Sept. 22, 2014 - If you put an employment listing for a call center customer service agent on craigslist you’ll probably get a good response. Many of them will be those looking for their first “real” job – people who, to date, have worked at grocery stores, fast food restaurants, worked construction and so forth. Now they want something else so they figure they’ll give call center services work a try.
But companies need call center customer service representatives who are doing more than giving customer service a try. They need experienced professionals who actually enjoy helping people get the information they need, the service they need, the products they need. They have a customer service ethic, and it shows in everything they do.
And they need a whole host of skills. Whereas it used to be that customer service agents need master nothing more complicated than the telephone, now that same representative working at a multi-media “contact center” will be expected to write cogent and informative live chat answers and email responses. They also must be able to navigate various CRM systems, helping with order processing and credit card charges and shipping updates.
So – the first step toward hiring excellent call center representatives is understanding all that the job entails.
- Great written and spoken communication ability: Contact center agents answer thousands of phone calls every month and they must enter the outcome of the calls within the call center’s, or the outsourced client’s, software system. That means they must be good listeners, they must be well informed, knowledgeable and very good at breaking down information such that many different types of customers can understand the information being shared. They must be patient and empathetic, to adopt a friendly, helpful tone and they must be able to reflect the personality and brand of the client. They must be able to enter information accurately, quickly and completely.
- As mentioned, they must perform well with both verbal and technical skills – and written skills.
- The level of detail requiring attention from a customer service representative is high. Answers must be accurate and processes must be executed flawlessly or the entire customer service process breaks down – quickly. And the consequences are high. A customer who receives poor service may be lost forever. Worse, that person may tell friends and family about their negative experience. All of this must be avoided.
- Analytics: First and foremost, as a problem solver the call center agent has to quickly understand the customer’s need and come to the right conclusion regarding the best solution to that problem.
- Make sure the applicant has good references from previous employers particularly in the areas of timeliness and reliability. Customer service representatives who are habitually late or absent are a liability to the organization.
- Before committing to the applicant as a bona fide employee, hire them on a probationary basis – 90 days is a good length of time. A key attribute for the new hire is their “train-ability” – beyond the soft skills required of any customer service professional, do they quickly absorb the unique needs of various clients? Can they handle customers of multiple clients simultaneously? Do they have good typing skills?
The probationary period is critical to making a complete assessment of the new employee. It enables managers to examine the new staff member through multiple prisms and make an informed intelligent decision on their permanent status.
Mark Fichera, CEO