Competition between call agents to heat up


The demands on call centre agents continue to intensify as global trends and economic factors force employers to increase their expectations. Multi-skilled, articulate, critical thinking individuals are set to become the next generation of call centres agents.

The call centre industry is primed for expansion says Sharon Haigh, Head of Contact Centre Management Group (CCMG). According to Haigh two areas will fuel this growth.

Firstly, a growing middle class of consumers will "place demands on companies to expand their existing customer service centres and .create a demand for telemarketing services'. The second area is the international opportunities that have developed as a result of India continuing to lose its competitive advantage.

This impending expansion is expected to translate into a host of job opportunities from entry level to management positions. But potential agents will need more than telephone etiquette to enter this dynamic industry say the experts.

There is an increasing demand for call centre professionals in the finance sector, particularly in the insurance and debt collection divisions.

According to people solutions agency Kelly in some instances agents need to be FAIS accredited as they give financial advice. "There is a shortage of FAIS accredited agents and they are in high demand.'

"Agents need to come with a track record of proven ability to meet and exceed sales targets,' says Kelly.

This expectation is almost in direct contrast to another emerging trend reported by the recruitment group where employers are requesting matriculants who can be trained up in the business.

"The feeling is that some of the more experienced agents come with bad habits and approaches that don?t necessarily fit into the business.'

The call centre job market is likely to become even more competitive as companies explore new employment options, such as the remote agent.

"Having an agent based remotely at home allows the call centre to provide the service at a much lower cost due to the savings in infrastructure. This is an untapped market as the company has access to highly skilled Moms - who have chosen to stay at home due to having kids,' says Kelly.

This option will give call centres access to a largely untapped talent pool.
What does this mean for older call centre agents? And what can individuals do to become more employable?

"The key for any telephone agent starts with their voice, a vibrant strong clear voice along with good grammar are essential starting points. Without these a person should not be a telephone agent. Other essentials skills are good listening, empathy and creative problem solving. Multiple language skills are also a big plus as nothing delights a customer more that to be able to converse in their preferred language,' says Haigh.

According to Kelly, "Some call centres are looking for agents that are multi-skilled so their profile needs to show their ability to learn various products and processes. They also need to have the ability to handle change and work in a very dynamic environment.'

To assist individuals seeking employment in the call centre industry the CCMG have launched Career Call which is an industry specific jobs portal.

By Cindy Payle - Skills Portal Journalist