Everything You Need to Know About Working in a Call Center
Working in a call center can be exciting and rewarding. Call center jobs are great for recent graduates, people who want to move out of front-line retail or service work and jobs in call centers provide many career paths. People often use call center jobs as a springboard to move into management and operations with the call center’s parent company, or they use it as a transition into sales, management or marketing careers.
But if you’ve never worked at a customer experience center or call center, you might not know what to expect. Here is everything you need to know about working in a call center.
What Even is a Call Center?
A call center is an office or team (a physical office isn’t always required anymore) that fields incoming and outgoing customer support and customer service calls. Call center employees manage these calls, resolve issues, keep track of open cases, place orders and may even provide follow-up once an issue is resolved.
Customer call centers can either be proactive centers or reactive centers. Proactive call centers and customer service teams make outgoing calls to check in on customers and provide them with service offers. Reactive call centers and service teams field incoming calls from people looking to make a transaction or to receive customer service help. Call centers can be owned by a single business, or they may be independently owned and contracted out with several businesses.
Call centers provide other forms of support, as well. Customer service agents may also respond to customer needs through email, text, chat, or social media. Despite the rise in these alternative communication channels, Microsoft data indicates that 44% of Americans still prefer phone service over any other channel. People often feel the only way to get an issue resolved quickly and to their satisfaction is to speak directly with a call center representative and, thus, the need for phone agents has remained steady for many years.
Do I Need Experience to Work in a Call Center?
Call centers typically require experience for supervisory, team lead or specialized roles, but you don’t necessarily need specific customer service experience to work in a call center. There are many jobs in which you may have developed transferable skills. People enter customer service from a variety of previous jobs including retail and restaurant service, for example.
What’s typically most important for hiring managers looking for people to work in call centers are transferable skills. The skills that hiring managers tend to look for include:
- Emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence is the ability to read the temperature of a conversation and manage your own emotional response. This is extremely important in customer service call center jobs because you don’t want to get angry when an angry customer calls in. It’s much more important to remain calm and de-escalate the situation.
- Technical skills: You don’t need to have experience with the software a particular call center uses, but you should be tech–savvy and have the ability to pick up new apps and software quickly. If, for example, you worked in a restaurant or in retail service, highlight your skills with point-of-sale software on your resume.
- Problem-solving: No two customer service calls are the same. On a regular basis, you will be faced with problems you’ve never heard of before. Employers want people who can stick within the parameters of their job but can work independently enough to solve problems quickly. List problem-solving on your skills in your resume and prepare anecdotes for interviews that showcase times you were required to make decisions quickly or find creative solutions to challenges.
- Communication: Customer call center work is all about communication. You need strong written and strong verbal communication, and most importantly, you need to demonstrate active listening skills. You can provide examples on your resume of how you have adapted your communication style to a specific audience, and you can demonstrate your verbal communication skills in real–time during your interview.
- Sales: Many customer call center jobs require a bit of upselling and cross-selling when placing orders. If you think you haven’t sold before, look back at your work history. If you ever worked in retail, you’ve cross-sold complimentary items or signed people up for store credit cards or rewards programs. If you’ve worked in restaurants, you’ve sold people on beverages, appetizers and upsold them on dessert.
Before applying to a call center job, really think about your transferable skills and highlight them on your resume and during your interview.
Is Working in a Call Center Stressful?
Every job has its ups and downs, and like most jobs, working in a call center can be stressful at times. There are many sources of stress for customer experience center agents, including:
- Dealing with angry customers who direct their frustrations about the company or product on the customer service representative.
- Days where call volume is exceptionally high and customer service agents feel like they cannot get a minute to breathe in between calls.
- Performance ratings are often based on rigorous metrics, and just one overly-lengthy, complex or unproductive call can throw off a rep’s numbers for the day.
However, successful customer call center employees know how to manage those stressors effectively to prevent burnout. Some effective stress management tactics include:
- Social interaction with coworkers: Instead of heading to your car at lunch or hiding in a corner during break time, engage with your coworkers. Use this time to laugh about funny interactions or talk about things completely unrelated to work. Healthy relationships with colleagues can help you enjoy your job more, even on challenging days.
- Laugh: There is a reason they say laughter is the best medicine. Laughing releases endorphins (your brain’s happy hormone), stimulates the lungs, heart and stomach muscles; and helps you naturally cope with stress. Try to find time during the day to laugh with coworkers or even seek out funny memes or videos during your break times to help yourself release stress.
- Breathe: There are health benefits that come with breathing exercises. Engage in periods of deep breathing in between calls to help your mind calm down and reset.
- Stand up: They say sitting is the new smoking. Being sedentary all day is bad for your physical and mental health. There’s nothing wrong with taking some calls while standing up during the day. People may look at you strangely at first, but it will do your body good. And during breaks, don’t sit at your desk. Get up and move around, even if it’s just a lap or two around the call center floor.
- Exercise: Find a coworker or two (or more) to take walks with during lunch. If there’s not enough time, make sure to carve out time to exercise at home, even if it’s just for 20 minutes a day. Exercise helps your body regulate its functions and provides natural stress relief.
- Separate personal feelings: Always remember that no matter what a customer says to you, they aren’t angry at you personally. They are having a hard time and need someone to vent to. It can be difficult not to take it personally, but most customer call center agents find that if they just listen to callers and let them get it all out, the calls often turn around.
- Know your stuff: If you’re unprepared for a customer question or issue, it will add to your stress. Make sure you know the ins and outs of your products and services as well as company policies. The more prepared you are, the less stress you will feel.
No two people relieve stress in the same ways, to experiment with some tactics and figure out which options work best for helping manage stressful call center workdays.
Important Call Center Metrics
Different call centers use different metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure customer service rep success. Those call center metrics can depend on whether you make outbound calls or accept inbound calls, whether your job is to sell or to resolve issues, etc. However, some of the most common call center metrics and KPIs you’ll come across in your career include:
- Service level: This call center metric is the percentage of calls answered within a specific time frame (typically a matter of seconds).
- Average speed of answer: This calculates the average time it takes for calls to be answered within a specific time frame.
- Average handle time: This is the amount of time it takes for a call center agent to pick up the phone to the time it takes to disconnect the call. Too long, your boss could think you’re struggling to resolve issues. Too short, your boss could think you’re not offering real assistance.
- Average call work time: This call center metric measures the time it takes you to do your logging and associated follow-up work after a call. You need to be thorough in your work, but you also cannot be seen as wasting time between calls.
- Call occupancy rate: Conversely, this metric measures how much time you spend handling customer calls.
- First call resolution: This measures your ability to handle a caller’s issue in one single phone call without escalating the issue, transferring the call or having to call the customer back.
- Customer satisfaction: “Have I handled all of your questions effectively today?” “Would you be willing to take a short survey after this call to tell us how we did?” These questions help agents collect data on customer satisfaction.
It’s easy to get hung up on call center metrics as a customer experience rep, but the most important thing to do is focus on handling each caller, meeting their needs, and completing follow-up work efficiently. If you stay focused on the customer, the metrics tend to follow.
How Do I Find A Job in a Call Center?
Customer call centers are always in need of great employees because customer demands never stop. However, it can be challenging to find a job in a call center because it’s difficult to know whether a call center job will be right for you.
That’s why working with a recruiter can help. When you partner with a recruiter to find call center jobs, you have someone on your side who wants to find you the right opportunities. For some people, that means working temporary jobs in a variety of call centers. Others may want a full-time job. Some people may thrive in an outbound call center, while others prefer helping callers through their issues.
If you are looking for call center jobs in Dallas, Texas; Fort Worth, Texas; or Springfield, Missouri, talk to RPC Company today. Since 2002, RPC has been helping great people find top call center jobs in these regions. Browse our open jobs or contact RPC Company today and let us help you find your ideal role.