With the increasingly demanding role a contact center is playing in an organization, the responsibilities of the contact center agent are changing rapidly. How have these responsibilities changed? Who is the most suitable individual for a contact center position? What skill sets should these individuals possess? Read on to discover who the ideal individual should be in light of evolving customer needs and wants.

Most organizations know their primary touch-point with customers is its contact center. However, enlightened ones recognize it’s actually the contact center agents because they are the individuals that determine an outcome of a customer contact. This outcome establishes whether you keep or lose your most important asset; customers. Amazingly, these individuals have somehow been bestowed upon the responsibility of hold-times, handle-times and your typical contact center metrics. Their focus has somehow been delineated from creating the special and memorable customer experience that all organizations rave about to worrying about numbers and data. So, what happened?

The role of the contact center agent has evolved, in large part to create more business value from a smaller, more highly skilled and sophisticated workforce. Real-time metrics and personalization tools are placing great pressure on contact centers to sell during any appropriate inbound contact. Fear of customer defection in these trying economic times also has increased the pressure to resolve, rather than deflect, customer issues.

Many a contact center manager is fixated on labor costs and it is commonly known to reach levels of up to 70 % in the Asia Pacific region. Advances in technology have allowed companies to do more with their labor dollars than ever before. Virtual call center networks allow ad hoc teams to be created with multiple sites or even offshore locations. Web self-help and IVR not only offer more opportunities to resolve problems before they reach the contact center, but they provide precious sorting and routing assistance to the call center.

Unfortunately, some contact centers are so obsessed with shaving seconds off the ever precious talk-time that they have forgotten it’s not about the statistics but about the customer experience. This alleviates the pressure on the contact center agent who is left alone to establish his or her priorities:

Bonus earning individual “killer stats” or creating the unforgettable customer experience?

The perfect contact center individual would be able to distinguish the difference between the two and when during each inbound contact to deliver what. An individual with the tenacity to withstand trying customer complaints yet able to instinctively deliver the appropriate type of call with earnest is the ever elusive individual we call the Ideal Contact Center Professional.

The Ideal Contact Center Professional has come a long way from her predecessors of a decade ago. Once upon a time, all you required was an aptitude to deliver customer service by answering precise direct queries and closing with “Is there anything else I can help you with?” with a smile on your face. Today, it’s about delivering the delighting customer experience while reviewing customer history, updating precious customer data on intricate CRM software, performing innovative trouble shooting, having an intimate knowledge of the colossal Knowledge Base, being aware of your talk-time, checking on the queue, knowing when your break is up and at the same time looking for an opportunity to up-sell your organization’s products or services. All this and knowing that your call is being recorded for “quality purposes.” So, who is your Ideal Contact Center Professional?

You look for individuals who not only have the basic product knowledge but are trained or have a background of cultivating and building relationships with other individuals. Some professions that require these skills are nurses, community workers and individuals from the retired community.

Organizations today approach recruiting contact center professionals in a variety of ways. Some organizations choose to hire on sales skills and teach the technical side, while others prefer to hire on problem-resolution skills and instill the sales techniques at a later date. The most important step is to make a choice and develop a plan that will give contact center professionals, new and veteran, the skills they need to handle more complex requirements. A comprehensive and well designed training and development program is an essential component for this plan to succeed. Continuous upgrading of the contact center professional’s skills in product knowledge complemented by a closely monitored individual development program of motivation levels and soft skills would be crucial.

The Ideal Contact Center Professional is fast approaching her threshold of tolerance and is probably looking out for another organization to fulfill her individual needs. This could be a great development for you if your contact center is recruiting. However, is your contact center devoting enough resources to investing in these individuals to keep them? Are you creating the Ideal Contact Center Professional delighting experience?

Ken Ng
CEO/Senior Managing Consultant