To an outsider, it’s easy to assume that to work as an agent for a business process outsourcing (BPO) company is an easy job. Somehow, the sheer volume of agents can be simply perceived that it’s a job that everybody can do. Outsiders see a throng of young professionals proudly wearing their bright lanyards and jackets that scream their company’s name, holding a steaming cup of coffee during breaks, and sharing a laugh over a joke or two before going back to the floor.
While this may be hackneyed image of a call center agent, their team leaders and managers see much more than what meets the outsiders’ eyes. Once all the agents are seated in their cubicles and the phones start ringing, these same agents turn into well-oiled machines hell-bent to provide a satisfactory service to every single customer. They are also these fun-loving individuals whose idea for a team building event is more fascinating than the last, making everyone in the team want to push through all the ideas pitched right there and then. But then again, not all call center agents were created equal. While there are those who apparently do an outstanding job, there are those who are either simply not fit for the job.
It then begs the question: what are the factors that truly make a call center agent? To shed light on what sets a good agent apart, I compiled some of the most fundamental skills and qualities that makes for an efficient agent.
Let’s begin with the basic competencies. With “basic” being the operative word, it already implies that these skills are a must-have. While variations may be allowed in certain areas, it is highly recommended that agents are armed with these abilities.
- Languages Spoken and Communication SkillsIn the BPO playing field, there are better things than agents with a great command of the English language and those are agents who have the ability to speak other foreign languages flawlessly. Many BPO companies, in an effort to cater to a wider range of customers, cross-communication boundaries by hiring bilingual or multilingual agents. This move also helps the company to keep pace with global standards as well as to attend to the demands of their different clients. However, managers need to keep in mind that being a good agent doesn’t stop at being multilingual. Agents should also have exceptional communication skills to be able to deliver the service the customer needs.
- Knowledge of TechnologyThe call center business is a domain that makes use of technology day-in and day-out. Aside from it being used to perform daily customer transactions, there are some tech-based companies who outsource the job of selling their products to BPO companies. This is why agents who are knowledgeable about technology can be a company’s asset, a fact that managers are well aware of. While being computer literate is an obvious must-have, it pays to have agents who possess extra familiarity rolled up their sleeves.
- Education and Training This doesn’t necessarily refer to formal schooling as there are a lot of call center firms who do not discriminate against an educational background. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t do harm if a company’s agents are fairly educated as this can be an advantage when seeking promotion and career growth.
Another important factor in this category is the agents’ attitude towards learning. Agents who are adept at absorbing information especially when they are undergoing sessions of coaching and training can be expected to do their tasks more efficiently and to require minimal supervision.
- Experience may not exactly be a skill , but it can be pleasant leverage if used well. Those who have been working as agents for years have the advantage of knowing how to deal with every imaginable customer and employee there is. That being said, it is easier to expect seasoned agents to be able to handle above-average responsibilities and to share what they know to junior agents.
- Analytical Skills The job of an agent may be mostly founded on routine, but it doesn’t mean analytical thinking isn’t required. The very fact that agents have to provide optimal service demands that they give the best possible option the customer is looking for. On another note, there are BPO companies who provide services like analyzing tons of data, and this is where being critical comes in handy. Being analytical requires an agent not only to be able to study the information at hand; it also calls for the ability to figure out the loopholes and how to work around them.
Keeping the Right Attitude
Aside from having a wide berth for intellectual capacity, here are some character traits any agent must have.
- Adaptable Language is not the only barrier this industry has overcome; it has also conquered the time difference barrier. As such, many companies operate 24/7 to keep up with the pace of their clients and customers. This is why some agents are required to take the graveyard shift. Agents who are adaptable to the changes in the workplace, whether it’s their schedule, their tasks, or their environment is greatly appreciated and wanted by a lot of team leaders and managers. They are also usually the ones who don’t need much supervision and can easily acclimatize to modifications in routine.
- Team-player.In some cases, agents are divided among teams and are assigned a certain client they will handle as a group. While there are people, who believe they work better when they are alone, being a team player is beneficial once an agent becomes part of one. An agent who is cooperative appreciates the value of needing to work together as efficiently as possible for reasons such as meeting the client’s demands, aiming for their personal development, and promoting the team’s growth.
- Compassion. It takes a smart agent to figure out the answer to a single customer query, but it takes a compassionate one to do this every single day. What makes the job of an agent remarkable is the fact that despite how repetitive their tasks can be and no matter how cranky some customers can get at times, the good ones are those who truly understand how much they can be of assistance and still go on without taking things, especially the bad, personally.
- Resilient dealing with a possibly erratic schedule and the different behaviors of customers can be quite stressful. However, agents who are willing to do their job well remain spirited. More than just giving satisfactory customer service, it is also important that agents remain professional even when under pressure.
- Disciplined After every skill and characteristic has been laid out, the yardstick of a reliable call center agent boils down to this one way of life—his (or her) self-discipline. Disciplined agents are those who do their best to learn everything that has to do with their job, who show up at work on time, and who submit their deliverables on or before the deadline. They are also the ones who rarely make excuses for themselves because the need for it is superseded by their efficiency at work.
To say that a call center agent is someone who slaves in a contact center answering calls and e-mails all day would not only be lacking; it is also unfair. From the eyes of someone who is able to manage and work with a lot of them, call center agents are those who are motivated by their compassion to deliver matchless customer service and stay graceful in the face of potentially grouchy customers. If, by any chance, you are in the call center business and are asked to look for agents, make sure that they possess these skills. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
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Success in outsourcing isn't a matter of chance, but rather the result of a meticulously defined process, a formula that Fortune 500 companies have diligently honed over time. This rigor is a significant factor in the rarity of failures within these industry titans' outsourced programs.
Having spent over two decades partnering with and delivering Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) solutions to Fortune 500 clients, John possesses an in-depth understanding of this intricate process. His comprehensive approach incorporates an exhaustive assessment of outsourcing requirements, precise vendor sourcing, and a robust program management strategy.