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Agent Perspective: Insights From the Best Call Center Agent of 2013

At the First Annual Global Call Center Awards dinner a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of sitting at a table with Noe Vazquez of North American Bancard.  As it just so happens, Noe won the award for Best Call Center Agent of 2013.  After spending the evening getting to know him a little better, I could see why he won.  To say this guy has an awesome personality is an understatement!

Noe was kind enough to allow me to interview him following the awards, so for this week's Agent Perspective, I'm excited to share insights from the Best Call Center Agent.  Find out how Noe got in the business in the first place, what has made him successful, and what advice he offers up for new agents.

ICMI:  How did you get started in the Call Center environment?

Noe: I got started in the industry working at a small pre-paid cell phone company in 2002.  It was a very small center, with only about 7 agents. The owner was looking for a Spanish bilingual agent, and within my first two weeks I was given a raise based upon the amount of calls I took and the great feedback I received from customers. The company was eventually bought out, and at that point I tried applying with Verizon Wireless, but they never called me back. I have to admit, I was a little upset.  I think applying for a job is a little like asking out a girl. No one likes rejection. But, I got over it, and that’s when I got an email from North American Bancard asking me to work for technical support as a Spanish bilingual agent, and I have been there ever since. Being bilingual, I would take calls in different departments such as customer service, collections, account maintenance, finance, and underwriting.  That experience paved the way for me to begin working in the Escalations/Retention department, since I had a background in every department in the company.

ICMI What is your personal Mission Statement that guides how you approach your job?

Noe:   Working in Escalations/Retention I know that all the calls and issues are going to be challenging.  I think when working at a call center, the biggest obstacle agents have is taking the calls too personally and not being able to recover, which often results in taking that frustration to the next call. My personal mission is to try to retain as many accounts as I can by working out problems customers may have, so the customer is happy and the company is in good shape. This is not a job for everyone, so I have to take it one call at a time and tell myself I can’t save them all.

ICMIWhat’s your strategy for making every customer experience a positive one?

Noe:   My strategy is very simple; be myself, listen to the customers, and reply to them with real, unscripted answers. I believe part of my success has a lot to do with the conversations I create with the customers.  The customer feels the difference, and I’m able to establish a relationship with that person, then work out a deal that satisfies their needs.

ICMI:   Besides offering great service to your customers, what else do you feel contributed to your winning this award?

Noe:  I think it was my personality and passion. Everyone keeps telling me you can’t teach personality or passion, so it must be true. 

ICMI:  What motivates you most in your current customer service role?

Noe:  I know a lot of people would say money. The money is nice; obviously I have bills to pay, and I love buying Coronas on the weekend, but I want to make sure the customer leaves happy and with a positive impression of the company I represent. I want to make a difference. If that gets me recognized for a job well done, that’s as close to being famous as I’ll get, and I’ll take it.

ICMI:    What advice would you give to other call center agents out there?

Noe:  The first thing I tell the agents that sit with me when they are training is, don’t take it personally and don’t be afraid to show some personality. You have to take it one call at the time, which is the hardest part of working in a call center. You have to be able to roll with the punches and if you have a bad call, reset your attitude and start fresh with the next one. It’s easier said than done, but a bad call will really ruin your day if you’re not able to get over it, and not only will it affect you, it will affect the level of service your customers receive. 

Also, be a person who shows some emotions and personality. I know personally, based on customer feedback, that customers appreciate speaking to a real person and someone who listens to them. They don’t want to feel they’re just talking to a machine giving out rehearsed answers with no emotion.

ICMI:  How do you define customer service?

Noe:   I define customer service as listening to and assisting a customer to the best of your abilities and providing a fast solution. In cases where you can’t provide the solution to their needs, that means getting them to someone who can as quickly as possible. Our job is simply to provide customers with a solution to their problems as quickly as possible.

ICMI:  What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Noe: What’s most rewarding for me is to hear the customer say that I did a good job. I know it sounds corny, but I really don’t like hearing people talk badly about me or the company I represent; when customers send positive feedback, that’s rewarding for me.

ICMI:  How does it feel to be recognized as Best Call Center Agent by ICMI?

Noe:  It feels awesome, I still can’t believe it. With all the great companies and agents represented at the awards, it really was an honor just to be considered as a finalist, but to bring home the trophy is a great feeling! I can’t thank ICMI enough for the opportunity. This recognition and the opportunity for someone from the front lines to provide feedback about what’s working and what’s not, as well as take advice from the best in the industry, is priceless.  It will definitely provide opportunities for me in the future, so once again thank you to the entire ICMI staff for the opportunity.

Oh, and I hope Verizon is reading this!

About Noe Vazquez:

 Noe is a bilingual Customer Solutions Associate with the Customer Solutions Team, commonly referred to as a Retention team, within North American Bancard’s call center. In his tenure with North American Bancard, Noe has set a new standard for existing team members and made new team members excited to reach his level of success. He was named Employee of the Month eight times in 2012, an honor calculated based on the percentage of goal achievement in five categories: inbound call volume, outbound call volume, reactivated merchant accounts, retained accounts, and account conversion, all while maintaining exceptional quality scores. Noe trains and coaches new associates and his calls are used to coach existing associates on a weekly basis. In addition to his valuable training input Noe has made suggestions to streamline processes, and even implemented changes around a paperless initiative the company took on, which saved 5,000 sheets of paper and seven man hours per week.