Published: February 10, 2021 | Comments
I often get asked by people who are curious what it’s like working in a contact center. After being in the contact center world for nearly eight years; I decided to compile my thoughts and share what it’s like working in a contact center life, and why some of us love it.
When I began to work in a contact center, I didn’t really know much about it; I hadn’t really ever paid much attention to the contact center at my organization. I was told by some of the people I worked with at the time that I wouldn’t like it as much as working with our customers in person because of my outgoing personality.
Instead, I immediately fell in love with my new role. I enjoyed the newfound focus on word use, the importance of vocal clarity and inflection, and even the fact that callers really could tell on the other end of the line if you were smiling when you spoke.
Contact Center 101
What is a contact center? A contact center connects with customers and fulfills their requests via remote avenues in a timely manner. They are the people who are there when someone needs them, ready to help support the customer and provide critical support and great service. A contact center employee has to be a subject matter expert; they have to be prepared to answer any questions a customer could ask.
Contact centers evolved from call centers. In a call center, the means of communication was via phone call. Contact centers are typically designed to offer multiple channels that directly support the needs of customers. Some contact centers are open typical business hours, while others are open and operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Contact center channels may include:
- Inbound Phone Calls
- Outbound Phone Calls
- Sales and/or Support
- Automated Phone Support
- Web Chat
- Video Chat
- Text Messaging
Something I’ve learned while leading my team is that unless someone previously worked in a contact center, an applicant probably doesn’t know what to expect. Here is what I tell all applicants who are considering working in our contact center.
When a customer calls into the contact center or reaches out through web chat, it is because they need something. It isn’t usually because they want to tell us how happy they are with the service they are receiving, although that does happen sometimes. The customer may appear upset, frustrated, worried, excited, and many other emotions. It is our responsibility to understand that they need our help; they are relying on us to answer their questions, to solve their problems, and to teach them how to help themselves for those times when we might not be available to provide support. Our job is to listen to the caller, ask questions for understanding, and compassionately support them with their needs. We all need a little grace now and then.
Contact center employees should have a desire to help, and not just a desire to help those who want to be helped - they have to be invested in the well-being of all callers. Like any job, working in a contact center can be difficult and it can be rewarding; yet, in many ways it is unlike any other job, and not everyone is up to the challenge. Each employee who serves customers with passion and care through contact centers has unique characteristics and the utmost dedication to service.
Similarities and differences
Contact centers have a lot of similarities, and a lot of differences.
Most contact centers have similar metrics, or ways to track goals/progress. Some of the most common metrics are:
- Average Handle Time – Average length of an interaction.
- Average Wait Time – Average length a customer waits to be connected with an employee.
- Cross sells percentage (product referrals) – Percentage of educational or sales conversations.
- Availability – Measure of employee’s schedule adherence.
- Quality – Measure of employee’s delivery of quality service.
Some contact centers only make outbound calls and others only receive inbound interactions (calls, chats, etc.). Some support one product or organization, and others support multiple products/services or multiple organizations.
Because a contact center relies on tight scheduling to support its customer interactions and needs, employees are expected to pay more attention to their schedule adherence than they would in the average customer service role. Often, contact center employees have seconds in between calls to select their wrap-up code that identifies why the caller reached out. All work related to phone calls is generally expected to be completed while the caller is on the phone, and not after they have disconnected.
Supporting customers through nontraditional channels, especially with the high level of volume of customer interactions, can be challenging for people. Our contact center has had new hires realize before they reached the end of their training that working in a contact center wasn’t their cup of tea.
Attitude is so important
A customer can absolutely tell if you are smiling sincerely when you are speaking, and being genuine can make all the difference. It takes a special set of skills to connect with a person without relying on body language to communicate. This skill doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and it may take time to develop.
To convey emotions without the access to body language and facial expressions, one must speak clearly, use proper inflection, and, most importantly, use language that can help build connections. The words that we choose to use (either vocally or written) matter as much, if not more, than the tone in which we say them.
The contact center is a place for a person to learn, expand upon the knowledge they already have, and identify where they’d like to grow. My journey working in a contact center is far from over; I continue to learn and grow each new day, adding framework to the foundation created when I first joined this industry. The most exciting thing to me about working in a contact center is that it’s always changing - pushing technological boundaries and reinventing new and more innovative ways to help the customer.
One thing that I can guarantee is that contact centers are always hiring. If you think this may be a challenge you’re up for, I’d highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity. You may find that working in a contact center opens up opportunities you never knew existed, and that you never realized you wanted.