With call-center attrition rates nearing 50 percent per year, identifying the attributes of a good agent is as important for retention as it is when hiring a new employee. Likewise, employees who are interested in call-center work would do well to match their temperament and skills to those who have already succeeded in the field. A worker who is reliable, genuinely interested in people and moderately tech-savvy could be ideal for the increasingly important role of call-center agent.
Lindsay Gibson, director of training at Alexandria, Va.-based VIPdesk.com Inc ., prefers the term "brand ambassadors" over "call-center agents." Call-center agents who are familiar with the product or service that they represent can be most helpful to customers and will take a genuine interest in matching their product to customers' needs. It pays for a call-center agent to be a bit of an actor, said Gibson. Every call is unique, and employees may need to be upbeat one minute and sympathetic or supportive the next. Flexibility counts.
Call-center personnel are often thought of as young, inexperienced workers who lack college educations or students who are working temporarily while they complete school. However, a successful call center 's employees are often more mature and highly educated. According to one Canadian study conducted by the Richard Ivey School of Business and the Sauder School of Business, employees who work in self-directed or problem-solving teams tend to be more highly educated and specialized in a particular product or service area; in addition, these workers might have studied business practices or technology. Such employees tend to stay on the job longer, and they have higher job-satisfaction levels. Such employees also tend to learn new processes easily — plus, they have better communication skills and are able to collaborate with co-workers and management effectively.
Tim Gordon, senior vice president of service delivery at VIPdesk.com, finds it helpful to administer a personality-profile test that compares potential employees to those who have excelled. Qualities such as being proactively helpful rather than over-accommodating are highly desirable, according to Gordon. The abilities to listen and respond appropriately are also high on the list. And previous experience in customer-centric jobs is a definite plus.
Generally, the characteristics of a successful call-center agent are:
A call-center-agent job requires an employee to uniquely combine reliability with flexibility and mix adherence to a schedule and procedure with adaptability in order to meet customers' needs. Call-center employees are rewarded for metrics such as customer satisfaction, volume of calls taken and product knowledge, to name a few. A self-starter who wants to succeed and be rewarded for his or her performance will have the greatest success in a call-center environment.
Failure occurs when agents have negative attitudes or employee morale is poor. This usually results in the loss of long-term customers, a failure to acquire new customers, and damage to the service's or product's reputation. Individuals with bad attitudes generally do not last long at call centers.
However, responsible individuals who communicate a positive attitude and understand that they are on the front line of their company's public image will do very well at a call center indeed.
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