In the previous section we mentioned the skills that are usually required from anyone who wants to work in a call centre.
In recruiting, most call centres will run some form of assessment centre where they will ask a group of candidates to come along and be tested and interviewed all at the same time. Typically call centres tend to recruit groups of agents at a time, as it is more cost effective way to do so.
A typical assessment centre will include exercises on:
Typing ability and accuracy as data entry is very important (so if you can’t type or are out of practice then you may want to get in some practice).
- Typing ability and accuracy as data entry is very important (so if you can’t type or are out of practice then you may want to get in some practice).
- Numerical tests especially where the centre provides information on figures
- Telephone call role plays where the candidate may be given some information and they have to answer questions from someone on a phone
- Listening skills where someone again over a phone will tell you information and they have to complete an exercise about it.
The role plays are usually based on the type of call that an agent may typically get. For sales agents there will also be role plays to test their potential selling skills and for service agents some customer service scenarios which may include an unhappy customer.
There will also be an interview which is usually a minimum of 2 people with one asking questions and one writing notes. The questions will ask you to give examples of situations that you have been in. For example:
- How you dealt with a difficult customer?
- When you were able to persuade a customer to do something
- What good customer service means to you
- When you have provided excellent customer service
- What was the most rewarding sale you made and why
- When you have worked in a team to achieve a great result (if you are just leaving school then you may be a member of a club or sports team
- Previous relevant experiences – note this does not have to include work in a call centre
- How you may have dealt with a difficult situation in the past
Interviews are often daunting but if you prepare before hand by thinking of some answers to the above questions and how your previous experience in life, not just work may be relevant. The interviewers are looking for how your experience may be used, how aware you are of typical business issues and how you might apply the knowledge and experience to when you work for them. For example – if your response to ‘How did you deal with a difficult customer?’ is to shout at them until they listened to you, then it is unlikely that they would want you in a customer service role. If on the other hand you are able to demonstrate how you turned an unhappy customer to a happy one who buys more goods, then this is more likely to be the type of person they would want.
Other suggestions are to think about what the product the organisation may either sell or what industry they work in. For example if they are in the travel industry, think about how important it is to be given the right information by the person who sold your policy or read a bit about what is happening in the industry at the moment. If you can remember experiences that you yourself have had and relate these in the interview it all helps.
For example we were renting a car for a holiday in Cyprus and the Agent suggested we hire a jeep to enable us to do mountain sight seeing – this was not something we had thought about, but the Agent knew as they had been there themselves.
Also do ask questions at the interview as it should be a two way process – you want them to like you but they also want you to like the company. Things to ask:
- What are the typical working hours?
- Do you have to work evenings, or weekends? If so how often? If you have to work very late at night – are there any means for getting home?
- How are shift patterns worked out – how much notice will you be given?
- How many holidays per year and when are you entitled to have them from?
- What is the benefits package? Is there more than salary? Will you be eligible for the benefits as soon as you join?
- If part of the salary is commission, then how is this worked out and how often do you get paid it?
- What induction training will you be given and how long does it last for?
- What support are you given on completion of your induction training when you start taking calls?
- Do you have a probationary period?
- Note: All the above things should be clearly documented in your terms and conditions of your contract
- What are the age groups of people in the centre at the moment?
- What is the average length of service?
- How does the performance management approach work? Do you receive regular feedback from your Team Leader?
- Are there any social activities? (This may surprise you but it is a good way of building team work and encouraging people to work well together!)
Also ask to see around the centre where you will work and ask to speak to an existing Agent. This gives you a feel for what it may be like to work there and also to get the view of someone who already does!
The more you know about the job and the organisation before you join the more informed your decision can be and the more likely you will be to stay working for the organisation. It is very important for the organisation to get the recruitment right as the process itself is costly, but employing the wrong or unhappy people will impact ongoing performance and customer business.
Many thanks to Paul Weald, the director at mcx, for putting this article together for us.