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Call centre agent - stop gap or career option?

Now that summer is officially over, school leavers and graduates across the country will be contemplating their employment options. The more career-minded will have jobs already and high flyers will be looking to the city, law, accountancy, but how many would include the contact centre on their list of desirable careers? My guess is not too many.

Let’s face it. Working as a call centre agent is typically seen as a nice stopgap but nothing more.

They might employ just over a million people, but call centres have still not been able to shake off their ‘sweatshop’ image, often being characterised by unrelenting targets and consequentially, high staff churn rates. And to be fair the call centre industry has not really done much to address this, so no wonder there is an element of snobbery about working in one.

It’s time to think about the impact all of this has on the customer experience, supposedly a strategic priority for service-oriented organisations in the 21st century.

The industry’s unwillingness to address its image problem is particularly shameful given that one third of call centre workers have degrees. They have been trained to think, typically want to make a difference and bring with them the dynamism and social media expertise that will be so necessary to the future of contact centres.

But I’m not just talking about graduates here. Beyond the university educated call centre workforce, many agents have the skills, experience and attitude to contribute a lot value to the business. In fact in my experience, agents often have the most valuable – and actionable – business insights, the holy grail for many contact centres today.

While some do make it to the top, all too often those employees with drive, aptitude and ambition lapse into contact centre boredom all too quickly. And again to be fair, if they are treated like robots then they are probably not going to put their talents to the best use of their employer.

In reality there are plenty of career opportunities for people who recognise that things can be done differently. By motivating agents and presenting people with the opportunities to progress within the business you can help address two core challenges, agent engagement and customer satisfaction.

But in order to change employee attitude, organisations first need to change their contact centre culture… but that’s a debate for another time.