The supervisor or team lead role is a crucial one in a BPO environment. Getting the most from that role requires a strategic approach to training that moves beyond core skills to a holistic approach. Getting the best from a star agent moving into the supervision role can be particularly tricky, so ensuring that training meets those needs is key.
BPO contact centers are somewhat notorious for high attrition rates and are often perceived as offering little in the way of career progression, which is why training existing agents to take on the team lead role is crucial.
Kevin Berchelmann, President of Triangle Performance, LLC, a Houston-based management consulting firm, emphasized that “successful contact center—particularly BPO—supervisors can reduce attrition, maximize billing opportunities, increase productivity and create client relationships that are unbeatable. Their development is certainly worth the effort.”
Getting the Basics Right
Triangle Performance has contact center clients in Monterrey and Aguascalientes, Mexico. Berchelmann said that they are very different locations with different approaches to development. “In both locations, we have multiple ‘generations’ of supervisors developing, and being developed,” he said.
“All existing supervisors have gone through training, and we have a reasonable number of ‘next-gen’ agents trained and ready for supervisory opportunities—essential for contact center growth,” Berchelmann added.
He said that in the past three years, their attrition has been reduced by 70%, their conformance and adherence increased by 14%, and their hiring efforts are decidedly easier. “Now we have employees joining the company because of career path opportunities,” he said.
Berchelmann said that it is important that training is repeated. “You must continue the development, it isn’t a one-time event,” he said. He added that you should focus on the basics. “Quit chasing fads and “new” techniques; it’s the foundations that will make BPO supervisors successful,” he said.
Aim to Train All Supervisors
Finding the time to train supervisors or potential team leads is difficult and then there is the question of who to train. Qualfon’s approach is to train all its supervisors.
According to Qualfon, every supervisor is required to complete 19 management courses. “As part of the training, supervisors also attain green belt certification through the International Six Sigma Institute, an independent certification company,” the company stated in a press release.
The Qualfon Leadership Academy is a company-wide initiative to develop leaders at all levels. It aligns those in leadership roles with Qualfon’s company mission enabling them to motivate and develop employees while effectively utilizing data-driven problem solving methodologies to proactively manage their responsibilities.
Leadership or training academies such as Qualfon’s are relatively common across BPO vendors, with companies recognizing the need to train employees in-house.
While training might delivered in-house, it need not stop there. FirstSource Solutions USA is working on partnering with Ulster University and potentially US colleges to accredit its internal training program so that employees can apply them as credit towards a college degree.
“We did a roadshow to sites to talk about what’s new and to introduce Ulster university and our jetset program for leadership under FirstSource Academy and by far the most interest we had was around the college program,” said Elvin Heiberg, Vice President Human Resources, Firstsource Solutions USA. The project of accreditation is still in the planning phases, but Heiberg said that it will be a significant incentive for employees.
“We win and lose at the team lead/ supervisory level,” Heiberg said, adding that supervisors play a vital role in ensuring that the cultural values of FirstSource are enacted and lived on the floor.
Match to Purpose
Making the transition to being the “boss” of agents who were previously your peers can be particularly difficult and new supervisors will need help ensuring that they are able to separate personal relationships from evaluation in order to ensure efficiencies.
Berchelmann said that the best agent is not necessarily the best supervisor. “The best BPO supervisors want to make a difference in others, have demonstrable empathy, and are willing to try new things to get better,” he said.
Stephen Ferber, Managing Partner at Golden Gate BPO Solutions, LLC, agreed that good agents do not necessarily make for good supervisors. “It is important to emphasize to agents that do apply for supervisor or leader positions and who are unsuccessful, where they can improve. It is a teachable moment for them.”
Ferber added that having a curriculum that moves beyond just core contact skills is imperative. ” We offer other training on general business topics and some things that might be unrelated to the contact center industry,” he said, adding that it is a way to grow and develop people who may not necessarily be in the industry long-term.
Broadening the skills base makes sense in terms of equipping all employees with skills that are transferable. “You never know when an agent may get stuck at team lead and not be able to move into a a more senior supervisory role,” he said. “You may have to counsel that agent, who excels as an agent, that although they are not a fit for supervisor, they may be better suited for a training post.”
Upward mobility is an important factor in addressing attrition rates and showing employees that they have options beyond the obvious opens up that career trajectory even further.