5 Qualities to Look for in a Potential Call-Center Agent

Updated: April 30, 2009

Introduction

Call-center managers learned long ago that an outgoing, friendly personality isn't enough to make a good call-center agent. That soothing voice could just be hiding a mushy brain. Struggling with the need to invest in modern call-center tools , turn call centers into profit centers and reduce the high rate of turnover typical in call centers everywhere, many companies are unaware of the simple solution to their call-center woes: making good hires in the first place. It isn't as easy as it sounds, but here are five qualities to consider before you make job offers you'll regret.

Analysis

Experience

Make sure a candidate's experience matches the demands of the position. Entry-level jobs require different skills than those needing Tier I individuals. Where has the person worked before? Will that previous experience help the candidate succeed in your company?


Of course, prior call-center experience is important for any potential rep. But more important is whether candidates have industry experience. For example, if they worked in insurance they may not be the right fit for an equipment supplier. Knowing their employment history will also help you determine if recruits have the ability to work with your company's telecom systems and software solutions .

Personality

An outgoing, friendly personality might not be the definitive sign of a good agent, but it certainly is one indicator. Management has to know that potential call-center reps are comfortable with various aspects of customer service — dealing with angry or upset customers being the most obvious. Conducting an interview is a good way to gauge whether a candidate has these abilities, but it may also indicate someone who is merely an experienced interviewer. Have other managers and colleagues observe the interview sessions and check references. If a candidate held a previous job for an extended period of time, he or she probably has the interpersonal skills you're looking for and is more likely to create the connections with customers that build brand loyalty.

The Right Seat on the Right Bus

Even a potentially good employee may not be right for every job. Some agents are better at selling while others are better at solving problems. At the candidate's previous jobs, was he or she handling calls or making calls? If the recruit used to sell group tickets to baseball games, he or she may not be the right person to talk to a customer with a broken piece of machinery. Also, if the potential hire is used to a sleepy office setting, he or she might not be ready for a large, fast-paced environment.

Multiple Hats Required

Today's call-center reps have to pat their heads and rub their stomachs at the same time. They need to be capable of handling more responsibilities because of increased economic , regulatory and customer demands. For instance, agents need to be able to handle calls, answer emails and assist clients via Web chat. If they can't handle multiple tasks or are easily frustrated by pressure, they probably aren't going to stick around for long.

Learned or Learners?

American social writer Eric Hoffer once said, "In times of change, learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists." Agents need to be able to adapt to the processes of your call-center environment and be flexible enough to change with the demands of your business. Some call centers are focused on reducing hold times and moving through a high volume of calls. Others want agents to excel at first-call resolution of problems or up-selling customers. If a candidate acts like he or she has all the answers, the best answer may be to interview someone else.

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