Arming call centre agents for the front line


Call centres are still recognized as excellent places to gain entry level experience into the ICT sector. This is good news for thousands of unemployed young people who are unable to study further and lack work experience.

Labelled as a "growing sector? call centres are seen as the biggest job creation facilities in developing countries, with analysts predicting a 15 to 20 percent annual growth rate, says Dr Madelise Grobler MD, Bytes People Solutions.

South Africa in particular is popular for producing call centres. This is due to its "good supply of English speaking people, world class infrastructure and time zone'.

This unique global positioning is one of the major contributing factors to the growing number of job opportunities in South Africa in this sector. "More than 50% of national call centres are based in Gauteng and almost 40% are based in the Western Cape.'

Dr Grobler notes that over 50% of call centre agents are women, an indication that employers seem to prefer female callers. However, work opportunities exist for both men and women with even the most basic educational level. The low skill level required to enter a call centre position marks the call centre industry as one of the top job creation sectors in the country.

Computer literacy, effective communication and the ability to deal with people continue to describe the basic skill set of a call centre agent, says Dr Grobler.
In order to grow in the industry agents are now also required to adapt to a dynamic, fast-paced business environment characterised by advanced technology and demanding clients.

In the past inbound call centre agents spent many hours logging calls, referring customers and escalating complaints. Today agents are seen as the "face of the company'.

According to Dr Grobler "customers expect call centre agents to solve any problem.' This means agents must have broader business knowledge. Their understanding can no longer be limited to memorized solutions. Critical thinking and problem-solving abilities are becoming invaluable in the industry.

This is the result of a more demanding, impatient customer base. People expect immediate solutions to their problems and they expect the person at the other end of the line to provide those answers with a fair balance of compassion and professionalism.

In fact call centre agents are more likely to fail at their job, due to a lack of people skills than technical incompetence says Grobler.

Outbound call centre agents face similar challenges; however the primary difference in the job profile of an outbound agent is their duty to up sell the products and services of a company. This task has become increasingly difficult as businesses and customers seek to cut back on costs.

Companies can equip employees for these challenges through mentoring programmes and on-the-job training.

Bytes People Solutions offers skills programmes for both inbound and outbound call centre agents. The company provides a range of training solutions such as short courses and year-long programmes to meet business needs.

Through its learnership programme Bytes People Solutions collaborates with call centre companies to recruit and train potential candidates, a service that is funded by the employers.

For more information about the services and programmes provided by Bytes People Solutions visit the website.

By Cindy Payle - Skills Portal Journalist