By JoAnna Montgomery
It may not be possible to find the absolute perfect call center agents on a reasonable budget, but you can find highly effective ones by looking for the right competencies. No, I’m not talking about finding agents with five to ten years of experience, although that is a plus. I’m talking about the competencies required for the job that don’t necessarily require experience.
Instead of setting standards for an agent, look for these five practical skills needed for agent success.
1. Customer Service People Skills
This is by far the most important skill that every agent must have. Here’s why:
Agents not only represent the outsource call center, but they also represent the companies that use their service. Therefore, being able to communicate with customers in a friendly and helpful manner is beneficial in representing both companies well.
When the end customer has a pleasant experience with your agents, it will keep your clients happy. Just one unpleasant experience can turn away a customer for good and frustrate your clients.
The other side of customer service is the ability to listen to the customer. Good listeners will be able to help identify quickly what the customer needs, so they can pass the information on to the correct recipient. If the customer feels heard and understood by the agent, then they’re more likely to continue using the company’s services.
2. Information Retention
The ability to retain and use information appropriately is vital for any employee, but it’s especially important for call center agents.
Agents have the responsibility to learn the material provided to them by the companies that use their services. Of course, the agent will not be as knowledgeable as an actual employee of that company. However, they do need to be able to answer frequently asked questions or find the resources provided with that company to give a response.
With most call center software, there will be detailed scripts along with places for extra documents and essential information. Agents should be able to quickly recall where to navigate to find information and take the appropriate steps to handle the call. If you have a large operation, it’s helpful to divide agents between clients so the same agents will continue to get increasingly comfortable and familiar with certain clients over time.
For every incoming call there will be a script. However, we know that callers don’t always speak exactly as we expect them to. Often, they don’t use the right terminology, and no script can account for every single scenario agents will encounter. The agent must have adequate problem-solving skills when phone calls go off script or when the circumstances are unique.
Thinking fast on their feet helps to make the call run smoothly even when an issue arises. Whether the solution is transferring the caller to someone else in the company to help or quickly finding the solution themselves, agents must be comfortable and confident in their critical thinking ability.
4. Time Management and Multitasking
Being an agent is a lot like working a drive thru at a fast-food restaurant during the lunch hour. If you have never worked a drive thru during a rush, consider yourself lucky. Trying to listen and put in the customer’s order while also helping the person at the window and make the drinks is difficult to say the least. However, once you have a rhythm down, it is manageable.
The same is true for agents. Listening, typing, and navigating the software simultaneously are agent requirements. Look for individuals that thrive at managing their time and multitasking. It isn’t just a plus to have this, it’s necessary.
Someone who is scatterbrained is not going to do well in this job. There are reminders to set, calls to follow-up on, and information to send or share.
This type of job requires someone who can maneuver the call center software efficiently, knowing what each tab, button, and drop down does and where to find it. Furthermore, being able to follow instructions in note taking and call handling must occur in an organized manner so there is uniformity and a formal process.
This also ties into time management and multitasking. The more organized the agent is with the data the quicker they can get the software to do the task they need it to do.
As we mentioned, hiring experienced agents is great, but they are hard to find, and who is to say just because they have experience that they will be excellent at their job.
Since you don’t always have the luxury of finding experienced agents, use this list of competencies to look for as you hire your agents. With these skills checked off the list, agents will learn all other training more quickly, so you can focus on running your call center.
JoAnna Montgomery is a research and content analyst at Electronic Voice Services (EVS7), a Dallas-based software company providing cloud calling solutions for the telephone answering service industry. EVS7 helps answering services transition to all-inclusive flexible modern software.