Training & Development

Team Leader Training – 10 skills new team leaders need to know.

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- erforming 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!

Later in my career, I became the training manager at another organization where we rolled out a companywide leadership program that included all of the contact center’s team managers and trainers. Our CEO felt that it was vital for every leader within the company— ncluding frontline leaders—to be able to coach their teams to improved performance. The result was a highly trained team manager group that was able to coach their agents into providing great customer service.

New Team Leaders: Basic Training

Do you set up your newly promoted team leaders for success by ensuring that they receive the proper training? The following is a checklist of 10 skills (basic and advanced) that new team leaders will need to be highly effective in their roles.

1. How to be an effective coach
Coaching your agents to improved 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 standards 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 /human resource issues
Frontline supervisors have to deal with a number of employment law and human resourcerelated 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 improve team morale. As a result, agents will be well informed and enthusiastic. This can lead to better customer service and sales results for your contact center.

5. How to motivate their team of Agents
Motivational skills are at the core of any good leadership training program. Your frontline leaders must understand how to motivate their team. They 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 being publicly recognized for providing great customer service or being a top sales performer. Your team leaders must learn how to build a good working relationship with their agents so they can discover what truly motivates them.

Advanced Team Manager Skills

In addition to these basic skills, some organizations require team leaders to perform more advanced duties. For instance, a smaller contact center may need its team leaders to perform tasks that would normally fall to the workforce management team or project team in a bigger contact center. Or it may be because a company wants to groom its team leaders for more senior positions by growing their management skill sets. Whatever the case, the following is a quick look at some of these enhanced skills.

6. How to interview prospective Agents
I have seen many contact centers invite team leaders to participate in panel interviews with prospective agents. These organizations value their team leaders’ input: Since they are are close to the front line, they know the most important characteristics for the job. They may also ask valuable questions about the job that are not in the recruiter’s interview script.

On the other hand, team leaders who have not been trained in interviewing skills may put your company at risk by asking illegal or unprofessional questions during an interview. These questions can expose your organization to liability issues.

7. How to facilitate training sessions
Many contact centers ask their team leaders to deliver training during team meetings. However, training is a very specific skill. I have seen too many team leaders assume that training means lecturing their agents during meetings. Another common mistake is simply handing out the written training package and asking if there are any questions.

Make sure that your team leaders have completed a proper train-the-trainer program before asking them to deliver training. This will help them to develop their facilitation skills so that they can effectively transfer their knowledge to their agents.

8. How to deliver quarterly and annual reviews
Employee review time can be very stressful for all involved. It is stressful for the agents who are receiving the evaluation. After all, their salaries, bonuses and continued employment depend upon a positive review. But it can also be stressful for team leaders who don’t know how to write and deliver an employee evaluation. Making sure that team leaders are trained on how to conduct a proper review is critical to maintaining agent performance and morale. A well-handled review session can motivate an agent to perform better, while a poorly delivered review can ruin an agent’s confidence and enthusiasm.

9. How to schedule coverage for the phones
In some smaller call centers, team leaders are responsible for creating the shift schedules for their teams. Training them on workforce management techniques can help them to perform that part of their job more effectively.

10. How to manage Projects
Both small and large centers sometimes ask team leaders to take on additional projects. Some examples include organizing an ad hoc committee of agents to suggest process improvements or loaning a team leader to another department for a specific marketing or IT project. Sending team leaders to a project management seminar is a great way to equip them with the skills they need for such roles. They can learn how to develop a project plan, implement deadlines and manage resources. This will increase their ability to successful complete their special projects.

Training Provides a Solid Payoff

Coaching, communication and the ability to motivate others are some of the techniques that make up the skill sets of great team leaders. It may take several training sessions, spread out over a year, to fully train your management team, but the ROI can be substantial in customer and employee retention, as well as increased performance. Invest in your frontline supervisors. Set them up for success by training them on how to bring out the best in your agents.

 – Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline,

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