Being a supervisor—a manager, a team leader, whatever title that comes with the territory—isn’t the same as it was just a few short years ago. This is especially true in contact, service, and communications centers.

Supervisors Have It Rough

After years of enterprises planning for digital transformation and technology innovations that could turn the contact center into a more connected, omnichannel, omnipresent engagement hub, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that pathway to change. Carefully laid-out five-year plans were tossed out the window. Suddenly the teeming floors of contact centers were empty, with workers sent home armed with new laptops and headsets. Everyone, from C-suite leaders to customers calling in, had to trust in technology (and each other), assuming the way we all worked “before” would translate into how work needed to happen in the most insane times.

But something interesting happened in this acceleration of digital transformation: We forgot about the art of being a supervisor. While tools and systems were put into place to allow agents to be highly productive and effective, and executive dashboards and analytics systems were implemented to give senior leadership visibility across the board, tools and technologies for supervisors made a strange shift from tools built to support to tools built to surveil.

We forgot that supervisors don’t just appear—they become—and, more importantly, they grow on the job. They become great supervisors because they understand the role, responsibilities, and requirements of being an agent while simultaneously increasing their own understanding of the business and the impact they make in their leadership role. They are constantly learning and adjusting on the job, coaching individuals and facilitating change across teams while still retaining that skill and empathy that made them terrific agents in the first place. What supervisors had not been expected to be, until now, were technologists and digital transformation experts.

While agents were pushed to transition their workspaces and styles in the shift to working from home, supervisors had to shift right along with them, relearning the act of being a successful agent-from-anywhere while also relearning how to inspire, motivate, and lead under new and often challenging circumstances. Supervisors added technical support and change management to their already-filled leadership cards as entire business models pivoted to a new normal. And then, once everyone was settled into a groove of working from home and engagement-everywhere, the world shifted again with the emergence of new hybrid work models that would once again ask supervisors to stay multiple steps ahead of the pack.

In the name of digital transformation, new tools were introduced, bringing the power of data, analytics, and workflows to the fingertips of every agent, lead, supervisor, and C-suite leader. Agents could now engage with customers in a far more effective, efficient, and productive way as years of separated and segmented screens and tools began to consolidate into a single, easy-to-consume and even customized layer.

Similarly, tools for the C-suite were introduced to give top-level visibility across business strategy key performance indicators (KPIs), showcasing how workforce and workflow automations could impact growth. Toolkits powered by artificial intelligence (AI) invited leaders to ask new questions and interrogate results in new ways, flexibly giving new insights and context that could accelerate decision velocity.

Supervisors got more tools, more windows, and more screens.

Trained to Toggle, Not Transform

Today’s tools are unintentionally reactive, alerting supervisors to issues or the emergence of negative outcomes. While agents are empowered to proactively engage with customers to solidify relationships and deliver optimized experiences, supervisors are left to play whack-a-mole, juggling everything from agent performance data to workforce management, scheduling, and real-time conversation analytics—and all of this is before tackling coaching and flexing the very skills that promoted these leaders from agent to manager or supervisor.

Today’s modern, cloud-native, data-rich communications platforms offer an opportunity to break this cycle for supervisors and reinvigorate the art of supervising the front line of customer experience delivery. Thanks to the composability that cloud architectures provide, supervisors can be met with more flexible and contextual workspace canvases that are personalized to their priorities. In the same way that cloud solutions have delivered exceptional customizations to take the chore out of work for the contact center agent, this same user-centricity is required for leaders.

So how do we start to address the gap that exists between the demands of the modern contact center supervisor and the tools and resources available to these growth leaders? What should a supervisor’s experience look or feel like?

The Top 5 Requirements of a Supervisor’s Workspace Experience

Intuitive: Supervisors shouldn’t have to moonlight as dashboard architects. They also shouldn’t need a Ph.D. in user experience (UX) design to create digital workspaces that centralize the insights, information, and visibility they need to drive performance and move their teams forward.

Extensible: The capacity to extend visibility or enhance capabilities should be at the control of the individual entrusted with the leadership of a team or a function. With libraries of tools, widgets, or templates, supervisors should have the opportunity to enrich and extend as quickly as they centralize and control.

Composable: Composability isn’t just about the capacity to move modules or widgets around a page: It is as much about the microservices architecture underpinning the system that allows for data and intelligence to freely flow to exactly where a user wants and needs it. For the contact center supervisor, that translates into the freedom to view data based on current priorities—priorities that can shift month to month. It also translates into an almost infinite extensibility of where data and intelligence can come from, be it from within the organization or from third-party sources that can all work in concert to accelerate decision velocity.

Intelligent: AI and machine learning (ML) models have been regularly applied to bubble up recommendations and next-best actions, but in supervisor modules they are all too often deployed to react to negative sentiments or scenarios. It is time for AI to take on a far more critical task: proactive experiences, for the agent and the customer. Much like assisted or guided interactions for agents, supervisors should have access to smart coaching and performance recommendations that drive faster decisions and accelerate prioritization. Workspaces should be contextually aware, able to flex and automatically adjust based on priorities and patterns.

Personal: Every team member, manager, and supervisor is unique, meaning their tools and workspaces should be personalized to how they work and how they lead. Thanks to data and libraries being decoupled from presentation layers and experiences, what is right for one manager doesn’t have to be right for the next, allowing for independent controls and modular interfaces that pull data and intelligence directly from a wide array of sources, including third-party sources.

Too Much at Stake

This may seem like a tall order—fully composable, contextual, and intensely personalized workspaces purpose-built for the modern supervisor. But when you consider just how much rides on the success of our supervisors and leaders, raising the expectation bar for the tools and systems we put in place for our leaders shouldn’t feel unreasonable. It should be an expectation. After all, there is an art to being (and staying) a successful supervisor. The real question should be, are we willing to risk losing something that directly impacts and shapes customer outcomes?