Nearshore Americas

The Stressors of the Call Center Experience: A View into the Trenches

To the outside world, call center sourcing is one of the most visible among BPO activities. Contrary to back-office processing or F&A, call centers usually directly engage the public in sales or customer service roles. Along with this comes unique stresses – not just  from dealing in a problem-solving role with customers who at times can be quite infuriated, but also from representing the client’s reputation and  bottom-line.

Nearshore Americas spoke to some call center veterans in order to get a feel for just what’s it like on the front lines of call center BPO, including Renato Mota, Senior Manager at Allied Global, (with main offices in Guatemala City) and Beatriz Peralta, Director of Area Operations for Sykes El Salvador Ltd. Two of Peralta’s operations directors, Marbry Perez and Jose Castaneda, also contributed to the interview.

NSAM: As a floor manager or site director, what are the most common stressful stresses that you encounter in this role that sets it apart from other occupations?

Mota: The most common stressor found at this level of management is that the ultimate responsibility for everything will always reside with you. No matter how the operation under your care is composed, regardless of how many divisions it has.

While you are at the top you will always be held responsible for the outcomes and performance of everyone.  In addition, there is a saying “it is lonely at the top”. This is very true as it is very important for the site director to maintain a healthy separation from everyone under him.

Peralta: The biggest challenge is managing in a fast and dynamic environment where change is the only constant, as well as keeping your people engaged to embrace change and adapt quickly. Additional challenges are the diversity of people management issues due to age and background differences and juggling multiple client types and business cultures.

NSAM: What unique qualities does the floor manager or site director possess that allow for long term success – and happiness on the job?

Mota: Being truly committed and in agreement with your organization´s goals. Especially in this industry, the best site directors have worked their way up the ranks and thus are uniquely qualified to understand the needs, challenges of all the positions below him/her. If you have been in the industry long enough to have become a site director; it is a perfect indicator that you enjoy the work you do, which is a must in this industry.

Peralta: Self-motivation is critical, as well as maintaining a healthy work/ life balance.  You have to be self-critical and a manger cannot be afraid to re-invent the wheel when innovation is called for.

NSAM: Do you find that Floor Managers and call center managers tend to rise from the ranks of operators and customer service representatives, or do they come in from outside, either from other management positions or as college graduates?

Mota:  It is preferable if floor managers or call center managers to have come up from the bottom of the ranks as this enables them to possess an inside perspective on how things develop at each level. These are the people who tend to be the best when reaching these levels of management.

Peralta:  I believe that as the call center industry is a people centric  business, most of the growth should come from the inside, and as such, call center managers should have a sustainable leadership pipeline to supply leadership needs at all levels. A college education may be required for some specific technical positions, but I do not consider it a sine qua non pre-requisite.  Previous managerial experience is always a plus.

NSAM: What is a typical day like for you? Walk us through the different things you spend your time on in a typical day.

Mota: I begin the day by meeting with my team, the heads of each department – operations, client services, quality assurance, workforce management, IT, facilities, human resources, marketing, and finances. This allows me to touch basis with each unit. As part of our daily meeting we discuss the past day’s results by end of business, performance trends specific to each unit, incidents and highlights of the day, so that we can resolve which business reactions will take place throughout the day to achieve desired outcomes.

Next, I review the development of our different performance progression programs and what our efforts and budgets are returning to us to assure effectiveness of each program. When necessary, our performance strategies are taken back to the drawing board for adjustments, new approaches or discontinuance if found ineffective. This is all while continuously reviewing interval result reports down to every 30 minutes (!) and taking the appropriate actions to assure each day the business closes as expected. Throughout the day, other meetings are held directly with each client. The purpose of these meetings vary, from regular updates to reviewing results or discussing different business initiatives and requests.

Peralta: A typical day for my operations managers starts with greeting for their teams and reviewing daily checkpoints, walking the floor, revising critical performance indicators, resolving critical and urgent matters, and holding project execution or planning meetings. A normal day will include conference calls and client related meetings, coaching and developing my teams through staff meetings and individual sessions, email responses, as well as regular floor walks.

NSAM: How do you recruit and retain people that can handle the unique stresses of this business?

Mota:  Our recruitment department looks for personnel based on the profile needed depending on the business vertical or line of business we are hiring for at the time. This is accomplished with a combination of a lengthy interview process that includes a variety of skill-set testing, as well as psychometric and personality tests.

We combine this with a great employee benefit package. Allied Global is a great believer in the fact that a happy and satisfied employee is a good employee. We offer a fun, interesting and safe working environment for our personnel.

Peralta: Defining the right competencies for the job and implementing a rigorous multi-step process to on-board candidates, from recruiting up to training certification during nesting, tailoring a specific competency set for the different types of contacts handled. We retain employees by ensuring that the call center atmosphere fosters a welcoming environment, assessing leadership support and having the appropriate compensation and rewards plans in place. We design attractive campaigns and foster healthy fun competitions among agents and teams and provide regular coaching and developmental sessions highlighting accomplishments and guiding opportunities.

NSAM: What is it about your work that you find particularly rewarding and satisfying? What do you like about working in your field?

Mota: Building a healthy and satisfying relationship with our clients through meeting and surpassing their service expectations. The better our company is doing the better conditions we are able to offer our current employees and at the same time, excellent performance levels result in triggering the desire of our clients to grow their business with us. This grounds the strongest and most satisfying aspect of this work for me, which is that we get to offer great jobs to many people. The better we do, the more the business grows and the more people have the opportunity to work with this great company just as I had 10 years ago.

Peralta: Having the ability to work with talented individuals from whom we learn every day, contributing to the community by sustaining a profitable business which supports over 800 families, growing and developing human capital and working in a dynamic and fast paced environment. The opportunity to exercise leadership practices daily in order to achieve goals and commitments, while developing new generations of leaders. Also, the possibility to contribute to the local economy by paying above minimum wage salaries and having a solid social responsibility program that continuously engages with our community.

Loren Moss

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