As a call centre manager (also called a contact centre), you'll ensure that calls, emails and webchats are answered by staff within agreed time scales and in an appropriate manner.

You'll be responsible for meeting, and possibly setting, customer service targets as well as planning areas of improvement or development. You'll coordinate and motivate call centre staff and may manage staff recruitment.

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.

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, product support, 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 you'll typically need to:

  • manage the daily running of the call centre, including sourcing equipment, effective resource planning and applying call centre strategies and operations
  • undertake needs assessments, performance reviews and cost/benefit analyses
  • set/meet performance targets for speed, efficiency, sales and quality
  • ensure all relevant communications and data are updated and recorded
  • advise clients on products and services available
  • liaise with supervisors, team leaders, operatives and third parties to gather information and resolve issues
  • maintain up-to-date knowledge of industry developments and involvement in networks
  • monitor random calls to improve quality, minimise errors and track operative performance
  • coordinate staff recruitment, write job adverts and liaise with HR staff
  • review the performance of staff, identify training needs and plan training sessions
  • record statistics, user rates and the performance levels of the centre
  • prepare reports on these statistics, rates and performance levels
  • handle the most complex customer complaints or enquiries
  • organise shift patterns and the number of staff required to meet demand
  • coach, motivate and retain staff
  • coordinate bonus, reward and incentive schemes
  • forecast and analyse 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 of between £18,000 and £26,000.
  • At manager level, salaries can vary widely from around £20,000 to 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 and so on).

Additional benefits may include performance bonuses, gym membership and store discounts.

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.
  • 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, although some call centres may require staff to have specialist knowledge in a particular area such as financial services or IT.

The following subjects may improve your chances with specialist employers:

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

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.

There are a number of customer service and contact centre qualifications available. For example, Pearson offers the BTEC Apprenticeships (QCF) in Customer Service and Contact Centre Operations at intermediate and advanced level.

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

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • excellent communication skills, both written and verbal
  • strong interpersonal skills to be able to deal with people at all levels
  • analytical skills to interpret data and trends
  • numerical skills to understand financial and budget management
  • a strong customer focus and excellent telephone manner
  • leadership skills and the ability to motivate and develop staff
  • the ability to work well in teams
  • the ability to work under pressure, manage your time effectively and work on your own initiative
  • a desire to help others work towards targets and develop their skills
  • confidence and good business sense
  • the ability to set, meet and exceed targets
  • a focused and self-motivated approach to work
  • a flexible attitude and the ability to manage change.

For some roles, foreign language skills may be a benefit.

Work experience

Relevant work experience in a contact centre or customer services role will enhance your prospects. Sales and marketing experience, as well as general administration work, is also useful.

You can get experience through part-time or vacation work. There are also summer placements available in areas such as sales and marketing.

Previous experience managing a contact centre, customer service team or sales team is particularly helpful.

Employers

Many organisations across a range of sectors use call centres as a key function of the business. These include:

  • 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 may 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.

Membership of the Call Centre Management Association (CCMA) provides access to training courses, events, virtual learning programmes, seminars and conferences, which also provide opportunities to network with other call centre managers. Members also have access to a hotline and career development support and guidance.

Research, training, and networking opportunities are also available from The Institute of Customer Service (ICS).

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.

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