Basic Training for New Team Leaders
By Mike Aoki
"Congratulations! You have been promoted to acting supervisor." It was 1993 when
my manager pulled me aside and gave me the good news. I was thrilled at the chance
to lead a contact center group, but I was also nervous. I was a top-performing agent,
but I had never managed staff until now. Unfortunately, there was no training program
for new team leaders at this company. I had to learn everything by trial and error.
It was frustrating and counterproductive. I felt like I had been set up to fail.
Do you prepare your newly promoted team leaders for success by ensuring that they
receive the proper training? The following are five basic skills that new team leaders
will need to be highly effective in their roles.
1. How to be an effective coach. Coaching your agents to improve their performance
is the No. 1 role of a team leader. They must be able to analyze a call and provide
the proper feedback to their agents. Even if you have a dedicated quality team,
you still need team leaders who can spot opportunities for improving their agents'
Of course, identifying areas for improvement is just one part of the coaching cycle.
Team leaders also need to be trained on how to give constructive feedback. I have
seen too many first-time coaches give "constructive criticism" that insults the
agent, crushes morale and leads to poor customer service. Coaching seminars, role
plays and case studies can help a new team leader learn how to provide feedback
that boosts agent performance and improves morale.
2. How to communicate contact center metrics to their agents. New team leaders
need to understand the standard metrics used to evaluate their team's performance.
Agents who are promoted to team leader probably understand how metrics like average
handle time relate to individual performance. However, they must now relate these
metrics to their overall team's performance. More importantly, they must be able
to analyze these metrics and create a coaching plan that will help their agents
improve their results.
3. How to deal with employment law and human resource issues. It is crucial
for your team leaders to receive training on all applicable federal and state employment
laws. It is so easy for a newly promoted team leader to make an inappropriate comment
that can lead to a complaint or lawsuit.
The goal is to provide a fair and legal working environment for your agents, so
it is important that your supervisory staff conduct themselves in a professional
manner. Ensuring that team leaders behave professionally and create a good working
relationship with their agents can also improve morale and lead to increased employee
4. How to run team huddles and meetings. Veteran team leaders know how to
use team meetings and huddles (i.e., brief team meetings before a shift) to communicate
updated information and set a positive tone for the day. Newly promoted team leaders
need to learn these skills. A good leadership training program will provide them
with templates on how to set a meeting agenda, encourage interactivity and boost
5. How to motivate their team of agents. Motivational skills are at the core
of any good leadership training program. Frontline leaders need to know what makes
each agent tick. Some agents are motivated by rewards, such as bonus pay, commissions,
lieu hours (comp time), extra vacation days, etc. Other agents may be motivated
by public recognition for providing great customer service or being a top sales
performer. Team leaders must learn how to build a good working relationship with
their agents so they can discover what truly motivates them.
SNAPSHOT: BNSF Railway
When BNSF Railway's contact center leaders decided to roll out a first-call resolution
initiative, they realized that there was some groundwork to be laid first. They
needed to change the staff's mindset about call-handling. They introduced the concept
to agents at a staff meeting where they asked for feedback on individual approaches
to problem-solving, as well as input on what processes needed to be in place to
make it happen. Initial discussions with agents focused on developing an understanding
of what it meant to resolve a situation versus answering a question, since individuals
had different interpretations of it. To drive FCR performance, management provided
agents with additional training on the railway's products and business processes,
and monitored calls for problem-solving best practices and areas for further coaching
and training. Importantly, management continually stressed the importance of taking
ownership and following through, rather than speed and volume.
Read the full story here.