Support Services: Creating Call Center Agents Who Think for Themselves1 Jun, 2011 By: Luis Echevarria Response
Although direct response is a scripted environment, the truth is that every client would love to know it has an army of agents who think for themselves in the call center. Agents who are trained to put themselves in the caller’s shoes and, as a result, can almost always figure out how to close the deal, save the sale or solve a tricky customer service issue within the client-provided guidelines are invaluable.
This high standard of performance is not up to the agent alone, however; it is a team effort. While call center management should generally take care in picking agents who already have sales competency or call center experience and who approach the position with positivity, there are key ways in which you can boost any agent’s level of confidence and responsiveness on the phone — and thus, their sales. Three components are absolutely necessary to create self-reliant, successful agents.
The Latest in Call Center Technology
It’s simple: Agents can perform at their best for your business when they are working with the best possible technology on the market. Still, while your agents may be the best around, they aren’t necessarily going to be able to pick up every call that comes in. Software being installed recently by some major call centers allows outbound callbacks to be automatically queued when call volumes are very high, calls aren’t answered quickly and customers abandon their calls — providing your agents with the time it takes to carefully handle each call and finish the sale, and the peace of mind to know they can simply dial back the calls they missed in the interim.
By implementing such technology, your agents can perform at maximum levels. You’ll not only boost the confidence and ease an agent feels in every interaction, but also gain a substantial return-on-investment.
Proactive, Empathetic, Thinking agents
Aside from the stereotypical discussion of can-do attitudes and positivity, what is really integral to being a top-performing, thoughtful agent is the ability to be proactive.
This manifests itself in two ways: First, an agent must be self-assured enough to be proactive with management; to make suggestions on offers, scripts or whatever may be on his or her mind, whenever he or she sees room for improvement. Similarly, an agent must have the same amount of gusto required to work smoothly with a customer on the phone, especially on upsells and cross-sells. And, in both situations, agent thoughtfulness and consideration should be encouraged.
When seeking new agents, not only should you look for individuals with vibrant, sophisticated personalities, but those who can think on their feet and solve problems quickly when the need arises.
Compensation for a Job Well Done
Every call center should have a compensation plan in place that rewards performance and positive behavior, and every marketer should opt for a call center that does. Why? Because it empowers the employee to achieve superlative results and ensures that everyone in the call center will do the best job possible. HR will stay on top of hiring employees who stick around and perform above the norm. Training will have agents who are ready to perform on day one. Operations will be motivated — from manager to supervisor to agent — to make sure goals are met. And even your IT staff is going to keep operations functioning at a high level.
The system that works best is one in which more than half of the agent’s wage is based upon performance and incentives. Not only are agents encouraged to do their best for the sake of their own paychecks, but they are rewarded in some way when they do exceptionally well. It’s a win either way and, in the end, the culture of the company is geared toward client success.
By providing agents and support staff with the best possible tools to do their jobs, the outcome will be simple: the best possible product for call centers and their clients. It’s true that everyone wants agents and a support staff who think for themselves, but the truth is that your employees are only self-propelled and self-assured when they know they have the means necessary to get the job done right. ■
Luis Echevarria is co-founder and CEO of VIXICOM. He can be reached at (809) 338-0000 or via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.