Posts Tagged ‘call center career’

How to Prepare for a Call Center Agent Interview

Posted on: November 9th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

You may not think so but working as a call center professional has great potential: if you perform well in your job there’s no doubt you will thrive – and so will your career.

Although call centers have a bad rep, the industry has changed a lot in recent years. One significant change is that the demand for call center professionals is definitely on the rise. According to a survey carried out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, call center agent jobs are expected to grow 5% between 2016 to 2026, and 39% between 2014 to 2024.

Furthermore, working as a call center agent now requires a lot more than carrying out the same repetitive tasks. As customers these days can rely on self-service options to resolve their own issues, they only contact customer service teams when they have complicated issues. So, instead of handling simple tasks, agents need to rely on their solid industry knowledge and problem-solving skills in order to best serve customers.

If you’re thinking about starting a career in the call center industry, then the first challenge you’ll need to overcome is to nail a call center agent interview. In this article, we’ll show you how you can prepare for and get the most out of your interview. Read on and go get that job!

Research, research, research…

Needless to say, never go to an interview unprepared. If you want to make a good impression (and we trust you do), make sure to allocate enough time to research the company and the position you apply for.

Call center agent interviews usually start with some opening questions. There’s no doubt you’ll be asked questions regarding the position, so make sure you have detailed information on what call center agents do on a daily basis. There are tons of articles out there (for example our articles on the most important call center agent skills and useful agent life hacks), or you can even turn to a friend who is already working in the industry.

In addition, many interviewers ask candidates questions about the company’s history, and it’s definitely a plus if you can answer these questions. In fact, being well-informed will make you more confident, while demonstrating that you’re serious about working for the company in question. 

Language competence

In today’s globalized world, businesses are constantly expanding into new markets, while also focusing on creating a solid online presence. And as multilingual customer service departments are on the rise, call center agents often find themselves interacting with customers who speak a different language. You will also talk to a bunch of customers with a strong accent, so it’s vital that you have advanced language skills.  

There’s no doubt, most call centers are constantly on the lookout for agents with excellent language proficiency, so your language skills will probably be tested during any call center agent interview.  

It’s definitely a good idea to refresh your grammar knowledge as interviewers may ask you to fill out a language test. Plus, you can be sure that you’ll be required to use your language skills in an everyday conversation as well.

Situational questions

Call center agents interact with hundreds of customers on an average day, and have to resolve all kinds of customer issues. As you’ll be the face of the company, it is of utmost importance how you’ll handle difficult situations.

Therefore, you can be pretty sure that you’ll be asked to participate in situational exercises. During a situational exercise, you’ll be put in a problematic situation where you’ll need to come up with the best solution.

These exercises are used by interviewers to review the candidate’s capability to react to a situation when faced with conflict. Our best advice here is to try and remain calm while relying on your problem-solving skills. Also, putting yourself in the customer’s shoes will definitely help you come up with a customer-centric solution.

Typical call center agent interview questions

Last but not least, let’s look at some classic questions you can expect during a call center agent interview.

Why do you want to work as a call center agent?

It’s no secret that agent turnover is extremely high in call centers. Therefore, motivation is one of the most important traits interviewers look for in candidates. Make sure to think over why you applied for the position in the first place and prepare with an honest but persuasive answer. Whether you have ambitions to climb the call center ladder or simply enjoy interacting with customers, make sure to express it during the call center agent interview.  

Are you technologically savvy?

These days most call centers utilize several technology solutions, and agents are required to use them on a daily basis, so don’t be surprised if the interviewer asks about your computer proficiency, such as your familiarity with certain systems.

As call centers use different systems, don’t worry if you’re not familiar with all of them. Once you get the job you’ll be trained on how to use them. Just make sure to demonstrate your willingness to learn.

Are you a good multitasker?

Call center agents work on several campaigns and deal with a great number of customers. And these days customers expect answers quickly, meaning you’ll already need to think about a possible solution as you listen to the customer. As a result, the ability to multitask is of utmost importance for any call center who wants to thrive in their job.

Can you perform well under pressure?

If you want to work as a call center agent, what you can be sure about is that you’ll face plenty of unexpected issues. In addition, you’ll get into situations where you simply cannot find the solution at first. In such cases, you’ll need to try and remain calm in order to sort out the issue in the shortest time possible.

As working under pressure is highly characteristic of any call center agent job, you’ll need to convince the interviewers about your ability to perform well in a stressful environment. Start by remaining calm during the call center agent interview, then share some examples from your previous jobs where you managed to successfully resolve a stressful situation.

 

Interviewing for a new job is never easy. But if you follow our tips to prepare for your call center agent interview, you’ll definitely have better chances to get hired. May the odds be in your favor! 

A Day in the Life of a Call Center Manager

Posted on: July 4th, 2018 by dorarapcsak 1 Comment

Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of a call center manager is like? What are the challenges they need to overcome on a daily basis?

In reality, call center managers really do have a lot to deal with: when it comes down to it, they hold responsibility for the overall performance and budget of the organization, and ultimately create the foundation for a call center’s success. Call center managers are expected to be able to see the whole picture and have mastered the ins and outs of the call center industry.

Although you may imagine call center managers to be powerful people, sitting in their offices, issuing instructions and delegating work to their employees, in reality, managers burn the candle at both ends.

We spoke to Arnold Vancsók, call center manager at Protocall – one of Central Europe’s leading outsourced call centers – who showed us what an average day in the life of a call center manager is like. Read on, and find out what it takes to be like Arnold.  

 

No two days are ever the same

“At a call center, no two days are ever the same. Of course, there are certain routine tasks I have to carry out on a daily basis, such as reporting, reviewing KPIs and attending meetings, but what’s most important is the ability to be able to react immediately to issues as they come up.”

A call center manager has to be prepared for anything, while also being able to function well under high pressure. At a call center, calls come in all the time (including through the night), and you can never know what will happen the next day. In fact, working as a call center manager is like riding a roller coaster – It’s a sometimes scary, but overall enjoyable experience.

 

Talk to agents and team leaders

Call center managers have to actively work together with their team of call center agents and supervisors on a daily basis. A great call center manager should not just give orders to their employees, but also get their hands dirty, overseeing agents’ performance, and intervene in escalated calls when necessary. And as any call center manager will tell you, escalated calls are a major part of any call center’s average day.

Since it is agents who spend all their time on the phone with customers, collecting feedback from them is another essential daily task for any call center manager. As we already mentioned in a previous article, you should never estimate the power of customer feedback. Talking to agents can provide valuable information on how to improve the call center’s operations, and also helps make agents feel they hold an important role, and are valued by the company. And as we all know, a happy team is a productive team.

 

A call center manager’s daily task: reporting, reporting, reporting

Ask any call center manager what’s the first thing they do on an average day in the call center, and you can be sure that they’ll tell you: it’s reporting. One of the most important daily responsibilities of any call center manager is to provide reports on various aspects of call center performance, and then forward this information to the relevant departments in the organization.

And as we all know, call centers provide a goldmine of information, so it’s no surprise that call center managers typically rely on powerful reporting tools on a daily basis to process this data and create reports that can improve the call center’s overall performance. If you’re curious how you can use the valuable data your call center holds, make sure to check out our article on data analytics.

 

Agent recruitment and retention

Interviews are an essential part of any call center’s activity, and so call center managers have to actively participate in the agent recruitment process.

Furthermore, call center managers have to deal with other labor issues such as the lack of professionals in the industry. Labor shortage affects a great number of sectors, and call centers are no exception. As Arnold noted, “we’re constantly working on new methods to deal with labor shortage. As we are fortunately an outsourced call center, we can transfer our agents more easily, if necessary, to work on high-priority projects. That is why we focus on multi-skilled agents and convince our clients to invest more in the workforce.”

Arnold also reminded us that call centers are notorious for having extremely stressful work environments, and therefore, agent retention is also a fairly high consideration: “fluctuation is another challenge I have to face every day in the call center, although, fortunately, agent retention is quite low at our organization. We always try to keep our agents happy, and inspire their loyalty by offering activities and packages that enable them to grow.”

 

Finding the balance

Improving customer satisfaction, balancing the budget, and making the call center a great place to work at are all examples of the everyday tasks call center managers carry out. And of course, finding the balance between these considerations is the ultimate challenge for any call center manager.

“As an outsourced call center manager, I have the responsibility to carry out profitable campaigns, deliver excellent results and maintain a high standard of work on behalf of our clients, while last but not least, provide an excellent work environment for our employees. For me, the biggest daily challenge is to find the balance  between these responsibilities, in a way that ensures that everybody gets the best out of our call center.”

 

About our interviewee: Arnold Vancsók joined the call center industry back in 2007, and has occupied several leading positions, such as supervisor, project manager and process manager, throughout the years. Currently, he is call center manager at Protocall, one of Central Europe’s leading outsourced call centers.

 

5 types of call center agents – and how to motivate them

Posted on: June 14th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

Call centers seem to attract particular types of personalities. And although every call center – just like every office – is comprised of individuals, there are some types of character you’ll meet at almost every call center.

As we all know, a happy team is a productive team. So, as a call center supervisor, one of your most essential ongoing tasks will be to keep your agent team happy and motivated. However, as your team consists of individuals, you will not be able to simply deal with them in the same way.

In this article, we’ll highlight the five most common types of call center agents, and show you how to motivate them successfully.

 

1. The overachiever

“Overachievers” are the highest performing employees in your team, both in terms of success and work rate: they are the first to arrive at work and the last to leave. Chances are that you’ll even see them scrolling through their emails during their lunch break.

“Overachievers” are determined to climb the call center career ladder (for pro tips on how to do that, click here), and most likely no one will be able to stand in their way.

When it comes to their daily work, “overachievers” are committed to getting things done. Their persistent attitude makes them excellent problem solvers, which is a great asset to any customer service team.

How to motivate them: as they always strive to be the best, you can best motivate them by assigning them tasks with a higher level of responsibility. By being entrusted with such responsibility, they’ll feel that they stand out from their team of agents due to their excellent performance.

“Overachievers” want to feel valued by management as well as their teammates, so you can best empower them by giving them positive feedback. And don’t forget to promote them when they are ready to take their skills to the next level: that will be their ultimate motivation!

 

2. The entertainer

Every office has a clown: the agent who loves to socialize and keep people around them laughing, with a joke for every situation.

“Entertainer” agents have a positive mindset, a really great skill to have when your job is to help customers over the phone. They tend to provide a high level of customer service, and should definitely be considered an asset to your team.

One thing is for sure: an “entertainer” call center agent will never mistreat your customers, even if they are having a bad day.  Furthermore, due to their positive mindset, they tend to get along with both their colleagues and customers. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

How to motivate them: a positive and fun office culture will greatly motivate this type of call center agent. An “entertainer” center is usually an energetic person who can be very productive in their preferred environment. However, always bear in mind that they won’t function very well if they feel they’re too restricted.

Plus tip: when it comes to team building activities, ask them to help you organize the event. You can be sure they’ll totally go for it.

 

3. The transient agent

Like it or not, there will always be “transient” agents in your call center agent team, here today and gone tomorrow (or maybe the day after). Many employees see call center work as a temporary workplace until they find a better job. “Transient” agents in your team will most likely lack a sense of responsibility and will have no intention of settling in.

How to motivate them: first of all, don’t give up on them so easily! Although many people think that call centers and careers don’t mix, the truth is that call center employees have the opportunity to explore a wide variety of career opportunities. So, why not highlight the career possibilities in your call center to such employees? If you manage to change their attitude, they may even end up becoming valuable members of your team.  

 

4. The loyal agent

In contrast to the “transient” agent, “loyal” agents in your team have been with you for years, and the good news is that they have no intention of leaving. This type of call center agent plans for the long term and their long-term plan is to have a stable career in the call center. Yes, really.

As they are committed to help your company succeed, they tend to provide exceptional customer service, representing your business in the way you want them to.

How to motivate them: while the “loyal” agent probably won’t be striving to climb the career ladder much, there is one thing that’ll be essential to them: organized internal processes. Make sure to give them clear instructions, and always provide them with the tools they need to carry out their tasks. Furthermore, give them a free hand in complex situations so that they can make their own decisions. Finally, don’t forget to involve them in training sessions. As they have extensive knowledge and experience, they may well be able to help the rest of your team improve.

 

5. The leader material

The “leader material” agent is a highly valuable asset to your organization. This type of employee is a real thinker: they see the whole picture and come up with ideas that could help you improve productivity. Maybe once you’re ready to leave the company, you’ll be happy to turn over the reins to them. As they are high achievers, gaining specialist knowledge is what’s important to them.

How to motivate them: once you have them in your team, you better do your best to try to keep them motivated.  As they crave challenging tasks, they will soon become bored with routine tasks. Therefore, make sure to assign complex duties to them, and look for alternative roles for them when they’ve outgrown their current job. If you empower this type of call center agent, then you can consider them potential future leaders at the call center.

 

 

How to give feedback to your call center agents

Posted on: June 1st, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

Working in a call center is a pretty difficult job. Agents spend most of their working hours on the phone with (often angry) customers and have to deal with a lot of stressful situations. In such a fast-paced environment, there’s always room for performance improvement, and most agents will undoubtedly benefit from appropriate guidance and feedback in order to be able to excel at their job.

So, like it or not, as a call center supervisor, you’ll be expected to provide your agent team with valuable and useful feedback on a regular basis.

Furthermore, as valuable feedback can have a great impact on your employees’ performance, it’s also in your own best interests to ensure you provide an appropriate evaluation to your call center agent team.

Of course, offering feedback – good or bad – can be a challenging job. So, to help you out, we collected some useful ideas regarding feedback that will allow you to help your agent team develop their performance. Check them out, and think of them as our feedback on how to give feedback!

 

The best place to give feedback? One-to-one sessions

The biggest challenge for agents working in a large team in a call center environment is to stand out from the crowd, and for their work to be acknowledged by management. As a result, call center agents can often feel that they are nothing more than just another cog in the call center wheel.

So, if you manage a team of call center agents, our tip is to always allocate time for regular one-to-one feedback sessions with each of them. By doing this, your agents will feel supported and valued by management. Furthermore, as you probably manage agents with different level of performance, a one-to-one feedback session is the perfect opportunity to discuss further career opportunities with them within the call center.

One-to-one sessions are by far the best way to discuss things, and much better than offering negative feedback publicly, which we would never recommend. Of course, it’s part of your job to share your insights – including negative feedback – with your agent team but always bear in mind that some people are more sensitive than others, and may not handle criticism well.  A one-to-one session is a perfect opportunity to share your concerns with your employees without making them feel uncomfortable or humiliated before the rest of their team.

 

Be specific when offering feedback to your call center agents

Try and make these sessions as personal as possible (without crossing the line of professionality). A little small talk is a good start, as it helps break the ice and creates an atmosphere where both of you can communicate more effectively with each other.

Once you ensured that your agent feels comfortable during a feedback session, it’s time get to the point. When offering your feedback, always make sure to be specific and crystal-clear. Making general comments during an evaluation – whether good or bad – isn’t helpful, as they may be ambiguous, leaving your agent confused about what they did well or badly.

Furthermore, use specific examples as an essential part of your agent feedback. Call centers often record their calls for training purposes, so don’t miss out on this great opportunity to use recorded calls during a feedback session. By reviewing calls together with your agent, they can receive a crystal-clear example of what is and what is not acceptable during a customer call.

 

Start with the positive

Rule number one: always start with positive feedback. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to motivate your agent by a constant flow of negative feedback, so it’s better to start your feedback session by praising them for what they did well.

Furthermore, always bear in mind that positive feedback is equally important as constructive criticism. When it comes to offering feedback, management often tends to focus on constructive criticism, while their positive comments are rather general. Don’t just tell your agent that you’re really impressed with their work, because they won’t be able to know what they did well or badly. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for your agent to improve their skills based on your feedback.

So, if your agent has done an excellent job in dealing with an angry customer on the phone, then start the feedback session by praising them for it. Providing praise first creates a positive atmosphere, and it helps agents handle constructive criticism better.  

 

Find the golden mean

There’s no doubt that the call center industry is an extremely fast-paced business environment, in which employees have to cope with a great deal of escalations and customer complaints. Unexpected situations always occur, and agents will often have to improvise. And, as they’re human beings, chances are that sometimes they won’t be able to deal with a problem in the most effective way.

However, after having begun with a positive start as mentioned above, we would recommend trying to keep positivity a characteristic of any one-to-one. Of course, you want your call center agents to be the best they can be, but don’t become the kind of supervisor who only talks about what should be improved. Although knowing when and how to present negative feedback is an essential skill of any call center supervisor, positive feedback is equally important.

Therefore, try to find the golden mean between providing positive and negative feedback to your call center agents throughout your feedback session, not just at the beginning.

 

Watch out for the way you communicate your feedback

The main goal of offering feedback to your call center agent team is to help them improve their skills, so they can carry out their tasks more effectively. But are you sure you are making your motivations clear to them?

If you’re not careful, the way you communicate your feedback to your call center agents can be very misleading. So, always watch out for the way you communicate feedback, and make sure you don’t make your call center agents feel uncomfortable.

For example, during a feedback session with one of your agents, always pay special attention to the tone of your voice. If you sound too strict or intimidating, then the employee may interpret your words as purely negative feedback, without any constructive criticism.

 

Give feedback, take feedback

Giving feedback is a tough job and it may take some time to learn how to do it properly. But don’t forget, a conversation always has two participants. So, allow your agents to react to the feedback you provide them with. By doing this, you’ll have an opportunity to know whether you should still work on your feedback technique.

Furthermore, as we already mentioned in a previous article, customer calls clearly provide some of the most valuable information for your call center, but don’t just learn from your customers’ feedback. As your call center agents spend most of their working hours on the phone with your customers, ask them to share their insights with you. By doing this, you’ll be able to easily increase call center efficiency.

Once you receive feedback from your agents, then make sure you take action on it. This contributes to a healthy and open workplace and will make you a more respected call center supervisor.

 

Sum up

Giving feedback to your call center agents is a challenging job. However, by following our advice, you should easily be able to turn any feedback session into a win-win situation. On one hand, you will be able to motivate your call center agents, thus providing them with a better work experience; on the other hand, you will learn a lot from such sessions and improve your feedback techniques for the future.

 

 

Call center careers: what are the possibilities?

Posted on: May 25th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

As businesses try to keep up with growing customer demands, the call center industry is becoming ever more important: today’s customers require effective and exceptional customer experience while being valued by the business they choose. As the industry grows, so do the opportunities to start a career at a call center.

Although most people still think it’s not possible to move up in a call center, the truth is that call center employees have the opportunity to explore a wide variety of career opportunities.

So, are you thinking about starting a career in the call center industry? In this article, we’ll discuss the different career opportunities a call center offers. Don’t delay, check them out!

Call center agent

As it’s said, start at the bottom if you want to reach the top. It’s true that call center agents start at the bottom of the call center career ladder, but if you want to develop a career in the industry, it’s an excellent stepping stone to higher positions. In fact, as we already discussed in a previous article, 80% of call center supervisors start as call center agents.

Working as a call center agent means being the first point of contact for customers getting in touch with the company. In principle, you’ll either handle incoming calls and provide customer service, or make outbound calls and sell the company’s products or services.

Furthermore, as these days many call centers utilize the technique of call blending, meaning that agents handle both incoming and outgoing calls, highly-skilled agents are often required to carry out both activities. For further information on call blending, check out our previous article about it here.

As most call centers support their customers using a variety of communication channels, agents are often required to communicate with customers via phone, email, SMS and web chat.

Of course, it’s not very likely that you’ll be required to deal with all the duties above during your first day at a call center. Responsibilities vary greatly, based on the nature of the company, and the agents’ experience and personality.

The biggest challenge for agents working in the call center environment is to stand out from the crowd. True, it’s difficult to get noticed, but it’s definitely not impossible. So, in brief, always keep track of your performance metrics! Hitting your KPIs is probably your best chance to get noticed by the people on top.

If you’re too an ambitious agent and want to build your call center career, then check out our 6 handy lifehacks on how to excel in your agent job.

Call center supervisor

If you’ve already tackled step one in your call center career, then it’s time for you to take your skills to the next level and continue your career as a call center supervisor.

The main responsibility of a call center supervisor is to coordinate a team of call center agents. In addition to this, the position requires strong technical and people management skills.

Amongst other things, you’ll have to cope with escalations on a daily basis, set targets for your agent team, measure their performance, offer them guidance and feedback, and report to the call center manager. So, it’s no surprise that being a multi-tasker and tech-savvy is a prerequisite for call center supervisors.

Furthermore, as a supervisor, it’s more than likely that you’ll be involved in the recruiting and hiring process of new agents. So, in brief, call center supervisors deal with a lot.

Call center manager

The next step in the call center career path is occupied by call center managers. By the time you reach this level, you’ll really have to see the whole picture as managers are responsible for the overall performance and budget of the call center.

In brief, call center managers cope with processes, technology, customers, and employees. As for daily responsibilities, the list is definitely long, but it’s worth mentioning the following tasks: setting objectives, reviewing KPIs, evaluating call center teams, preparing performance improvement plans and creating a business strategy for the call center. Sounds tough, huh?

In addition to this, call center managers are responsible for all agents working in the call center, and also have several supervisors reporting to them. As the call center’s backbone, they keep in contact with other departments and make sure that the call center machine keeps running.

Head of call center

So, finally, here we are: at the top of the call center career ladder. But what does a head of call center actually do?

The head of call center oversees the call center as a whole. The duties and responsibilities of this position involve a wide range of activities, including handling budgetary management, measuring call center efficiency (click here for pro tips on that), improving customer experience, developing plans for the future operation of the call center, and overseeing the recruitment process.

Being a call center manager requires a high level of knowledge of the industry, along with a deep understanding of technology and data. Although the head of call center is a position that comes with huge responsibilities, in return, you’ll be able to actively participate in decision-making processes, improve customer experience and shape the future of the call center’s operations.

Sum up

As you can see, there is plenty of potential for a career in the call center industry. Of course, building your call center career won’t be easy, but with continued excellent performance, your efforts will definitely pay off. If you really make the effort and excel in your duties, chances are that the call center industry will fulfill all of your expectations.