360-degree view of customer conversations in each customer’s journey.
Drive faster resolutions with a rich knowledge base and guided workflows
A comprehensive knowledge base containing pre-packaged guides and answers to often-asked questions can help agents provide consistent solutions during an interaction. To facilitate that, supervisors should ensure that these knowledge hub pages are frequently updated on a case-by-case basis.
What skill sets does Allen need to become a support superhero?
As a supervisor, Allen has an exhaustive list of responsibilities. On the one hand, he is required to meet his own set of KPIs. On the other, he has to manage a whole posse of agents and raise customer service standards and overall customer satisfaction.
That might be a lot to take in, so let's break it down.
Exceptional motivational skills
Support supervisors should motivate agents so that every agent brings their A-game to work every day. Supervisors like Allen should be able to understand what’s working and what’s not and how each agent can grow their career.
Problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills
A support center is a volatile place. Escalations, tricky queries, and burnouts are common. By keeping a level head, supervisors should demonstrate mental agility and apply their problem-solving and conflict resolution skills to come up with solutions on the go.
Emotional intelligence and coaching skills
Agents who feel motivated and are engaged are more likely to give their all and raise the bar of customer support. Empathetic supervisors like Allen should make it a habit to meet their agents’ needs and mentor them regularly so agents can thrive and continue to serve customers to the best of their abilities.
Persuasive and open-mindedness
Driven supervisors don’t scream orders. Instead, they encourage agents to take charge and aid them in demonstrating core customer service values in their day-to-day interactions. A seasoned supervisor like Allen must give agents the liberty to express their thoughts and explore new ideas without second-guessing.
Number-driven and analytical skills
Studies have shown that managers with analytical skills can identify challenges, investigate the gaps, and arrive at a logical or appropriate solution faster. Supervisors often crunch numbers and analyze different reports to make data-driven decisions. So being proficient with analytical skills would certainly be an added advantage.
A hustler, a motivator, an empathetic people manager: one person, multiple hats
We hope the myth that supervisors either offer pep talks to agents or put together training programs on the go is debunked now.
On the contrary, they are the ones who take a backseat and empower agents to be customer service mavericks. They have the pressure to deliver on support leaders’ expectations and deal with the consequences if agent performance is not up to the mark.
Supervisors like Allen know how to keep the team's morale high even during tough situations. Moreover, new challenges are constantly popping up in the contact center space, be it crashing KPIs or a torrent of tricky tickets, but Allen doesn’t bat an eye.
Today, support center supervisors are on the front line, taking calculated risks and investing in agent well-being. They wouldn’t hesitate to take one for the team, plus they go all out to mentor agents to achieve success at every step of the way. Hence, the onus is on the contact center leaders to provide them with the right tools and technology so their work gets streamlined and they are able to build a team of high-performing customer support agents.