The work of a call center agent is complex and demanding. Agents have to maintain a fine balance between satisfying callers and meeting the needs of their organizations. Each call differs from the next and call center agents need a strong skill set to deal with a multitude of different situations that may arise.
Here are some of the leading qualities you should look for when hiring call center agents:
1. Effective Communication Skills
The nature of the work demands good communication skills. Communication impacts every aspect of this job and is a skill that is critical for success. An agent must not only have good oral communication abilities but must be an attentive listener to fully understand a caller’s query and provide a solution that meets their needs. You can get a good idea of a candidate’s communication skills during an interview. As a further test of ability, you can set up a role-playing exercise to assess these skills before hiring.
2. Knowledge Retention and Recall
Agents need a good memory in the fast pace of a call center environment. They need to be able to memorize and recall all the information about their company’s business. Callers want immediate answers and any hesitancy or lack of conviction on an agent’s part lessens their belief in the accuracy of the information.
Call center agents need to instantly recall information as callers don’t have the time to wait while they source the answers to caller queries. Test prospective candidates prior to hiring to evaluate their ability to retain and recall knowledge, and make sure they have the call center skills listed on their resume.
3. Ability to Handle Pressure
Many call centers experience high staff turnover when agents suffer burnout due to the pressure associated with the job. Agents have to deal with frustrated callers who may become irate. They have to be able to remain calm in any situation, even when they’re being yelled at.
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As part of your hiring process, contact past employers to find out how a candidate reacted when under pressure. This is the best way to learn whether they will be a good fit for the job or not.
4. Speed and Efficiency
From a company’s perspective, an agent who is fast and efficient will be able to field more callers and increase its bottom line. Of course, quality of customer support should not be sacrificed for speed and customer satisfaction should always be the primary goal of any call center.
Fast and efficient service is also highly valued by callers. They don’t want to hang around any longer than they need to, but at the same time, they need their problem or query to be resolved to their satisfaction. These qualities of your prospective agent can be checked out by calling previous employers.
5. Creative Problem Solving
Traditionally, call centers have supplied their agents with scripts to work from and many companies still use this procedure. However, while this may work when fielding common issues or problems, it limits an agent’s ability to field unusual queries or requests efficiently. Callers are put on hold while the agent asks around for a solution. This has a negative effect on caller satisfaction and ultimately on the company itself.
Call center agents need to be able to solve any problem that comes up. This often requires a degree of creativity on their part to arrive at a solution that will satisfy the caller while preserving the best interests of the company. Here again, you can check on a candidate’s problem-solving abilities by contacting their former employers.
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6. Emotional Stability
A good agent must be able to keep their emotions in check, whether they’re dealing with a friendly caller or someone that becomes highly irate. It is highly unlikely that an agent will go an entire day on the job without having to deal with one angry caller. It is vital that agents keep their cool. An angry response from an agent is unacceptable and only worsens the situation.
Agents must learn that by remaining calm they can diffuse the situation and turn it around by providing an acceptable solution that satisfies the caller. They must strive to be professional and level-headed at all times, which helps to provide consistent, high-quality customer support.
Empathy is a very important quality of a successful call center agent. A warm and friendly approach will go a long way to developing a good rapport with a caller. An agent must be able to convey a genuine understanding of a customer’s concern and ensure them that they are being heard.
A lot can be achieved if an agent shows empathy for a customer’s issue. From a caller’s point of view, there is nothing more off-putting or frustrating than dealing with someone whose attitude portrays total disinterest. You can gauge a candidate’s capacity for empathy during the interview process by asking pertinent questions. If they express an interest in helping others, they are likely to be a good candidate for a call center agent.
8. Organizational Ability
Call centers are busy work environments that require good organization, not only from management but at the agent level as well. Agents need to be able to juggle multiple tasks while they are talking to callers, including taking notes, checking the company knowledge base and updating the CRM system. They need to be well organized to do the job efficiently.
During your interview with a candidate, you can ask them to rate their ability to multi-task. This can be confirmed by their previous employers.
9. Team Player
In today’s world where virtual and cloud-based call centers employ agents located all over the world, it would be easy for individuals to work in isolation. However, all call centers work best when agents work as a team, utilizing everything a full-featured call center software solution has to offer. It is important for agents to foster relationships with other team members and for them all to be on hand to provide support to each other when necessary.
Companies will benefit greatly by facilitating team building within their call centers. It helps to promote a smoother operation and more efficient customer service. Call center managers cannot be expected to provide support to all their agents on every query that they have. Team members can support each other and relieve management of that load to a large extent.
These qualities are not only critical to the success of a call center agent but can have a significant impact on the success of your business. An unprofessional, inefficient or rude call center agent can do immeasurable damage to your company. They can undo a large part of the work that your marketing department has done to attract callers and potential customers to your website.
Once you have identified a suitable candidate for this job, you need to ensure that they are trained to provide a professional and consistent service. Although some of these qualities are inherent, other skills such as communication and problem solving can be taught. It’s also critically important to understand and monitor the most important call center key performance indicators.
Train your call center agents to treat every caller as they would a customer. A happy caller, like a satisfied customer, will come back and not consider taking their business elsewhere.