How Can You Develop and Progress?
Working in a call centre can offer you a large number of career opportunities. As there continues to be an increasing demand for call centre Agents, once trained, you may see better opportunities in other centres.
However, it is not just other call centres that you could work in, as excellent agent skills are highly sought after. If you are a successful sales Agent, this may open up opportunities to work in other sales environments, as you will have proven your ability to sell and many of the techniques are transferable. Similarly a good customer service Agent, can use the skills they have learnt in other customer service type environments. You will develop many skills whilst being a call centre Agent, including PC/keyboard; telephone manners; customer relations etc all of which are usually very important in most jobs.
Within many organisations, they may use the call centre as a type of nursery where individuals learn about the organisation before moving into other roles. Many organisations advertise vacancies internally before they go outside, as this is less costly in recruitment terms but it is also seen to be good for morale. Therefore, if you have an interest in working in HR or Marketing which are two areas that are often difficult to get into, then you may want to consider how starting in a call centre may help your career path. Many students and school leavers take call centre roles in order to get their first job or help finance them during their studies. As we have said elsewhere, call centres are often looking for people to work evenings or weekends and these are often suitable to students as well as working parents. Many centres will offer the flexibility of increasing working hours to cover holidays etc, so you can get additional hours if you need too.
It is not only outside the centre that there are career opportunities, but within the centre as well. If you are good at explaining processes and helping your colleagues, there are usually opportunities to take on roles such as ‘buddies’ where you help the new agents settle in. This is often seen as a good introduction towards becoming either a team coach or the Team Leader or a Trainer. Team Leadership within a call centre can then open up many other potential management type roles. One of the authors of this document started her career in working in a customer service centre! You may also be more technically minded and therefore a role within the Operational Management Support team may suit you. Typically people who are analytical and good with figures tend to enjoy these roles and for some people this has led them either to a role within finance or because they use the systems a lot either into the IT department or to act as a intermediary between IT and the Call centre.
Finally, although we have spoken about general opportunities above, if your call centre is in a particular industry, then the knowledge of the industry itself may open up many different opportunities.
At your initial interview you may want to ask about career development opportunities within the call centre and whether the company does advertise other jobs internally or not! In some centres Agents may not be able to apply for other roles for at least 1 year of starting so this may need to be born in mind. Also the centre may be located away from the main offices where some of the other roles are performed.
Some General Points to be Aware of!
If you have not worked in a call centre before, it may be a shock for you! It may feel strange having to sit at a desk and feel that you are bombarded with calls, surrounded by other people and to take breaks at particular time. It does take a few weeks for this feeling to wear off, it is not uncommon, but it is the way of a call centre and so you should give it some time.
If a customer has been holding on in a queue or has been sent a letter by the company that they are not happy with, then they may be upset, rude or even aggressive. Most companies do have training, that all agents go on, to help them deal with these situations. The best thing to do is to remain calm, not to take it personally and to always remain polite. Don’t ever react to them, as unfortunately this will give them, more to complain about and normally companies will expect you to remain polite. However, most companies also have a policy for dealing with difficult customers so you should follow this policy. Remember for every difficult customer there are many more nice customers.
You Find the Work Monotonous!
After you become familiar with the calls, then it is quite likely that you will feel that this is the case. There may be opportunities to take more complex calls or to expand your role into other areas of call handling (this may include a different type of call or outbound instead of inbound!). However, many agents set themselves personal challenges to improve their figures or have little competitions with others in their team to help keep them interested. Career Opportunities An experienced Agent can also get involved in helping to buddy new Agents or to become a Coach for a Team. Both these roles are very important and can be a stepping stone towards becoming a Team Leader. Many individuals have been able to use the role of an agent as a stepping stone to other roles within an organisation, but remember that if you have just joined a company, then this may not happen for at least a year if not longer.
Call centres produce a mountain of management information from the technology that it uses. As explained before the resource planning and costs of a centre are based around simple statistics such as the average call duration and % of time spent answering calls. Agents are usually given their stats on either a daily or weekly basis, which may make some Agents feel under pressure, but many Agents use it as a way of challenging themselves to achieve. The quantitative statistics should not be the only thing used to measure an Agent, but also the quality and effectiveness of the service they provide!
More and more call centres need people to work only certain hours to meet the needs of callers. For this reason, they are often a good source of part-time work and can provide a wide range of hours to suit individual needs. For example, as the busiest time of day is usually between 10 am and 12 noon, centres are likely to offer contracts from between 9.30 – 1 or 2 p.m. or weekends and evening shifts. It is worth asking if these types of working hours are actually available. Some centres will also enable you to bank some hours in order to take off at another time.
One of the difficulties in call centres is meeting the needs of all the agents as well. As they often provide work for parents with young children, there is usually a high demand for time off at school holidays, this can on the upside also provide additional working hours for others such as students.
Within a call centre where a large number of people work together secrets can rarely be kept or very few things go unnoticed, so be careful about what you do or say. I worked with a centre where a person always took the last Friday of the month off. It was known that their boyfriend came back that weekend from working away. The person was disciplined as a result.
Busy Periods of Time
Within a centre the busiest periods are typically between 10 am – 12 noon and on a Monday. Agents should be aware that centres try to maximise the number of people taking calls during this time period in order to help achieve the service levels. If performance is poor during this time, then customers do get more irate and the whole day becomes more difficult. Good agents, will be mindful of the importance of focussing their efforts during these busy periods which may not appear to be acknowledged by the Manager but is usually not missed by them.
Sickness and Absenteeism
Most centres have clear and what might appear to be strict processes for monitoring and managing sickness and everyone is expected to conform to these practices. The practice has often been put in place because of a small number of people taking time off for what are not always genuine reasons. This does put intense pressure on others in the centre, so to ensure people were treated fairly and consistently, these policies were put in place.
Terms & Conditions of Employment
These are in place to protect you and to set out what is expected of you. It is a formal contract and the breaking of it, can have serious consequences for both the individual and the company. You should be aware of what this covers and understand the rights, policies and procedures of the company. Within a call centre, certain behaviours are so unacceptable that they can lead to disciplinary action or dismissal, one of the most common areas is abuse or overuse of internal email or the internet. If you do have an issue, then talking to the HR resource for advice or support is important as they have a welfare role to perform.
Many thanks to Paul Weald for providing this information.