Despite many companies hosting online knowledge hubs, customers still often choose to contact call centres. There is a range of reasons for this. It could be that they don’t trust chatbots, struggle to find an answer to their question, or don’t want to wait around for an email response.
Perhaps with COVID-19 forcing people to work from home, people are happy to spend 25 minutes waiting to talk to a real human. Whatever the reason, call centres are still widely used. In fact, they’ve actually grown in number by 1.1% between the years of 2015-2020, according to Ibis World.
What that means is that there is more need for call centre staff to do their thing and help customers out where they can.
But what is it like working in a call centre? Is it fun and are there perks to the job? Or is it just a lot of angry customers ranting down the phone? What’s the typical working environment provided by a call centre operator?
Like any job, working in a call centre has both good and bad points. This guide walks you through all you need to know about the job. It tells you everything you’ve ever wondered about being a call centre agent.
Source: Alex Kotliarskyi/ Unsplash
What Skills do You Need to Work in a Call Centre?
With any customer service job, working in a call centre requires basic human interaction skills. These are having the ability to listen, be polite, and be kind. Of course, in customer service, whether over the phone or on social media, the ultimate aim is to help the customer with any problems or queries they may have.
And when working in a call centre, the skills needed are different once again. The following are five skills that are specific to call centre staff, from frontline agents to the call centre manager.
1. Retaining Knowledge.
Call centre workers are a fountain of knowledge. They have to be. Because whenever a customer phones up, they want an answer. And they want it to be quick and accurate. They don’t want a customer service representative who drones on for no purpose.
So, working in a call centre means that staff has to be able to answer anything from, “Where do the batteries go in this remote?” To, “Is this text really from you, or was it a hacker?”.
Those with good call centre skills will be able to understand and interpret any customer support question that comes their way.
Despite the idea that working as a call centre agent is about cold calling and selling the same product over and over, the day of a call centre representative is very varied. Even if the staff is making several outbound calls, it is still a very unpredictable job with lots of responsibilities.
Agents will often be thrown a curveball in their working day. They generally need to deal with those straight away. If something random or unexpected pops up, they are the ones who are expected to manage it professionally while the customer’s still at the end of the phone.
3. Attention to detail.
One of the best call centre skills you can have is to be specific. Customers like to know precisely what is going on and exactly how to solve their issue.
So, if a customer says, “Where do the batteries go in the remote?” It isn’t enough to say, “At the bottom”. It has to be, “At the back, on the bottom, between the two tiny silver screws, just below the company logo”.
A great service rep goes above and beyond and answers all questions to a T. That’s how to achieve optimum customer satisfaction.
There will be times when a question simply can’t be answered. When this happens, it’s down to the agent to find an alternative solution. So, the call center staff member needs to be creative and figure something out that works for both the customer and the company.
They also need to be prepared for anything unanticipated that might come their way. At the end of the day, an inbound agent receives dozens of cold calls every day. They must think on their feet to resolve each one effectively.
Working in a call centre requires a lot of organisation, as well as communication skills. Help desk agents can receive exceedingly high numbers of phone calls a day. So, part of the call centre skillset requires an agent to keep on top of who has called.
Sometimes, patrons can call back weeks later. Meaning staff needs to be on the frontline and keep on top of each case, updating customers and team members as they go.
Call centre skills can vary so much from day-to-day. But in general, the skills agents must learn are much more varied than people may presume.
What Hours do Call Centre Agents Work?
Obviously, the hours worked in a call centre can greatly depend on the nature of the business. Somebody dealing with complaints at the BBC may only work Monday to Friday 9-5. A firm offering emergency boiler care, meanwhile, may have to provide 24/7 coverage.
Working in a call centre often means that staff has to be flexible and willing to do shift work. Although, if people have certain hours they can’t do, a discussion with the manager will help sort this out. In call centres, there are typically options to work both full time and part-time.
What’s more, having a global audience may make the working hours a bit more unusual than people may be used to. It can also sometimes mean long hours, where you don’t hang up your last call until late at night. But, for the kind of person who hates the idea of working a standard 9-5 eight hour shift, working as a flexible call centre worker can be a great solution.
The Coronavirus pandemic and the resulting risk of catching Covid-19 has also meant that lots of call centre jobs are now based from home. That has taken away the worry of travelling around at unsociable times.
What’s a Day-in-The-Life of a Call Centre Agent?
It’s already been established that working in a call centre is quite varied. An average day isn’t just a case of sticking on the headset and getting stuck in. Like in any job, the start of a day might involve a team meeting or a quick catch up with workmates.
But there will be those wondering what it’s like working in a call centre specifically. Call centre work is all about the customer experience. In this case, that means taking a high number of calls and doing plenty of talking, all day every day. You may get sick of the sound of your own voice, but it will be worth it to know that you have helped someone with their problems.
There is a bit of a worry that call centre staff get bombarded with angry customers. And although, yes, there will be the odd meanie, the majority of people are lovely to talk to and are grateful for the help.
Call centre work is usually divided into two categories. That’s making inbound and outbound calls.
- Inbound calls – This is when a customer makes the phone call to the contact centre of a company. It could be for a bank, an internet firm, or an electronics company, amongst many others.
The work in these places revolves around doing things like setting up accounts, closing accounts, or investigating problems with accounts. It could also involve checking money issues, dealing with faults, answering questions about products, or queries on people’s bills. It’s essentially answering customer questions.
- Outbound calls – This is often known as cold calling. It’s not as popular as it once was but still exists for many firms as it’s a great way of selling products. Agents doing this will actively reach out to potential clients. Sometimes it can be more about the marketing side of things, but it usually involves sales. Call centre agents in this role tend to get more commission than in the inbound role.
Sometimes, agents may have to make a follow-up call for any problems that weren’t resolved. These are outbound calls that agents in an inbound call centre may make. In general, though, the two categories of calls get handled by different staff.
What Tips Can Help Future Call Centre Agents?
There are a few straightforward pointers that will help people make the most of working in a call centre. Following these tips will keep both staff and customers happy.
- Be empathetic – It’s particularly important not to take sides, and to try and stay neutral. But it’s also important not to be a robot. Showing some empathy will demonstrate that you are taking the customer seriously.
- Take notes – Sometimes call centre work can involve dealing with customers who like to talk. Making notes of what they are saying can help you to keep on top of the issue.
- Be confident – Even if you are faking it, if you sound confident, the client will have much more trust in you.
- Be patient – Working in a call centre isn’t about making as many calls as you can in a day, it’s about helping customers and building a client base. Being patient will keep people coming back.
- Keep a positive attitude – Positivity is contagious. Staying happy will not just rub off on your customer, but your colleagues too.
Hopefully, these working in call centre tips will help you to enjoy the role much more and will aid you in keeping customers happy.
Those wondering, “What is it like working in a call centre?”, hopefully now have an insight into the world of inbound and outbound calls.
Call centres are made up of many wonderful people who love their job. Naturally, there will always be a few horror stories flying around. But for those who think they’ve got what it takes, working in a call centre can be a unique, sociable, and interesting job that makes a difference to customers around the world.
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Originally published Nov 10, 2020, updated Apr 10, 2023