Whether you want to become the best call center agent you can be, or you want to make a new hire based on the top skills and abilities a great call center agent needs, having the right people on your team saves you time and money. But what are the most important qualities of a great call center agent? As a provider of virtual call center software, we've been helping managers and representatives improve their call center's performance for nearly 20 years.
Today we're diving into some of the top call center agent skills and competencies you need in your team:
- Top qualities of a good call center agent
- Best practices for call center representative training
- Recruiting great call center agents
- Call center agent career paths and upward mobility
Why These Call Center Agent Qualities Matter
If you're a hiring manager, you probably understand how long the process of recruiting, interviewing, hiring and onboarding new employees can be. According to Cornell University, turnover rates can range anywhere from 30%-50% (with outsourced call centers owning the highest turnover rates, typically over 50%).
When you're looking to hire a new call center agent, you need to carefully vet all your candidates and ensure they possess all the qualities your organization is after. According to a LOMA study, the average cost to train a new call center agent is roughly $7,500.
Training employees can take anywhere from 6-10 weeks, depending on the nature of your call center and your new agent's readiness. It's quite a lengthy process, and will cost your business a good deal of money as well. Making sure applicants are a good for the position before hiring is key to saving your business time and money as well as the applicants (their time is just as valuable as yours, after all).
Top Qualities of a Great Call Center Agent
Working in a call center can be a pretty hectic environment, and keeping calm under pressure is vital to providing a great experience for customers. Personality and interpersonal skills play a big part in call centers. You have to be prepared to deal with all types of problems at any given time, you never know when you may be connected with an irate caller.
One of the most critical qualities for a good call center agent is reliability. You’ve probably had a job where if someone missed a day, everyone around the office felt the effects. Making sure you aren’t letting your coworkers down can go a very long way in the eyes of your manager, and help further your career. This is one of the main interpersonal skills consistently listed in research studies conducted on call centers.
Having empathy can help greatly enhance the customer experience when they call in. Having agents who connect with callers, rather than making the customers feel like they’re talking to a brick wall, can help build brand loyalty and callers will likely have a more positive experience.
Having the ability to see where you fit in the “puzzle” is an important characteristic to look for when hiring a call center agent. Even the smallest of tasks can greatly benefit the greater good of your company, so understanding that your contributions always matter.
This may seem obvious, but being able to solve problems quickly and while maintaining a professional demeanor is one of the most important things a call center agent should possess. This is a massive benefit for an employee to have, but not a required trait.
Your company will likely have a standard operating procedure and best practices in place, so being able to make sure you’re adhering to those is important.
Per research done on call centers, motivation is one of the main skills that correlates with success. However, as you hire more and more motivated people, it's important to make sure your organization has growth paths and opportunities and additional incentives available - otherwise, people may get bored or complacent and move on to other opportunities.
Measuring Your New Call Center Agent Skills
When beginning the recruiting process for a call center, you must first determine what your criteria are for hiring, and how to determine how if a potential hire is a good match. Tests like the DISC assessment or another personality test are a great way to ensure the applicant's values are aligned with the organization's overall values. Additionally, some companies have employees complete a job simulation. This is a more in-depth examination to see if an applicant is really fit for a particular job.
Improving a Call Center Agent's Competencies
When taking the time to train your employees, you can learn a lot about them in the 6-10 week training period. Here are some common methods to ensure you make the most out of your training:
- Cater to individual needs
- Case studies and real-life examples
- Open communication
- Provide the tools for empowerment
- Clear and actionable feedback
Career Options for Great Call Center Agents
There are many different paths you can take to “climb the ladder of success” when working in a call center. Much like any other job, once you get in the swing of things, you may realize there are other things that interest you in addition to the responsibilities of your current job.
If you have the qualities of a great call center agent, moving upward from an agent to a team lead, manager, and eventually an operations manager can be a quick process. Of course, all of this depends on the size of the business and how quickly it is growing. If you find yourself drawn to other departments, such as training, quality control, operations, IT or HR - there will typically be other internal opportunities for you to pursue.