What Knowledge and Skills Do You Need to Have as a Call Center Agent?
It depends on the job you do. There are two types of agents’ roles in a call center. Customer service agents provide support to customers by answering their questions or handling their complaints. Telesales representatives sell products and services to potential and existing customers, contacting them directly by phone. In some call centers, agents combine these two roles, handling both inbound and outbound calls. However, the knowledge and skills you need to possess are somewhat different in each case.
Product and industry knowledge
In customer service, if you know ins and outs of your product or service it will help you to solve customers’ problems more quickly and effectively. It doesn’t guarantee that you can fix any issue at the first contact but you at least will know to whom to transfer the particular call.
In telesales, deep product knowledge allows you to answer more complex questions during cold calls and come across as a more confident person.
Empathy is one of the crucial communication skills both in customer service and sales. In customer service, it means listening to a customer’s emotions and responding to them. It also means that the agent can use empathy statements - phrases that show their empathy. For example, it may be using active verbs instead of passive voice (“I will immediately ask our team to solve the problem” instead of “The problem will be solved by the team”). It shows that there is someone who takes responsibility so the problem is more likely to be solved. In sales, empathy means that you represent your product or service as a solution to a prospect’s problem. It shows the prospect that your company does care about customers’ needs and wants.
Active listening is one of the must-have skills for every salesperson and customer service agent. When you listen actively, you can understand beyond what customers are saying because you pay attention to their tone of voice and language selection as well. Active listening also means that you let your customers or prospects know that you are listening. You can do this by using so-called verbal nods like “yes” and asking relevant questions. Using this skill customer service agents can get to the heart of the problem. Moreover, it shows the customer that your company does care about meeting their needs and phrases like “putting customers first” aren’t just words in a mission statement. In telesales, active listening also helps you to make a good impression on prospects so you are more likely to turn them into customers. It has its merits for you as well. This skill allows you to assess the situation and understand if your product or service is a good fit for this company.
A good call center agent is able to deal with different types of customers whether they are chatty or outraged. You also need to adapt to challenging hours: holidays, nights, and weekends. It implies that you have to be stress-resistant and able to stay calm under the pressure of circumstances.
Specific knowledge and skills
Leveraging technology. A good agent has to be proficient in using job-related technology such as call center software, CRM, and other business tools. It helps them to stay motivated and productive by automating the most repetitive tasks (for example, manual dialing).
Using sales techniques. When a telesales person is good at using different sales techniques (ANUM, CHAMP, GCST, etc) it can make their workflow more organized and efficient. They can ask relevant questions that allow them to get valuable information about prospects and help to establish lasting relationships.
To learn more about sales techniques and other tactics of cold calling, check out our article.
How to Boost Productivity in Your Telesales Role
Never Stop Learning
There are lots of ways to learn. Read books on sales and psychology to understand your prospects and customers better. Attend training and coaching sessions and pay attention to the results of call quality monitoring. Consider all the remarks in your performance review as room for improvement.
Set Achievable Goals
Set yourself a sales target for the day, week, or month and track your progress. It will help you to stay focused on work and get the results your manager is looking for. If your company offers some enticing incentive, make it one of your goals.
Remember About Breaks
Regular, short breaks will allow you to recharge your batteries and make you more productive. It may seem counterintuitive when you feel inspired by successful calls but it’s true. Otherwise, mental fatigue and emotional burnout will become harsh realities for you.
Focus on Resolving Issues
See things from your potential customer's perspective. They consider your product or service as a solution to their problems. That’s why you need to explain the benefits of your offer and then list the features. Putting yourself in the prospect’s shoes both before making a call and during a conversation is what will help you succeed.
Work at Home. What Is Worth Paying Attention?
Remote work has become a reality for many call centers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It influences the call center’s workflow at all levels. What should you pay attention to as a remote agent?
Workplace. Try to make your workplace as comfortable as possible. Sure, you can’t make your room soundproof as in an on-premise call center. However, it is possible to use a professional headset with a USB interface and active noise reduction (Jabra, Plantronics, etc). Also, you should consider using a comfortable adjustable chair that will keep your spine in a good position.
Technical requirements. To start with, your system administrator is the first person you should consult with on this topic so we will give just general recommendations. Make sure that your PC (or laptop) meets the minimal requirements of call center software and other business tools. It is also important to exclude the influence of outside programs during the call. Such online services as Youtube, torrent trackers, or misconfigured VPN can affect your internet traffic and cause interruptions when you are speaking with clients. The same may be true for antivirus software so make sure that it doesn’t interfere with your business tools. Also, we recommend using a wired Internet connection (via Ethernet cable) because Wi-Fi is unstable.
Plan your rest as well. When working at home, a line between “work” and “home” becomes almost invisible. So it is easy to become overwhelmed by your duties and forget about taking a break. Use planning tools (for example, Google Calendar) to schedule short breaks and lunch. Otherwise, you will quickly become exhausted.
Keep in touch with your team. Attend all the informal virtual meetings with your teammates. It will help you to feel that you are a part of the team. No matter what kind of activities you have - Zoom coffee breaks, virtual water cooler, or even some parties - it will increase your motivation and allow you to keep a good mood.
To be a good call center agent isn’t easy. You have to refine your product knowledge and communication skills all the time, keep calm under pressure, and show true empathy to your customers and prospects. But if you love this job it pays off in the end and maybe truly rewarding.