What Should We Call Our Front Line Staff
I was at a great seminar yesterday run by Martin Hill-Wilson.
He made an interesting point that the industry wide term “agent”, although in widespread use, could be seen as being derogative.
A quick poll of the room came up with these titles that have all been used
- Customer Service Representative (CSR)
- FTE (Full time equivalent)
We are also running a poll in parallel on the front page of the website.
What do you currently call your front line staff?
What do you think would be the best term to use on an industry wide basis?
Question asked by Jonty
Jonty, I think it depends on the circumstances, and you’re not going to find a one-size-fits-all moniker.
There is one to which I have an immediate aversion though: FTE. Imagine that… poor people.
I have also heard TSR = Tele-Sales Representative, and Operative.
With thanks to Emma
How About CCCP – Contact Centre Communications Professional
How about CCCP – Call(Contact)Centre Communications Professional
I am aware the initials have an association with the old Eastern Block and the cold war but those days are long gone (aren’t they?).
A fit-all term
With this title the ‘agent’ can work in a customer service operations, sales operations or on a help desk i.e. one title fits all.
It covers phone work as well as email and post 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 ‘canon fodder’ or ‘bums on seats’.
It also helps focus the mind on the ‘communication’ side of the job and looks good on a CV.
A word of warning about using ‘Advisor’
With reference to the title ‘Customer Advisor’, this seems to be winning the poll at the moment but it 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.
With thanks to Janette
We have just gone from Customer Services Advisors/ Sales Support Coordinators to CSA’s.
With thanks to Cale
On the names front for an inbound calling I would recommend CCE – Customer Care Representatives.
I like the term, that makes them feel their real role too which is not of just service but caring for customers
If its a collection process they can be also called as TC’s – Telecallers. But I don’t like that term a lot personally.
With thanks to pinaz
When a member of the public calls a Company they are expecting a service so my preference would still be customer service team.
When the same public choose to be sold a service and placed to another team this name could be changed to sales representative or sales support.
These names are obvious but take little explanation when opening or closing a call for both parties. Hence no misunderstanding and focused call time.
With thanks to Joyce
Sales Advisors/Sales Consultants
I think they should be called Sales consultants or Sales advisors, as long as their primary role is the sales!
With thanks to MIQ
Agent is not the right term
It was interesting during the follow up debate around the room that the actual titles used by different brands were far removed from the public use of ‘agent’ ‘CSR’ etc. Advisor, colleague were a few of them and I agree with other commentators that a single title which everyone adopts is both extremely unlikely and of little value.
What I would like to see change is the public language used across the Media and amongst ourselves as an industry.
If you think about the word ‘agent’, the few 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, even if it’s your passion.
I believe titles are most powerful when they describe the essence of the job undertaken. On that basis my nomination for an industry term of reference is Professional Communicator.
Communication is the core competency, whether inbound, outbound, customer service or sales.
The expectation of the rest of the business is that the customer experience is enhanced every time an interaction via these people takes place.
Then there is the range of customer expectations for a style of communication that fits their own expectation. Having sensitivity to that demands the highest standards of empathy and expertise.
Finally all this has to be repeated to standard xxx times a day, every working day.
I aspire to be a Professional Communicator although I do many roles, speaker, facilitator, writer, consultant etc. Those that manage customers full time are, in my books, in the same category of skilled profession and deserve a turn of phrase that recognises what they do and promotes that.
With thanks to Martin
TSR – Telephone Sales Representative
Recently at the call centre I manage we decided to change the title of our front line staff from CSR (Customer Service Rep) to ISR (Inbound Sales Rep) so that on our online employment ad the job might look a little bit more interesting at first glance.
Looking back I do not seem to notice a higher calibre person applying for the job, it seems to be no different.
So we have again recently undergone discussion as to a new name for our front line staff, TSR (Telephone Sales Rep). The reason we thought this new name might be better is because we work in a business that is very seasonal and it would allow us to use our front line staff to both take inbound calls (which an ISR was obviously doing) but also to make outbound sales calls during the slower season.
To be honest with you, I think a job description, no matter what the name of the position, would be a better route to go for describing the position. But I guess at least with TSR during the hiring process we will describe the position as more then just inbound sales.
With thanks to mrudolph
What you would Call the People in a Face to Face Environment
One way to look at this might be to forget that you are hiring for a call centre environment and think about what you would call the people answering the phones if they were completing the same task(s) in a face to face environment?
With thanks to slambert
Better Term Than Front-line?
From some feedback I have got, it looks as though the term ‘front-line’ could also have negative connotations.
It could be seen convey a more military feel, perhaps being more hostile to customers – ‘Going over the top’ and things like that.
Is there a better term than ‘front-line’?
With thanks to Jonty
Contact Centre Agent
We still use the term Agent, but are enforcing throughout the company the term Contact Centre and not Call Centre as it explains we do much more then pick up the phone.
FTE is solely used for HR purposes and staffing. Two agents can be one FTE. Not all people work full time, yet budgeting is based on FTE and not headcount.
With thanks to houghi
Customer Care Representative
Currently my centre describes our front line operators as “Direct Bankers” however our institution is changing our focus from organic growth to retaining existing customers.
As a result our focus is going to be “Customer Care” our Direct Bankers are now “Your Customer Care Representative”
With thanks to Guy
Customer Experience Advisor
We are called Customer Experience Advisor(s)
What about using this title as it covers customer service/sales/retention advisors
With thanks to skyman
Call them what they are.
I have found that if you title staff with something other than “Takes lots of calls” they end up doing exactly the opposite.
With thanks to qua3kers
Customer Service Managers
I worked with an organisation which called their staff ‘Customer Service Managers’ on the premise that whenever someone rang up asking for a manager they could say that they were one. Good idea I think!
With thanks to andrewbgillespie
A recent Call Centre Helper poll found that 31% of companies call their frontline staff something other than agent, advisor, representative or executive. Check out more details here