Contrary to what I used to believe before I immersed myself into the contact center arena, contact center roles are complex and difficult jobs that require representatives to bring an array of skills, abilities, and personal characteristics to the table in order to perform successfully.
The role of a contact center representative is not simply to answer a phone and follow a script. Instead, successful contact center employees are highly trained and skilled individuals who are ready at a moment’s notice to manage any type of (often emotionally charged) customer interaction, on any topic, that comes their way; they process large and complex amounts of information in often noisy environments, under high time pressure, while their performance, communication, and efficiency are continually and closely monitored; and they must navigate a complex array of systems to help them identify, understand, and resolve customer issues quickly and effectively, all while listening to and communicating with customers to keep them engaged and satisfied.
Given the complex nature of contact center roles, the task of identifying candidates most likely to succeed in these roles also can prove difficult. In our experience, many contact center organizations over the years have developed or identified effective methods of evaluating applicants’ job relevant capabilities (for example, Reasoning, Learning Aptitude, Numerical Ability) and personal characteristics (for example, Dependability, Rule Compliance, Friendliness, Composure). In fact, many well developed and widely validated tools, such as cognitive ability and personality assessments, are available on the market today. Assessing a contact center applicants’ job relevant skills, however, is another animal entirely and typically proves much more difficult. Below, we outline the most common and critical skills that contact center applicants must possess in order to perform successfully on the job, as well as the best method for assessing those skills in the most accurate way possible.
Critical Contact Center Skills
Though surprisingly little detailed information is publicly available regarding the most critical competencies needed by contact center representatives, FurstPerson’s own research can help shed some light. We have collected subject matter expert (SME) ratings on the importance of 50+ competencies from over 3,000 SMEs across 100+ contact center jobs in 16 countries. Across six different types of contact center roles (service, inbound sales, outbound sales, technical support, retention, and collections), our research showed that 15 competencies (for example, Compliance, Composure, Tact, Integrity) universally emerge as critical for effective agent performance.
Among those 15 competencies, three essential skills stand out as important for virtually any contact center candidate to possess:
- Computer Navigation: Candidates must demonstrate basic computer navigation skills prior to being hired. Not only during training, but also on the job, representatives must interact with a computer, toggle between multiple screens, use the internet, search databases, etc.
- Keyboarding Skills: Keyboarding skills are also essential, as candidates must quickly and accurately enter data or notes into the system in order to properly search, document, or notate information related to a customer’s inquiry or account.
- Multi-Tasking: Multi-tasking is perhaps the most widely touted skill in the contact center world; industry experts almost universally recognize the importance of contact center candidates demonstrating the skill to perform multiple activities (e.g., talk, type, listen, engage, search information) all at the same time to effectively and efficiently resolve issues and manage customer interactions.
Assessing Skills Accurately
The most accurate way of assessing a candidate’s job relevant skills in any role is to audition candidates, or ask them to actually demonstrate those skills in a realistic, work-like setting. Modern technology and authoring tools allow for the development of sophisticated, multimedia assessments that simulate the job itself, allow a candidate to interact with systems, technology, and tools similar to those they would actually use on the job, and measure every action taken by a candidate in the performance of the job tasks during the simulation. Building a contact center job simulation that requires candidates to exhibit their computer navigation, keyboarding, and multi-tasking skills during simulated customer interactions is therefore the best and most accurate way to evaluate applicants’ skill levels.
Though certainly still time-consuming and costly to develop, these realistic job simulations can provide substantial competitive advantage in identifying top quality contact center candidates and produce significant ROI. In addition, these simulations often provide the candidate with a realistic job preview, as they tend to be microcosms of actual contact centers, complete with training, dashboards, performance monitoring and branching technology that leads to escalation or de-escalation of a customer’s emotional response depending on the candidate’s actions and demonstrated skill level.
FurstPerson’s own research shows that the CC Audition® contact center simulation predicts four common contact center performance dimensions – Call Quality, Customer Satisfaction, Sales, and Average Handle Time – as well as cognitive ability tools (typically found to be the best predictors of performance universally across jobs) and better than any other type of tool on the market today. In fact, one large telecommunications organization, since incorporating the CC Audition® simulation into its hiring process, has experienced 33% improvement in Average Handle Time, 52% increase in First-Call Resolution, and 14% reductions in attrition. These performance improvements represent 8,588 fewer hours of handle time and 16,200 fewer repeat calls per month, for an overall return on investment of approximately 3,300%.
As highlighted above, hiring candidates with proven job relevant skills can provide contact center organizations with a significant competitive advantage, and we know from published research that hiring unqualified candidates can lead to dire organizational consequences such as costly attrition, more repeat calls, longer call wait times and handling times, and overall customer dissatisfaction. The use of a well-developed, high-fidelity, multimedia simulation, however, can result in that competitive advantage and provide organizations today with the most accurate way on Earth to evaluate applicants’ contact center skills.
Topics: Assessments and Simulations