Published: February 08, 2019 | Comments
Raise your hand if you dreamed of growing up to become a doctor or a teacher when you were a child. 🙋♀️Now raise your hand if you always thought it would be fun to answer the phones in a contact center. If your hand is up, we applaud you. If not, we understand. Traditionally, call center work has carried a stigma. To outsiders (and even insiders), it just doesn’t seem like an interesting way to make a living. For those who’ve never experienced a day in the life of a contact center, scenes from the movie Office Space or Outsourced may come to mind. But as customer experience and contact center roles are beginning to converge, and companies begin to invest more in customer experience, the tides are turning. Many Millennials are happily turning to the contact center to jumpstart their careers, and some of today’s brightest customer service leaders are raising the next generation of support professionals.
During a recent #ICMIchat, two ICMI community members, Sean Hawkins, and Sheri Kendall-duPont were beaming with pride as they shared that their children were following in their footsteps. In December, Sean’s son Jalen, and Sheri’s daughter Tana started new jobs, both as agents in a contact center. And they seem to be settling well into their new roles and enjoying the work.
What motivated them to apply for jobs in customer service? In part, the example their parents set.
“When I’d go to an ICMI event--whether it was in Atlanta, or Florida, or Chicago, my children were impressed. They were so enthused to learn I got to take those trips, and speak, for work,” says Sean. “Aside from that, I’ve been bringing my kids to work for years, so Jalen got to see how fun the contact center can be. His personality is very similar to mine--he’s never met a stranger, so taking a job in the contact center was a logical career step for him.”
Sheri thinks her passion for customer service may have inspired her daughter, too. With a background in adult learning and development, Sheri accepted her first contact center job four and a half years ago and quickly fell in love with the industry.
“I’d like to think my experience in the contact center inspired Tana to consider this path,” said Sheri. “ I honestly never thought she paid that much attention to what I do for a living, but she reached out to me for advice when she got the interview, and I’m the first person she reaches out to for questions about her job.”
Sean says Jalen often seeks out his advice, too. In particular, he’s curious to learn more about contact center metrics--the strategy behind them, and how to hit goal.
“Jalen asks for my opinion all the time! Almost daily,” said Sean. “He’s interested in the strategy behind contact center management. He’s also curious to understand why he’s being asked to do things a certain way.”
Even though he’s only been around for two months, Sean said Jalen’s already gotten involved in meetings with executives and is participating in a project aimed at finding ways to deflect contact volume. His desire to grow and learn is serving him well, and Sean thinks it will bode well for his next career move, whether it’s in the contact center or not.
“He’s learning how to interact in a way that makes him a good neighbor--he’s collaborating and solving problems, and learning how to engage with various stakeholders in a civilized way. All these things will position him for success, not only in his career but in life.”
Sheri agrees. She says Tana reaches out for tips on using Zendesk, dealing with angry customers, and writing better emails. All of this leads Sheri to believe she’s learning valuable skills that will benefit her in the future.
“I love that Tana is learning how to work in a team, she’s improving her time management, and figuring out more effective ways to communicate,” said Sheri. “It’s been fun to watch her learn how to strike a balance between speed and quality. Early on, she was answering customers too quickly and making mistakes. Now she’s learned to slow down a bit. She’s also learning when to solve problems on her on and when to ask a manager for help--that’s transferable to any career.”
Aside from fundamental career skills, Tana is broadening her worldview, too. Supporting a product that’s popular in South Africa has opened her to learning about international shipping, customers, and a different set of cultural norms and expectations.
Are Tana and Jalen exceptions to the rule, or will we see more young professionals embracing careers in customer service? According to experts, developing the fundamental skills contact center agents use, like active listening, communication, and problem-solving can help job seekers land just about any job. And study after study shows that Millennials want purpose in their work. What better purpose than helping others?
So, contact center leaders, take note! If you want to attract and recruit Millennials, do these things:
1. Define your team’s purpose. Communicate that purpose far and wide--to your team, your customers, and your prospective employees and customers. And make sure you align your metrics and processes to that purpose.
2. Challenge the stigmas! Reposition your job descriptions to highlight growth opportunities. Unless a job seeker has a friend or family member who’s worked in a contact center, they may not realize all the rewards and challenges that come with serving customers. Make it clear that working as a contact center agent isn’t entry level, and share what skills new employees can expect to hone in the role.
3. Offer ongoing development opportunities for agents. Don’t pigeon-hole agents, and don’t save growth projects for tenured employees. Much like Jalen and Tana, most agents want to learn! Invite them to meetings with senior leaders, give them the chance to contribute to stretch projects, and seek out their questions and opinions.
What do you think? Is the future bright for young customer service professionals? Do you know a rising star like Tana or Jalen? Share your thoughts in the comments!