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' calls.

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 retention.

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 team morale.

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.


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.


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