Call centres are the voice of each business and what it represents. The requirements for becoming a call centre representative are as diverse as the full range of the industry.
“Rather than having a single set of educational or other skill requirements, the requirements are specific to both the business vertical and each business culture,” says Beverly Lundh, president of the British Columbia Contact Centre Association (BC CCA).
For example, the skilled and well-resourced staffs at 911 emergency response centres act in a similar way as retail contact centre representatives. Similarly, IT help-desk technicians, tellers at banks, and airline reservation agents are all examples of call centre setups catering to distinctive specialties.
“Each of these industries will require very specific education and associated skill levels,” she says. “I would say, though, that the minimum requirement would be post-secondary education and previous customer service experience.”
Despite the wide range of job-specific training requirements, there are several qualities and traits that are consistently required across all types of call centre setups, regardless of the industry or level of complexity. “Strong customer service skills include the ability to listen, anticipate, and understand a customer, to demonstrate empathy and compassion.”
A good tone of voice and the ability to articulate clearly and project warmth over the telephone are also essential for a satisfactory customer experience. Add to that the ability to stay calm in stressful situations and, at times, assist in diffusing a stressful reaction in others.
A strong call centre rep pays attention to detail and uses common sense to troubleshoot and solve problems. On a more physical note, a temperament conducive with being tethered to a telephone and computer for hours at a time also helps.
According to Lundh, there are a number of advantages to pursuing a career in a contact centre, regardless of the industry inclination, contact centres and customer service setups are constantly evolving, resulting in ongoing opportunities for growth.
“The call centre environment can be as simple or as complex as the business that it supports, offering many learning opportunities.”
Among other advantages, Lundh also cites flexibility in scheduling as a positive of being in the call centre business. Reps have a variety of working shifts available subject to customer need. “Many contact centres now offer remote worker or work at home programs that offer even greater flexibility.”
Salaries for reps can range significantly depending on the skill level and critical nature of each business environment.
At BC CCA, support is given primarily to members in the form of professional development opportunities, the sharing of industry best practices, networking opportunities, and overall representation.
“Typically, the learning events tend more toward strategy, latest trends in management, and understanding of technology opportunities,” says Lundh.
Such events can lead to broaden the field of experience and provide the chance to learn from other people’s acumen to help promote healthier call centre practices. The trickle-down effect of the workshop learning eventually benefits call centre reps and aids in career advancement.
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