If you thrive on leading a team in a customer-focused role a career as a call centre manager could be for you

As the manager of a call centre (also called a contact centre) you will be responsible for the daily running and management of the centre through the effective use of resources.

You'll have responsibility for meeting, and possibly setting, customer service targets as well as planning areas of improvement or development. Call centre managers ensure that calls and emails are answered by staff within agreed time scales and in an appropriate manner.

Call centre managers liaise with businesses for which they provide the first response, as well as the third parties who supply products to the centre. You'll coordinate and motivate call centre staff and may manage staff recruitment.

Responsibilities

There are two main types of call centre, although some centres may incorporate both functions:

  • inbound centres - receive calls and emails from customers and clients, e.g. queries, requests, orders and complaints;
  • outbound centres - contact potential customers and clients with the aim of gathering information or selling a product.

Your duties vary according to the type of centre you work in but generally involve:

  • managing the daily running of the call centre, including sourcing equipment, effective resource planning and implementing call centre strategies and operations;
  • carrying out needs assessments, performance reviews and cost/benefit analyses;
  • setting and meeting performance targets for speed, efficiency, sales and quality;
  • ensuring all relevant communications, records and data are updated and recorded;
  • advising clients on products and services available;
  • liaising with supervisors, team leaders, operatives and third parties to gather information and resolve issues;
  • maintaining up-to-date knowledge of industry developments and involvement in networks;
  • monitoring random calls to improve quality, minimise errors and track operative performance;
  • coordinating staff recruitment, including writing vacancy advertisements and liaising with HR staff;
  • reviewing the performance of staff, identifying training needs and planning training sessions;
  • recording statistics, user rates and the performance levels of the centre and preparing reports;
  • handling the most complex customer complaints or enquiries;
  • organising staffing, including shift patterns and the number of staff required to meet demand;
  • coaching, motivating and retaining staff and coordinating bonus, reward and incentive schemes;
  • forecasting and analysing data against budget figures on a weekly and/or monthly basis.

Salary

  • First posts with managerial responsibility tend to be at senior adviser, or team-leader level, with a salary ranging between £18,000 and £26,000.
  • At manager level, salaries vary widely between £20,000 and in excess of £60,000 with opportunities to earn commission. Senior-level salaries tend to have bonuses and other benefits attached.

Salaries vary greatly according to the location, size (usually measured in 'seats') and type of call centre (financial, cold selling, public service, educational, etc).

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours regularly include unsocial hours, particularly in the early stages of a career. Some call centres operate usual office hours but others may be open up to 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Some centres target overseas clients in different time zones.

It is common to work additional hours or overtime at management level to allow representatives of the management team to be present on a rota basis throughout the call centre's opening hours.

What to expect

  • Jobs are often in large, open offices that may be noisy and fast-paced. As technology advances, the virtual call centre is also developing, creating opportunities for staff to work from home. Product experts may be on call, creating new challenges for managerial staff. Call centres may be scaled up and down to accommodate seasonal fluctuation. It is the call centre manager's responsibility to optimise the workforce during this time.
  • Job-share posts are available. Freelance and consultancy work in staff training or project management is available for experienced call centre managers.
  • Dress code tends to be smart, with a requirement to wear suits and formal clothing once on the management team, although call centre operatives tend to wear smart/casual clothes. Uniforms are not usually required.
  • You need to enjoy working in a fast-paced work environment as the majority of call centres are target driven and certain results are expected.
  • Travel within the working day and overseas work and travel are uncommon, as is absence from home overnight. Some managers may be seconded to other sites to set up operations or work on a large-scale project for the company, and this may involve working away from home.

Qualifications

Entry is generally open to all graduates and those with a HND, although some call centres may require their staff to have specialist knowledge or fluency in a foreign language.

The following subjects may improve your chances with specialist employers (for example, an IT helpdesk or airline):

  • business or management;
  • chemical and physical sciences;
  • computer science or software engineering;
  • electrical or mechanical engineering;
  • finance and accounting;
  • languages.

Entry without a degree or HND is possible at call centre operative level, with the chance to work your way up to a management role.

Personal qualities and a pragmatic, common-sense attitude are likely to be more important than the subject and level of study.

BTEC Apprenticeships (QCF) in Customer Service and Contact Centre Operations are also available at intermediate and advanced level. For details see Pearson qualifications.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • excellent communication skills;
  • a strong customer focus and a good telephone manner;
  • the ability to work well in teams;
  • leadership skills and the ability to motivate and develop staff;
  • a desire to help others work towards targets and develop their skills;
  • confidence and a good business sense;
  • the ability to set, meet and exceed targets;
  • a focused and self-motivated approach to work;
  • the ability to manage change.

Employers

Many organisations across a range of sectors use call centres as a key function of the business, for example:

  • financial services institutions (banks and insurance companies);
  • utilities providers;
  • IT solution providers (product support helplines);
  • health (private healthcare);
  • travel;
  • retail;
  • legal advice services;
  • government departments (including those that handle sensitive material and crime information);
  • telecommunications;
  • emergency services.

Other employment opportunities could be with shared service centres (SSCs). Similar to call centres in how they operate, SSCs are created by global companies to centralise all corporate services in their main areas of operation, such as IT, finance and HR.

Look for job vacancies at:

Vacancies are also advertised through specialist recruitment agencies such as Call Centre Recruitment. Recruitment for many of the larger call centres is handled by recruitment agencies, which may have an office on the call centre site and deal with applications, interviewing and inductions.

Relevant work experience in a customer services role will enhance your prospects.

Professional development

Training for call centre managers tends to be on the job and continues through all grades.

Training aims to provide managers with essential skills and knowledge related to the effective control of incoming/outgoing calls, as well as planning development, resource allocation and staffing issues.

Other areas covered by training include:

  • budgeting;
  • business strategy;
  • employment law and human resource (HR) issues;
  • legislative and cultural issues;
  • performance management;
  • planning and control;
  • regulatory issues;
  • technical development and awareness;
  • work conditions and staff morale.

A number of recognised and approved training courses for call centre managers are provided by the CCMA. These include one-day courses in areas such as:

  • call centre operations;
  • performance management;
  • workforce management.

They also provide one-to-one mentoring for call centre managers and team leaders. You can study online for the CCMA and Professional Planning Forum’s BSc in Customer Contact Planning and Management, which is provided by the University of Ulster.

A range of training courses in areas such as first impressions and service management are available via the Institute of Customer Service (ICS). Membership of the CCMA or ICS is also useful for networking and career development opportunities.

Masters and MBA courses in subjects such as performance management may be useful.

Career prospects

Many graduates gain experience in other areas of sales and marketing and develop their skills before moving into a call centre manager role. Alternatively, they may join a call centre as operatives and progress with experience to supervisor and then manager level.

Generally, outbound centres have a higher staff turnover and can offer quicker promotion opportunities. For outbound sales, determination and resilience can lead to rapid progression within the sector.

Career progression may involve managing larger call centres or specialising in certain aspects of call centre management. This might include:

  • designing the layout of a call centre;
  • developing a customer service focus;
  • report writing or analysis;
  • training staff.

Call centre managers may even move to roles where call centre management is only one aspect of their job. For example, research managers may be responsible for coordinating market research projects and data management.

You may also become involved with the training and development of other centre managers or may move into management consultancy and specialise in advising call centres. There may be the opportunity to be a divisional manager, coordinating a number of call centres.

There are also opportunities for you to work abroad. For links to call centre management professional bodies throughout the world see the CCMA.