During an initial interview for a customer service agent role, an applicant enthusiastically shared that the reason they were qualified for the job was their friendliness. “Ask anyone and they’ll tell you I’m a people person.”
Yet, the applicant was a little surprised when the conversation made a quick pivot to system navigation. The truth is, with rapidly changing consumer needs and expectations, people skills alone are not enough. Today’s agents must engage in conversation and research solutions all at the same time to effectively resolve customer issues. Based on research conducted by Employment Technologies, surveying nearly 3,000 agents and supervisors from more than 350 contact centers across North America, the ability to navigate multiple screens to quickly resolve customer issues is a top skill for today’s customer service agents.
This example illustrates why it’s important to take a job-relevant approach to assessment and hiring. Doing this will help ensure alignment between candidate expectations, required skills, and your organization’s desired outcomes. If you or a team member is responsible for evaluating and selecting assessments used in the call center agent hiring process, be sure to check potential tools against the following list of job responsibilities and essential skills. First, we summarize the key job functions that reveal exactly what a call center agent does. Then we discuss the key skills that are essential for call center agent success.
WHAT IS A CALL CENTER AGENT RESPONSIBLE FOR DAY-TO-DAY?
- Interacting with customers. Agents must quickly build customer rapport, answer questions, and when necessary, refer customers to appropriate personnel.
- Using online systems. Agents are constantly using online systems to document pertinent facts, enter information into the computer, and search for information.
- Positioning products and services. Regardless of whether they are in an official sales role, agents need to find products and services that customers need and solve their problems.
- Gaining job knowledge. Agents must be current on product and service offerings, so they provide accurate information and make trustworthy recommendations.
- Contributing to the team. Assisting team members, when needed, and participating in team initiatives and meetings are ways to achieve success.
TOP SKILLS OF A SUCCESSFUL CALL CENTER AGENT
Customer Service Orientation
A key component of this role is customer relationship management. This customer-facing role requires that call center agents demonstrate an awareness of a customer’s needs, and the ability to proactively respond by finding an effective solution that satisfies expectations.
- Developing customer rapport. Call center agents should prioritize ensuring that customers have a positive image of the company by politely greeting customers, determining customers’ desired style of interaction, and responding accordingly. They will also have to diffuse irate or insistent customers, resolve conflicts, and follow up to ensure that customer needs are met and their expectations exceeded.
- Discovering customer needs. Customers want to feel like they are truly being heard, so call center agents must listen attentively to determine a customer’s true needs. Agents should strive to understand their customer’s point of view and ask appropriate questions to identify the customer’s specific request.
- Sales orientation. Agents must be able to identify a customer’s needs for products and services and see opportunities for additional revenue by matching products and services to those needs. They should recognize when to influence customers and respond persuasively to customer questions and objections.
A call center agent must be able to combine a working knowledge of call center procedures with the technical skills necessary to provide customers with solutions.
- Ability to learn and apply procedures. Agents need to have a solid working knowledge of the company’s products and services. Look for individuals who comprehend new job-related information in a timely manner and correctly recall and apply that information during customer calls.
- Multitasking. Phone conversations happen in real-time, and every call is unique. Agents should be able to perform multiple tasks quickly and accurately (i.e., talking, listening, documenting information, problem solving) while simultaneously managing the pace of the call and maintaining focus on the customer.
- Problem solving and responding to customer needs. As a call center agent, gathering and reviewing relevant customer information, understanding meaningful relationships, and selecting effective options for solutions are critical components of problem-solving. It is essential that customers are provided accurate information about services and products, or that they are referred to the appropriate personnel.
Working with Others
Each call center agent is a part of a team; it is essential that agents have the ability to effectively communicate and the desire to contribute to a cooperative work environment.
- Teamwork. In a fast-paced work environment such as a call center, working effectively as a team member by attentively listening to and sharing information with others is fundamental. It facilitates a cooperative work environment in which each agent has the resources available to meet and exceed customer expectations.
- Communication. Call center agents spend a lot of their time communicating, so it’s no surprise that they need to be skilled at expressing information in a concise manner, speaking in a pleasant tone and volume, using effective voice inflection and enthusiasm, and using correct vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure.
- Work ethic. To meet goals and maintain overall morale, it is important that call center agents possess a strong work ethic. The agent needs to exhibit reliability, dependability, and be eager to take initiative – these qualities demonstrate a strong desire to contribute to the organization.
If this sounds like the superstar you’re looking for, we have good news.
More than a million high-performing onsite and at-home agents have been identified using the scientific precision of our EASy Simulation® for Contact Center Agents. This award-winning call center assessment targets the key job functions and competencies agents need to succeed in today’s uncertain workplace. Our highly job-relevant approach helps candidates align previous perceptions with actual needs. Clarity about what the job entails boosts employee engagement and productivity while decreasing the likelihood of turnover.
If you want to dig deeper on any of our research data, please contact us for your free copy of our full research results. The report reveals which job tasks respondents ranked as most essential for job success! We also invite you to take a free test drive of our Contact Center Agent simulation, by clicking here or contacting us at 888.332.0648.
Click here for our full catalog of call center assessment tools for hiring and onboarding.