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Working as an agent in a contact centre is not something for the weak hearted. When things go wrong and you’re the first point of contact between an irate customer and your employers, it can be easy to lose your composure.
Contact centres are busy and hectic places of work and the industry is notorious for its poor staff retention, with the average annual attrition rate reportedly being as low as 24 per cent.
What’s more, 50 to 60 per cent of attrition is said to transpire within the first 12 to 13 weeks of employment commencing, so employers looking for new recruits is almost a continuous cycle.
But what should you look for in an agent? Being hard-working and an effective communicator are of course essential, but there are other, more specific character traits, that you should look for in your ideal agent.
While agents have to be clear in their speech, they also have to be exceptional listeners because if they don’t listen to exactly what a customer has said, how will they know exactly how to help with their enquiry?
Many customers will call on the back of a problem with their account and can already be in an irritated state of mind before they call. Therefore, it’s important to listen carefully, show empathy and understanding, and show that above all the agent is trying to solve their issue rather than treat the customer like just another caller.
As mentioned, it’s not uncommon for customers to call up in an irritated state of mind and let off steam in a rant against the company or service that can sometimes sound like it’s directed at the agent.
In these circumstances it’s important to show patience and avoid snarling at the customer, by politely telling them you’re sorry for their issue and that you’re only there to help rectify it.
It’s said that up to 70 per cent of consumers will do business with a company again if their problem is resolved, so the rewards are palpable.
Similarly to agents showing they have the patience and understanding to be able to help a customer with an issue, remaining calm in situations whereby a customer embarks upon a furious rant is paramount.
We’ve all seen the videos on YouTube of examples of terrible customer service and how not to treat a customer, so even in the midst of a bad day in the office the last thing you expect of an agent is to lose their temper with a customer.
Not only will this most likely result in the offending agent being taken to one side for a word, it will also reflect badly on your company and as research has suggested that news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many people as praise for good customer service does, this can generate a lot of bad PR for your business.
Customers want to speak to agents who sound enthusiastic and who demonstrate an energy and willingness towards helping them with their issue. If an agent talks in a dreary, monotone voice it will cause the customer to think that they’re simply an inconvenience.
In 2011 an Oracle Customer Experience Impact Report revealed that 73 per cent of consumers want to deal with brands with friendly employees or customer service representatives, so agents with outgoing and confident personalities are often good characteristics to have.
You want agents working for you that are going to be hard-working, PC literate and have a good telephone manner; but you also need to be able to depend on them.
If your agents aren’t dependable – they turn up late for shifts, call in sick regularly and at short notice – then the rest of your team will suffer.
Ideal call centre agents are also flexible and in circumstances such as those mentioned above, will be willing to cover and work overtime if you’re particularly stretched.
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