Working as a call centre agent is far more complex than many people realise. Anyone outside of our industry is unlikely to understand the mix of qualities that make a great agent.
We’re proud of the high standards we expect from our agents – but more so of the quality of work, dedication and flexibility of spirit that our people give. This has particularly shone over the last year as we’ve all had to adapt to different working practices and the pressures from COVID-19.
Here’s what we think goes into the ideal call centre agent. These are the qualities that our recruitment partner CareerBox finds for us, and that we encourage and nurture through ongoing training and development.
5 qualities that make an effective call centre agent
- Excellent communication skills
This is the big one. Agents must be able to communicate effectively. Communication internally and externally forms the basis of this role, and it’s absolutely critical for an effective contact centre agent.
An agent must be a brilliant listener with empathy, understanding and able to build rapport. They must also be able to communicate effectively in writing, whether that’s email, letters or social media. And they must be able to communicate with peers, managers, team leaders and clients. It’s a big ask, but as long as the basis for excellent communication is there, training and development can go a long way.
- A great memory
Acquiring enough knowledge to deal with customers is the first step. The ability to retain and recall relevant information at any given moment is the icing on the call centre agent cake.
Agents need a great memory, particularly in the fast-paced, every-changing call centre environment. It’s important to be able to memorise all the relevant information for the customer or client (even with the myriad of technological tools to assist the agent), so that answers can be given instantly, or can be found very quickly on the relevant systems. Incoming callers demand and expect immediate information and have little patience with an agent who can’t deliver. In fact, hesitancy on the agent’s part in giving information actually influences the recipient’s ideas of its accuracy.
- The ability to handle pressure
Call centres that fail to train and support their agents will find themselves dealing with a high turnover. Our strength is in our people, and as a contact centre it’s in our interests to make sure agents feel supported and able to handle the pressure of the role. From frustrated callers to high call volumes, there can be many challenges in a typical call centre agents day. They must be able to remain calm and unflappable while solving all kinds of problems.
- Efficiency and speed
Agents who are efficient and fast at their work are prized by call centre leaders. But this can’t come at the expense of accuracy. The best agents can balance efficiency, speed and accuracy. The customer experience must come first and should always be our collective goal. However, if done correctly, speed and efficiency go a long way to maintaining customer satisfaction levels too.
- Creative problem-solving skills
Effective agents can field all kinds of queries and off-script questions from customers. Agents should be able to think quickly and use their creative problem- solving skills so that the caller isn’t kept waiting for an answer.
CCI South Africa is the largest international contact centre in South Africa. Based in Durban, it specialises in customer lifecycle management, digital engagement, and inbound and outbound business process outsourcing (BPO) services.