This Is How You Become The Best Customer Contact Manager!

With good intentions, you started the year with goals, ambitions, targets, KPIs, and plans to make your customer contact department the star of the show. But it’s not taking off. You spend most of your time on recruitment, exit interviews, and crisis meetings because someone has resigned again. Instead of making progress, you’re busy maintaining the status quo. It’s not what made this job enjoyable for you; in fact, it’s draining you.

Issues with finding and retaining staff are a hot topic within the customer contact industry. The challenges surrounding staff turnover are keenly felt, with solutions elusive.

After the previous email, you now understand how customer contact teams differ from other teams within organizations and what you can do as a leader to keep your team onboard. But how do you do that? I’ll guide you step-by-step plan and with concrete tips!

Step 1: Understand your team members’ backgrounds

Whether you’re just starting in the role or have been there for years: make sure you’ve personally spoken to everyone at least once, preferably much more often. Knowing their name and number is not enough. It’s also essential, for your role, to understand your team’s background. You don’t need to know everybody’s cat name or memorize their zip code, but you need to know where they’re coming from. The best way to do this is through 1:1 conversations, for example, during introductions when starting a new role or when onboarding new employees. But any random Wednesday will do. You can learn a lot about their background, challenges, desires, ambitions, fears, and strengths without being intrusive. This information lets you learn a lot about people’s values, beliefs, and personalities. You might even be able to determine who is satisfied in their role and who is already halfway out the door—and why.

Step 2: Understand the team’s daily tasks and challenges.

In addition to understanding your team members, it’s wise to take ample time to understand their work. By ample, I mean weeks or months, not just a few spare hours here and there. Sit in on the department, listen, take phone calls, answer tickets, and solve customer queries. The goal here isn’t to take over the team’s work (or to show off how good you are) but to understand the manual actions, Excel files, individual rules, general knowledge, and challenges your team faces daily. An additional advantage: you can better hold your ground in management meetings because you know the ins and outs, and you authentically reduce hierarchical distance. You can gain a lot of inspiration for improvements! Also, ask your team what they think you should solve for them. They probably won’t ask you to improve C-SAT or FTR metrics; hopefully, they care much less about that than you do. Instead, they’ll give you insights you couldn’t directly glean from the reports or provide the context you haven’t been able to find so far.

You become automatically approachable by showing genuine interest in your team and their work. This is precisely what you want to connect people to you and your team. You know the quote: People don’t leave their job, they leave their boss. You’re their boss, whether they report directly to you or whether there’s another layer in between. Don’t be a boss people want to leave.

Step 3: Stay critical of salaries

Salaries in customer contact remain an exciting debate. Employers like to believe that salary shouldn’t be the main motivation to work somewhere, but that’s an outdated notion. People work for a salary, which should be enough for a comfortable life. Additionally, let’s be honest, most salaries in customer contact are shockingly low. With great effort, the collective bargaining agreement (CAO) has increased the minimum wage, and with luck, it has been increased. Employers have to keep up with that growth. Without that external motivation, there are few companies that pay a decent salary for work in customer contact.

Furthermore, between 2006 and 2023, hourly wages remained almost the same, while the cost of living rose due to inflation. If you want people to stay with you, you have to offer them something worthwhile. It’s that simple.

Step 4: Encourage growth

At this point, you know your team, you know what talents you have, and you know what skills your employees collectively possess. It’s time to take stock. Where are the opportunities for growth? Try (together with employees or via team leaders) to determine how you can support their growth ambitions. Is it within the company? Or would it be outside the company? Make sure you’re actively networking within and outside your organization. Connect with other departments to understand their staffing challenges and find opportunities to promote your team in them. Have a difficult conversation because, as discussed last time, customer contact employees can be looked down upon. Your challenge here is to promote, sell, and create win-win situations

Step 5: Create a safe environment

Last but not least: create a safe environment. If your customer contact team is managed via direct reports, you have to realize that for team members, you are still “the manager.” This means you are inherently difficult to approach for them, even if you are very jovial at social events and hand out cookies weekly. At the same time, you should be the first point of contact in case of problems between the employee and your direct report.

How do you become approachable? Listen to initiatives and make emotional connections. Call back the same day, answer messages and emails of a personal nature within two hours. Let the team know that you are there for them and that you care about them as individuals. If you like to say your door is always open, make sure it is, and that behind that open door, an approachable and available person is presented. Safety not only concerns you, but also the extent to which you allow everyone in your team to be themselves.

Veiligheid heeft niet alleen betrekking op jou, maar ook op de mate waarin je iedereen in jouw team toestaat zichzelf te zijn. Can people be vulnerable without being ridiculed? Can someone have a bad day without consequences? Can people pitch ideas you don’t like without being shut down?

With these five clear steps, you will become the best customer contact manager in no time! Do you see yourself doing this, but need some help with it? Let’s get in touch!

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Hai! Ik ben Cynthia: expert in leiderschap van klantcontact teams

Sinds 2006 heb ik als (eind)verantwoordelijke van klantcontactteams verschillende nationale én internationale miljoenenbedrijven geholpen om hun klantcontact afdeling te verbeteren. Merken waar ik mee heb gewerkt zijn onder andere Flinndal, MessageBird, NMBRS, BESTSELLER, Talpa Network en Budget Thuis. Hier heb ik diverse veranderingen doorgevoerd op het gebied van leiderschap, team dynamieken, processen en werkwijzen.

In 2021 ben ik bekroond tot Manager of the Year door de Customer Contact Management Association (CCMA).

Eind 2022 heb ik The Caring Company opgericht en adviseer ik bedrijven in het verbeteren van de klantcontactteams, door duurzame veranderingen door te voeren.

Ben je benieuwd of en hoe ik je kan helpen bij het verbeteren van jouw klantcontactteam? Boek dan een vrijblijvende matchcall in!

Tijdens deze matchcall bespreken we jouw uitdagingen en geef ik je gelijk 3 praktische tips mee die je vandaag al kunt toepassen om jouw klantcontactteam beter te laten functioneren.

Daarnaast kijken we samen of ik de juiste persoon ben om je verder te helpen.

Lijkt het je wat, boek dan hieronder direct jouw matchcall in!