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Agent Perspective: Transitioning From Call Center Agent to Team Lead

This post originally appeared on the Call Center Weekly blog on June 28, 2013.

Many organizations utilize the role of team lead in order to provide a management career path for their internal agents. These agents already know the ins and outs of their company’s call center and can be a great resource for their peers. However, the transition from being an agent to leading a team can sometimes be a stressful and challenging one as the team lead has to find a way to balance their management responsibilities with their responsibilities as an agent. Having made this transition myself, here are some tips for new call center team leads or those interested in the role:

1. Look out for your team

Sometimes it can be difficult to get buy-in from your team, especially if you were promoted from within and they are still used to seeing you as a fellow agent. With your new responsibilities, you probably won’t be able to spend as much time on the phone, putting a greater weight on your team. It’s important to acknowledge that and use your newfound role to help relieve them whenever possible. If you can jump in and take some calls, great, but maybe you won’t always be able to. In that case, get creative. Find them projects or training time that will get them some relief from the phone while still contributing to the department. If you can get them an extra break on a slow Friday afternoon or let them go home early, go for it. Just make sure you keep your manager in the loop with whatever you choose to do, leading into tip #2…

2. Stay on the same page with your manager

The team lead role is often a hybrid position between manager and agent. Thus, it is important to make sure you discuss with your manager what their expectations are for balancing your role. Sometimes a team lead might be 80% manager, 20% agent and sometimes they might be 80% agent, 20% manager, and it’s important to know where you are on the spectrum. I’m fortunate to be in a position where my manager takes a fairly hands-off approach due to the very technical nature of my team’s job duties. I am empowered to make management-level decisions as long as I keep my manager posted on any actions I take and can explain the rationale behind my decisions. If I make the wrong decision, it is OK as long as I learn from it and can grow. And as any manager could tell you, there usually aren’t clear ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ decisions. But even in my role, the amount of responsibility I have has increased substantially from when I started as team lead, so it’s important to have ongoing dialogue to make sure you and your manager are in sync.

3. The customer is still your top stakeholder

The ultimate purpose of the call center is outstanding customer service. It’s easy to focus on winning approval from above and below (your direct reports and your direct manager), but don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Make sure your actions and decisions start with the customer first. As team lead, you may be the escalation point for dissatisfied customers or difficult to resolve issues. This is a great opportunity to set the customer service standard for the rest of the business. If there’s a policy or problem that’s resulting in customer dissatisfaction, try to correct it! This will lead to both internal and external recognition of your efforts and inspire those around you to focus on their customer service as well.