Call center agents are one of your most important hires because they are on the front line, speaking with your customers every day. Not everyone at your company has this opportunity to hear daily questions and concerns, as well as witness firsthand the challenges customers are trying to solve for. That’s why it’s especially important to hire people who will not only support your customers, but provide that open feedback loop to management on what you need to do to improve your offering.
Working with customers all day is not an easy job, however, and is subject to high turnover and job dissatisfaction—especially if team members do not feel properly supported. Set your team up for success from the start by hiring the right personalities, with the unique combination of skills to help them feel satisfied in their role, while also driving results for your organization.
Whether your staff is providing support for your product or service, or tackling inbound or outbound sales calls with prospects, here are our 7 tips on what to look for in prospective candidates to help your team succeed.
It’s no surprise that someone tasked with conversing with customers all day should have solid communication skills. You want someone who is friendly, engaging, and conversational. It’s equally important, however, to find someone who is as good at listening as they are speaking.
Especially if working in a call center, agents need to be able to intuit how their customer is feeling despite not interacting face to face. They need to be able to empathize with the customer’s concerns in order to truly help them, or speak to how their product/service will resolve their problem.
2. The ability to multitask
The modern call center is no longer limited to just phone calls. You may have multiple communication channels, including chat or email support, or outbound dials based on form fills from customers. Many teams are structured so that one person may be managing various channels at one time: taking chats, while also wrapping up an email to a customer or answering a call. You’ll want to find someone who will not be overwhelmed by the constant activity, and with the ability to balance multiple interactions at once.
3. The ability to think on their feet
When a call center agent answers the phone, they often have no idea what the customer on the other end will ask about — unless, perhaps, they’re a repeat caller! 🙂 A conversation that starts by focusing on one thing may also quickly segue into another topic entirely. An agent’s ability to be agile and confident in his/her ability to maneuver quickly through a conversation is an important skill to look for.
Test this skill by asking questions in the interview, and then shifting gears unexpectedly. See how the would-be agent reacts, and how they handle going “off script” as needed. Yet don’t discredit them if they pause and take a moment to ask you a question—that shows they’re invested in getting to the root of the problem or “why,” which is a sign that they will be particularly useful in helping resolve questions in the heat of the moment for customers.
4. Staying calm and cool under pressure
Working in a call center, by nature, means occasionally speaking with some disgruntled, unhappy customers. You can’t let these conversations get heated, though. Finding agents who are able to stay calm under pressure is important to remain professional and courteous during challenging interactions.
It goes back to the first point about empathy, and being able to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and reassure them—with cool, collected, confidence—that you understand their frustrations and are dedicated to getting to the bottom of the issue and making it right. Often, that’s all it takes to turn the conversation around and “wow” your customer.
5. Detail oriented
Being “detail oriented” is a key skill for many different types of jobs, but for customer support in particular, it comes in handy for remembering important details from conversations with customers and being able to recognize patterns or issues based on those details. A customer may not always grasp what’s causing their problem, and think that fixing one thing will help, when actually it’s something else they may not realize is related.
A successful call center agent will pick up on the details the customer is dropping throughout the conversation to piece together a true solution—or even better, implement a faster way to solve the problem and prevent it from happening again.
Given there can be high turnover in the call center industry, as a manager you need to be able to trust your staff and know that you can rely on them to be punctual and committed to growing with your company. Check prospective candidates’ backgrounds to see if there are patterns or warning signs that point to the contrary, like changing jobs every three to six months.
Especially if your agents will be working remotely, you want to be confident they will stay on task and as productive as if they were in your office. CallTrackingMetrics’ real-time agent reports are a great way for managers to monitor live agent performance and maintain a level of oversight into your team’s daily tasks.
Last but certainly not least, perhaps the most important skill you can hire for is someone who is focused not just on responding to customers, but on solving for customers. By this, we mean finding someone who is able to see through customer feedback to make recommendations to the larger organization on how you can improve your service or product.
Not only is this incredibly valuable feedback, but it demonstrates the agent’s desire to grow with your company. Making sure your call center agents are heard and supported in this regard shows them you value them and believe they are integral to your organization’s success. Honoring their feedback, and rewarding them with promotions and more responsibility, will only bring your business more success in the long run.