When most people think of the kind of work performed by call center agents, they tend to imagine repetitive duties: answering routine, mundane questions and performing trivial tasks on behalf of customers. While this might have been reasonably accurate once upon a time, those days are long gone.

The staggering pace of technological change that has reshaped the business landscape over the past few decades has not left call center operations untouched. Many of those mundane, repetitive types of calls – requests for standard billing information, for example – are now performed by automated systems. This simple fact has not only drastically altered the nature of contact center work, but has also drastically changed the qualities necessary in a successful call center employee. This, in turn, has made it more difficult than ever to find and retain good call center staff.

Finding the Right People

The net effect of routing standard and repetitive calls to automated systems is that the calls taken by live staff are almost exclusively the difficult and unusual ones. They also tend to be the ones where the customer has already tried – unsuccessfully – to resolve their issue through the automated system and is now frustrated. It takes a special kind of person to deal with this type of call and end up with a satisfied and still loyal customer, and it can be very difficult to identify this kind of person during the hiring process.

Simulations Are Effective

One of the most effective ways to identify potential employees who will excel at resolving these types of calls is to include call-center simulations as part of the hiring process. These simulations immerse prospective hires in a realistic example of the kinds of calls they would be expected to handle. Their performance in these simulations can be evaluated to measure their likely on-the-job performance.

While a robust and comprehensive training system can go a long way towards keeping employees sharp, hiring the best people in the first place ensures that any training has the best possible outcome.

Customizing the Simulation for Accuracy

Most call center simulations fairly accurately simulate the types of questions and problems agents will encounter on the job. The most accurate, and therefore most effective, simulations also simulate the types of customers they will be encountering – in particular the emotional states those customers might exhibit. Every company is different, and therefore every contact center is different. This is why it is necessary to make sure that a simulation specifically elicits and tests for the exact qualities necessary within the context of the specific organization.

Contact center employees are often the only opportunity for customers to interact with a company. Customer contact agents are, for all intents and purposes, the outward face of the business, and they have one of the most difficult positions in any organization. If they are to be successful in that position, they will need a rare mix of skills and personality traits. One of the most effective ways of identifying those skills and traits is through a well designed call center simulation.

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