What Should We Call Frontline Call Centre Staff?


A recent Call Centre Helper poll found that 31% of companies call their frontline staff something other than agent, advisor, representative or executive.
Alternative job titles include:

  • Customer Service Representative (CSR)
  • Associate
  • Officer
  • Communications Professional
  • Customer Care Representative
  • Customer Service Agent
  • Customer Support Specialist
  • Team Member
  • Customer Account Manager
  • Ambassador
  • Partner
  • “The Team”
  • Ninja
  • Detective
  • Telephone Sales Representative (TSR)
  • Sales Consultant
  • Sales Advisor
  • Customer Experience Advisor

So, with all of these options, which job title should be implemented in your call centre?

“Agent” used to be the generally accepted term for such workers, but now, according to our poll, only 26% of businesses still refer to their frontline staff by this name.

So, why are people moving on from the term “agent”?

Richard Kenny, Head of Global Customer Experience Marketing at Plantronics, suggests that the “the term is a little bit generic and it does not reflect the increasing difficulty of the jobs people are doing.”

In this sense, you could interpret the “Call Centre Agent” tag as dismissive of the duties that the role entails, whilst it also undermines the importance of the job.

Martin Hill Wilson, founder of Brainfood Consulting, seemingly agrees with this sentiment, stating that “I believe titles are most powerful when they describe the essence of the job undertaken.”

Martin Hill-Wilson

Martin Hill-Wilson

“If you think about the word ‘agent’, the few [connotations] that spring to mind are travel agent, secret agent or an MBA course in which the budding star is encouraged to be an ‘agent of change’. It’s a strange term indeed even if it’s your passion.”

Here, Martin proposes that the use of “agent” as a title is alienating for the holder, and perhaps changing the term to something more relevant would allow your frontline workers to feel more empowered in their role.

This point illustrates the need for you to develop a name that your staff will wear as a “badge of honour”, whilst summarising the essence of the role in the process.

Using “Communications Professional” as an alternative

Janette, one of our readers, instead recommends “Call Centre Communications Professional” as a replacement for “Call Centre Agent”.

One benefit of this title is its practicality, as Janette claims: “With this title the ‘agent’ can work in customer service operations, sales operations or on a help desk, i.e. one title fits all.”

However, there are many other benefits to this title, which Janette continues to point out, noting that “it covers phone work as well as email and white mail now dealt with by many contact centres.”

“It helps encourage managers and the ‘agents’ to think of them as Professionals with a capital ‘P’ rather than ‘cannon fodder’ or ‘bums on seats’.”

The title also “focuses the mind on the ‘communication’ side of the job… which looks good on a CV.”

Whilst “looking good on a CV” may seem counterproductive, as you are the agent’s current employer, the boost in pride that the frontline worker should experience may increase their passion for the role. Also, renaming the position could possibly entice a higher calibre of candidates to apply for a future vacancy.

What other options are out there?

Other substitute propositions for the “agent” title have been sent to us via the Call Centre Helper Forum.

One contributor to the forum submitted “Customer Care Representative” as a suggestion, as it makes staff awaredifferent-pathways-sign of “their real role too, which is not just service but caring for customers.”

Another asserts that their business has “undergone discussion as to a new name for frontline staff, [changing the job title to] Telephone Sales Representative,” from Inbound Sales Representative (ISR).

This replacement is said to have been discussed because of the nature of the business, as it is “very seasonal and it would allow us to use our frontline staff both to take inbound calls (which an ISR was obviously doing) and also to make outbound sales calls during the slower season.”

This example demonstrates initiative as the commenter’s business has altered the job title by gauging the responsibilities of the role. Consequently, the Telephone Sales Representative title is a progression from the term “agent”, which has seemingly become a word that “covers too many bases”.

Try to add individuality!

Richard Kenny

Richard Kenny

Richard Kenny asserts that the term “agent” is too general, instead stating that: “I don’t think there is a ‘one size fits all’ answer here. It sometimes depends on the job that people are doing or the vertical that you are working in.”

So, when you assign job titles to your frontline staff, be aware of these two factors and try to give out unique titles for each worker. Even if staff members only have the slightest of difference in their responsibilities, make an effort to not categorise everyone under one banner.

Make your staff feel important and appreciated!

However, when you do have to bracket groups of “agents” together, as they have identical duties and responsibilities, Janette’s suggestion of Call Centre Communications Professional has many merits.

Be careful about using “advisor” in financial services

Whilst “Customer Advisor” is now the preferred title for frontline workers, according to our poll, there are reasons to and circumstances in which you should avoid using the term.

Not only does it bracket a number of workers in a similar fashion as “agent” does, it can be a precarious term to use in some business sectors.

Janette explains that “Customer Advisor” “is a dangerous title to use if your contact centre works in or for the Financial Services industry and especially if your business conducts sales on a non-advised basis.”

“Advisor suggests that the ‘agent’ is qualified to give advice and giving advice is not permissible under the FSA regulations relating to non-advised sales.”

This example demonstrates the need for your frontline workers to have a job tittle that has clarity, as well as having individuality and the capability to empower the holder.

Our recommendations

As “Customer Advisor” topped our poll, there must be some value to the title. Nevertheless, if you wish to continue using the term, we recommend making a slight modification. Instead, you should call “agents” “Customer Service Advisors” to better clarify their role and prevent confusion.

However, you will know the responsibilities of your frontline staff better than we do here at Call Centre Helper.

So, make a decision that highlights each individual’s duties and, where possible, give them their own separate job title which they can take pride in.

What do you call the frontline staff in your organisation? And have you noticed any change in performance after a change of title?

Leave your feedback in the comments box below.

Published On: 11th Jan 2017 - Last modified: 23rd Mar 2017
Read more about - Customer Service Strategy , , , , , ,


5 Comments
  1. Following Martin Hill-Wilson’s observation on names with purpose, maybe you can invent some names in the vein of the joke about the name given to Tony Blair on a recent US trip: “Walking Eagle”. Sounds great doesn’t it. When asked why, a local chief explained it was the title for a bird that couldn’t take off because its as so full of sh1t. LOL. I’m sure Radio 4 could have a field day making up names or word combinations. Any suggestions? “Screaming jets” – agents who move extremely fast because they have an asshole spitting fire behind them. Or what about “Xpercenter” – an expert who learns by talking to 100 customers everyday”. Not to be confused with the consultant brought in to help the contact centre: ‘Xperdiem”. I look forward to the suggestions to follow…..

    Peter Massey 12 Jan at 4:21 pm
  2. I to Outbound Call Centre staff as Business Development Officers. I want my team to be reminded that they are integral for business growth. Inbound Call Centre staff are named as Customer Service Officers. This reminds then how Customer Service is.

    Nada Day 15 Jan at 5:52 am
  3. Customer Champions

    Liam Smith 15 Jan at 6:58 pm
  4. Customer Champions

    Lisa Thompson 23 Jan at 6:07 pm
  5. Customer Advocates

    DLTrayser 8 Feb at 5:10 pm
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