A call center is only as good as its agents. If you have a talented and well-trained sales team, your success is almost guaranteed. Sadly, the turnover rate in call centers is high. Statistics show that call centers replace around 26 percent of their frontline agents each year. Replacing that many employees is prohibitively expensive. You lose time and money while you train replacements. And these replacements won’t be as productive at first as many of the agents that you lost.
Since seasoned sales agents are instrumental to the success of a call center, reducing turnover rates for agents is integral to building a sound foundation for your business. You can reach this goal by enhancing your hiring, training and evaluation practices.
Hiring Call Agents
Finding the best sales agents for your call center starts with your hiring process. This is the first step to a solid call center agent training plan. List the traits of ideal candidates before holding interviews to get the best results. Some of these traits include:
Call center agents, whether making inbound or outbound calls, are customer facing. They are the voice of your business, so their social personality is key to your business success. However, inbound and outbound agents might require different qualities. Inbound agents need to possess empathy and patience since they often deal with customer questions and concerns. Outbound agents may require more tenacity and thick skins since they often face repeated rejections. Your interview process should vet the personality you are seeking for different roles.
Your company culture can make a difference in employee turnover rates. Know your culture and be direct with candidates. Do not sugarcoat reality. Many call centers are high-stress, high-reward environments. They require energetic workers. Some centers are more flexible and relaxed, requiring a more “laid-back” personality. Finding the perfect agent to match your company dynamic is key.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
Sales agents and customer service staff build relationships with clients every day. The stronger the relationships, the better customer loyalty your company enjoys. Assessing a candidate’s emotional intelligence (EQ) is important.
Emotional intelligence measures a person’s ability to be aware of their own emotions and to manage them effectively. Employees with high EQ are also empathetic and consciously work to make their relationships stronger. You will improve your center’s performance and the work environment when you find agents who can make powerful connections.
You must look for agents who can handle pressure and remain attentive and empathetic. Call centers are typically high-stress environments. Agents spend most of the day on calls, bound by dialer configurations or inbound queues. They often have little time to relax and regroup. If you hire employees who cannot handle nearly constant pressure, they will not last long. That’s why appropriately screening candidates can reduce turnover rates and increase productivity.
Assess Ability Through Questions
During your hiring process, devise a list of detailed questions or tests to assess the skills your call center needs. For call centers, personality tests are an effective way to find people with the necessary EQ.
Call centers also need to test candidates’ ability to make or take calls. Simple role-playing exercises can fill this need. Have them demonstrate their response to certain common call situations. The right testing can allow you to weed out candidates that won’t be a good fit before wasting time training them.
Training Call Agents
After you select an ideal candidate, solid training will set them up for success in your call center. The tools, methods and procedures used in call center agent training are important to hone their skills to fit your business’s needs. After you conduct initial onboard training, it is important to follow up on agents’ performance. You should concentrate on the following items:
- Conducting ongoing training where needed. You cannot just stop training once you’ve made the hire. You constantly have different products and situations to address. Also, some agents need remediation.
- Providing incentives for hard work. Your employees will embrace ongoing training when you provide performance incentives based on sales or customer satisfaction.
- Shifting agents to different roles based on skill. Your new hires may not be ideal for their original position. Consider shifting them to roles that better fit their skills.
- Organizing teams of agents for campaigns. You can increase productivity when creating harmonious teams of agents for specific tasks.
Evaluating Call Agents
Your call center will benefit when you continually evaluate your call agents. You can identify their strengths and weaknesses and work to improve their performance. When they perform better, employees are happier and less likely to leave.
Customer feedback is often one of the best forms of review an agent can get. Managers may monitor calls, but they don’t always get the total picture of an interaction between an agent and a customer. Some conversations fluctuate. For instance, a customer may become irate before your agent calms them. Call monitoring might not identify some of your agents’ outstanding interactions. However, customer feedback may provide these insights. Allow your customers to give this feedback after every call through a brief survey. Establish online surveys as well.
Initiative (Going Above and Beyond)
Keep an eye out for your agents who aren’t afraid to go above and beyond. Not everyone is able to take the initiative. These proactive agents might become an integral part of your company’s core. Also, agents that have this quality can train agents who need help improving their skills. You might also promote them to team leads or managers.
Engagement helps connect your employees to your brand. If a sales agent doesn’t believe in the product they are selling, they might lose motivation or rely on misleading sales tactics. Motivating agents to promote your brand genuinely helps improve morale and sales knowledge.
You should consider offering incentives to show recognition of this trait. Many employees thrive when they receive recognition for their hard work.
You also need employees who can find and fix problems. EQ is important in customer service, but troubleshooters also play a vital role. For example, technical support agents require troubleshooting savvy. A person who has these skills should excel in certain demanding roles. In addition, they might identify new issues and share that information with other agents and managers. You should not overlook your agents who excel in troubleshooting for recognition and promotion.
Finding the perfect team of agents is not an easy endeavor. But with the right vetting, training and evaluation, it is possible to create the perfect sales team for your business and to keep it. Call center agent training can vary depending on their role, or the industry you serve. But having a solid hiring and training plan can set your teams up for success.