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Being the Best Agent Possible: Readiness

As we enter week two of our blog series, I thought it might be good to ask the question, “are you ready to succeed in your role as an agent?”  And to explore a short list of skills you should develop to make yourself ready.

In a recent report developed by the Society of Human Resource Management, “Are They Really Ready To Work,” the conclusion was reached that the U.S. workforce is not prepared for the demands of today’s workplace.  I often hear this same sentiment from contact center managers – as they struggle to hire the right people to provide exceptional services to their customers.  In the report the writers surveyed over 400 employers across the United States.  They asked employers to identify the skill-sets that employees need to succeed in the workplace.  The list cited by employers is pretty basic:

  • Professionalism/Work Ethic
  • Oral and Written Communications
  • Teamwork/Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking/Problem Solving

The employers also emphasize that applied skills like Teamwork, Collaboration and Critical Thinking are “very important” for success at work.

Based on my experience in the contact center space for more than 30 years, I think this list makes a lot of sense.  So lets break it down – and - once you have read the details, consider sharing this with your supervisor/manager to get their perspective on your success.

Professionalism/Work Ethic

As we discussed last week, I believe attitude is everything in the work-place.  Your ability to present yourself as professional comes across in the way you dress and the way you present yourself to the world.  And most likely, it is a big part of how your manager evaluates you on a daily basis.  So, what is work-ethic? I see it as your willingness to “go above and beyond” for customers and for your company.  Ask yourself this question: when was the last time you did something out of the ordinary for a customer or for the company?  Perhaps it was something that no one noticed – but you knew that you had gone the extra mile.  You might event consider talking about this with your supervisor in your next one-on-one.  Leaders love to hear stories of success.

Oral and Written Skills

 I cannot say enough about this category.  It does matter how you talk and how your write.  In a recent situation with a contact center I will not name, we discovered that more than 50% of the staff should not be allowed to send unscripted emails to customers - their grammar and spelling skills were unacceptable.  The ability to communicate via voice and written word is probably one of the most important skills you will ever develop.  The ability to speak to a group puts you in the upper 10% of the team.  I think back to the teams I have managed and if I create a list of the top reps - ALL of them were good communicators – and 90% of them were not afraid to speak to a group.  This is one of those areas where you may need to read a book or watch a video in order to improve your communications skills – the training options are almost limitless. 

Team Work/Collaboration

Simply put – are you a team player?  Do you help those around you succeed? If your supervisor believes you are a team player they will typically call this out in your annual review.  If you don’t know if you are a team player ask your supervisor – and then ask how you can become a better one.  As I work with contact centers around the world, I realize more and more how key team work really is to success.  And there is no team without collaboration.

Critical Thinking/Problem Solving

Now we've come to the skill where you can really separate yourself from others – the all-elusive ability to make good decisions.  When I was a new supervisor, my manager told me that he needed me to make good decisions.  He said that in order for me to make good decisions I had to not be afraid to make decisions.  He also said that it was OK to fail.  But, he said I needed to learn from my mistakes.  I have to admit the most important things I’ve learned in life have come from failure, not success. That same mentor told me to do this when faced with a particularly hard decision: “think of at least three reasons why you're making the choice – and in most cases you'll be right – but when you're wrong, that's OK too…”

Ask yourself this question: are you someone who is always looking for others to validate your decisions, or are you confident in your ability to make good ones.  If you chose the first option, then work with your supervisor and ask how to become better. 

These are four simple yet profound skills that are important no matter what your role - the data from more than 400 employers tells a clear story.  Don’t be afraid to do a quick self-assessment and reach out to your direct manager to ask for a frank evaluation of all four.  I have found, with these skills and a right attitude, the sky is the limit!  As I write this article I think about the list of top agents and employees I have promoted through the years – and this list makes a lot of sense


Check back next week for part three of this series.  Miss part one?  You can read it here.