Congratulations! You've joined the growing ranks of accomplished contact center managers asked to bring direction and accountability to the back office. Every department has its challenges, and in your first two weeks you will doubtless take basic steps to foster a high-performing environment. Before you can apply your unique and valuable contact center experience, take one step back and consider this guide to the first two weeks in the back office.
Day 0: Set Aside Your Expectations
Life in the contact center isn't easier than life in the back office, but it is more transparent. Automatic call distributor reader boards and real-time workforce management dashboards make it easier to spot low productivity in the contact center. Back office employees are almost always underutilized, spending as much as 50 percent of their time on non-work activities, which presents enormous opportunity for you. In addition, deciding what the optimal level of productivity should be is tricky. In time you will be able to quantify performance and manage the back office to standards that you develop and that are appropriate for your organization, but employee performance data likely won't be available during your first week on the job. Be patient.
Days 1-7: Arrive Ready to Listen
The biggest win you can earn in your first week is to ask more than you state, and listen more than you speak. Seek enlightenment from supervisors and key employees. Ask them what they think you need to know and what would make their lives easier in the weeks and months to come. Listen, document their concerns, and read back what you’ve learned to make sure they know they’ve been heard.
Days 7-14: Now Communicate Your Goals
You won't reclaim all 50 percent of lost employee work time, although utilization rates in the 80 percent range are a good target. People don't like surprises, and they don't like being asked to hit a target that is unreasonable. Ensure that your entire organization, from supervisors to entry-level clerks, understand how and why your background in the contact center will be valuable in the back office. Also let them know how and why targets for productivity, service levels, error reduction or other tangible metrics will be changing. This does not actually need to happen in a day-one, big bang fashion, but it should be at the core of every decision you make for the short term. Crawl, walk, and then – run!
The first two weeks will be busy, but your job doesn't end there. Although some processes are different, remember that your skills and experience as a manager will pay off. The types of fires you will be asked to fight in the back office are very similar to those of the contact center. Customer escalations may come at a slower pace because the back office has few real-time customer interactions, but complaints are complaints at any level. And the work you do to listen to employees and be heard by the rest of the organization is the same in any setting.
Take a look at our New Manager’s Guide on how to succeed during your first year in the back office.