Call centers have consistently high turnover rates. Turnover rates as high as 20 percent are considered “low,” and some call centers even have the distinction of achieving 100 percent turnover. It’s not hard to see why: The work is stressful (and often frustrating), the pay is low, and the career path isn’t always clear. For that reason, it’s extremely important to identify the characteristics of long-term, successful call center agents and to look for those same qualities in your hiring practices. Here are three of the most important personality traits for great call center agents.
Patience is, by far, the most important personality trait to look for when you’re hiring call center agents. Some customers will be angry and will take that anger out on the agent. Others won’t have all of the information they need. Still others will tell a story that doesn’t seem to make sense, and it’s up to the agent to sift through everything and to determine the facts. The most successful call center agents have the patience to deal with all of that and more. And that doesn’t mean sitting there and gritting their teeth, trying not to explode. It means taking those stressful customer behaviors in stride and realizing that it’s just an inherent part of customer contact.
Unhappy customers want resolution. Successful call center agents figure out how to provide it. They aren’t intimidated by obstacles, bureaucratic or otherwise. They’re masters at getting things done and at finding solutions that might not be part of the standard script. In other words, they know that satisfying the customer is what it’s all about, and they won’t give up until they’ve done just that. If the customer isn’t happy, they’re not happy, and they’re willing to be as creative as they need to be to make things happen.
The best call center agents aren’t just robotically taking calls with the infamous “thousand-yard stare” on their faces, counting down the minutes until their shift is over. The best ones actually care. They take it personally when they fail to make a customer happy, because they see their personal mission as solving customers’ problems. When they make a mistake, they learn from it and use that learning in interactions with future customers. They want to do better, and they set personal goals for self-improvement. When they reach one goal, they set another.
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Social philosopher Eric Hoffer once said, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists.” Whether it’s coming to your call center from another employer, adapting to your new enterprise phone system, or assimilating and acting on new business imperatives, successful call center agents easily adapt to and master new requirements. They’re more focused on what they need to learn than on what they already know.
Call center agents hear the same requests over and over, day after day. It’s easy to get complacent and to tune out, assuming that you already know what the customer’s problem is and how to resolve it. The very best call center agents never make assumptions about a customer’s needs. They handle each call as if it’s unique and treat each customer as an individual.
Your call center agents are the face and voice of your company. Sure, schedule flexibility is important. So is being willing to work for a wage you’re able to pay. But none of those things matter much if your customer service agents don’t have the right personality for the job. It’s an important job, and it takes a special type of person to do it well.