An Interim manager helps a contact center transition to new leadership when finding & developing the new leader requires time & experience.

By Peg Ayers

When your contact center manager leaves, or you create a new management position, you should always look for a long-term replacement, right?  Not necessarily.  While a long-term replacement is often the right move, sometimes it’s better to transition with an interim manager.

An interim manager is an experienced contact center manager who leads your center for a defined length of time, perhaps three to six months, and then turns over the reins to a new long-term manager hired or promoted by your organization.

Why not simply hire the long-term manager right away?  Why delay with interim management?

Reasons for an Interim Manager

Potential successors need development.

As part of regular succession planning, the organization should have identified one or more potential successors to the contact center manager. But those people may not be ready when the center manager leaves.  An interim manager can bridge that gap, developing candidates and providing feedback on their strengths and opportunities.  The candidates can take on special projects that prepare them for the open management role, allowing them to show their skills and abilities and identifying gaps in their understanding.  Leadership responsibilities can be delegated to them, letting them grow in a safe setting, without the full weight of the contact center on their shoulders.

Candidates need time to adjust relationships.

When an individual makes a career leap into center management and is suddenly responsible for former peers, relationships can become strained, as we discussed in our article Where are my friends?  The transition period provided by interim management allows attitudes to shift, among peers and front-line staff, as people begin to consider the idea of Candidate A, B or C becoming the center leader.  It allows the candidates to adjust their relationships and to begin to think of themselves in a more responsible role.

No potential successors exist.

If no potential successors exist, it’s time to take a critical look at your hiring and succession planning. Meantime, you have no choice but to look outside the organization for the next contact center leader.  This can be handled by an executive recruiter, an outside consultant, or your own Human Resources department.

When choosing an executive recruiter, look for one who has placed contact center leaders before and who has a network of high-level contacts in that field.  A recruiter who normally helps you hire your salespeople may tell you contact centers are just more of the same, but they’re not.  You want specialized skills and experience, not somebody who’s managed other groups and now wants to try their hand at something new.

If you use a consultant to find your next center leader, the same applies.  They must be contact center experts, with strong connections in the field and a clear matrix of desired traits against which each candidate will be measured.

If you’re using your own Human Resources department, make sure they understand the level of experience and skill you need in this position.  The right candidate will be able to clearly articulate a vision for the center and a plan to bring that about, with specifics in the areas of coaching and development, training, quality assurance and workforce management.

The center is in turmoil.

Your center manager may leave your organization smoothly and calmly, but they may leave abruptly, leaving a center in chaos and staff in need of immediate reassurance and guidance.  Hiring the right center manager takes time, and leaving the staff in turmoil is not good for your organization or your customers.  An interim manager has the experience to create calm from chaos and keep your staff focused on your organization’s objectives.

Top leadership doesn’t have time to run the contact center.

Running a contact center is not something done in one’s spare time—it takes significant focus and energy.  The senior leader responsible for the contact center may step in as interim manager, but it will soon be clear that it’s a full-time job, not one to be added to one’s “day job.”  Unless they came up through the ranks and previously ran the contact center, the senior leader will not have the experience and knowledge to manage the daily contact center operation.  And, regardless of career path, they won’t have the time.  The interim manager will be solely focused on the contact center—not distracted by other responsibilities and obligations.

Expectations of an Interim Manager

Interim Management of your contact center may be a 40 hour plus job, but it may be much less, depending on the complexity of your business and the quality of your contact center staff.  If the supervisors are experienced and take initiative, the interim manager can focus on higher level opportunities, like analyzing processes and developing candidates for promotion, and may work as few as 20 hours per week.

Staff Development

The interim manager needs to focus on what follows their own tenure—how can the center be left in the best shape possible for the new contact center manager?  The priority here is staff development.  A new contact center leader who starts off with a competent, cohesive, and enthusiastic team is well on the way to success on the first day.

Process Improvement

One of the advantages of an interim contact center manager is gaining a new set of eyes to review current processes.  From Customer Relationship Management to Quality Assurance to Workforce Management, the interim manager should be reviewing processes with the staff and assisting them in creating a system for making regular improvements.  It’s important the interim manager does not take on too many tasks directly.  This person’s role is transitory; they should not be making themselves indispensable by inserting themselves into the day-to-day details.  Their focus must be on the future, which will be unfolding without their participation.

Advising on Candidate Suitability

A center may have one or more candidates for the contact center leader position among the current staff.  If one was clearly ready, that person would have been promoted immediately.  Calling in an interim manager implies that nobody is completely ready.  In addition to developing all the staff, the interim contact center manager should be working with these candidates to determine their readiness for the next step.  The interim manager should be prepared to discuss with senior leadership each person’s strengths and areas of opportunity and have a plan in place to prepare them for promotion.

It’s important to maintain a supportive team atmosphere throughout the interim management period, even though candidates may be competing for the same job.  The interim manager must create and nurture this atmosphere.

While it may be tempting to choose a good supervisor to move up to the contact center manager position, it’s important to maintain fairness in this process.  Depending on company guidelines, it may be best to post the open position for the entire company, with clear experience/education requirements to weed out inappropriate candidates.


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(Apr 23, 2021)