How to Become a Good Call Center Agent and Get Promoted

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Mastering the skills required to become a good call center agent is worth your while. With more remote call center jobs than ever before, skilled agents can take their pick and work anywhere in the world. The pay isn’t bad either, averaging $42,000 per year.

The demand for call center managers is even greater. With annual salaries averaging $75,000, it’s a great opportunity for the right person. 

Great managers usually start their careers as great agents. Honing your call center agent skills gives you a leg up on the competition.

5 Steps to Become a Good Call Center Agent

Call centers have high turnover rates—that’s a fact. It’s not for the reasons you think, though, and definitely not something to fear.

A lot of people take an agent role without really understanding the job details. The truth is, life as a call center agent can be demanding, especially in the early days when you’re just learning the ropes. Some people can’t handle it. When they realize that reality, they self-select out pretty fast.

The upshot of this is that call centers are always hiring. If you know what it takes to be a good call center agent on day one, your chance of success is very high.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Dive into training

Just like with any job, your first days and weeks as a call center agent will likely be filled with training to help you understand your role and how to do it. Your manager or HR coordinator will usually provide the materials, and completion is mandatory.

But don’t make the mistake that subpar agents often make. Don’t treat training materials as something to race through just to tick the “completed” box. 

Take the time to really absorb the information. The more thoroughly you understand the material, the better you can recall and rely on it when you’re on a customer call. You won’t have to struggle to answer questions, or worse, give out incorrect information.

Don’t stop there, though. Go the extra mile and dive deeper into subjects that will help build your soft skills. Learn about sales cold calling, lead nurturing, customer service best practices, and other topics.

There’s always something new to learn that can help you do your job better. Continuous learning is the key to agent success.

2. Show up every day

It goes without saying that you need to be punctual and reliable. That means showing up for your shifts on time and ready to roll. This is true for every job.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

What we mean is bringing 110% to the agent role each and every day, week in and week out. It may sound daunting, but doing it separates you from the average agents. It also positions you for career growth and success.

Most new agents do give their all in the early days. They have a few rockstar weeks and feel like they can conquer the world. It’s the honeymoon period, just like in any new job.

But for most agents, the honeymoon is over sooner rather than later. By month two or three, they settle into a performance routine that’s average at best.

The top performers, though, are different. They don’t let up after the honeymoon period is over. They keep showing up and giving 110% every day, week after week, month after month. 

They become known as the agents who can always be counted on. It’s these agents who develop reputations as the top performers in the call center.

Yes, these agents master the basics, like clocking in on time and showing up for every shift. But they do more. They regularly surpass goals. Overdelivering is a way of life for them.

When you start overdelivering on the regular, not only your peers will notice but your manager will, too. When promotion time rolls around, guess who they have in mind? You.

3. Become an excellent listener

Every call center agent is measured by a set of call center metrics. One of the biggies is Net Promoter Score (NPS). It rates how likely a customer is to recommend an agent or company.

The data behind NPS is often extracted from those post-call surveys customers are asked to complete. It’s easy to get a positive score from a customer whose problem you solved quickly and effectively. But what about the less happy customers?

This is where having great listening skills comes into play.

No matter what a customer says or how they speak, you always want to make sure they feel heard and understood. This is called empathy. But simply being an empathetic person is not enough. You need to make sure the customer feels your empathy.

The best way to do this is by making sure they feel listened to. One easy strategy is to restate what they tell you. Saying something like “I heard you say . . . is that correct?” is an effective way to show the customer you are actively listening. It also shows you have a vested interest in getting things right.

People who feel listened to and understood generally have a positive attitude, even if their issue cannot be resolved. And not every caller will have an issue you can solve as an agent.

When faced with a sticky situation that isn’t readily fixable, great agents show even more empathy. They validate the customer’s feelings with statements like “I totally see why you are so frustrated, and I would be, too.” This demonstrates that you not only understand the customer’s issue, but also take it seriously.

Becoming a great listener takes practice. But the payout when you master it is higher customer ratings and better agent metrics.

4. Dive deep into company and product knowledge

If you really want to get ahead, supplement company-provided training with your own self-learning opportunities. Make it your mission to know more about the company and its products and services than the sales team—and maybe even the CEO.

Read all the written materials you can get your hands on about the company and its products and services. Watch any and all training and explainer videos you can get your hands on, too.

Then, befriend someone from the marketing team, and invite them for coffee. Have them tell you their perspective on the company and what it sells. Marketing people usually have a big-picture understanding of the company and its mission, along with granular knowledge of each product or service. 

The same holds true for the sales team. Find a high performer whose brain you can pick, then become a sponge for that knowledge. If your company sells tangible products, find the product manager in charge of each one and ask them for even more information.

None of these one-on-one activities will take more than 15-30 minutes, and they do more than fill your brain with information. They’re also a great way to build relationships. 

Down the road, if you have a unique customer question that you can’t answer, you’ll know exactly who to go to get the right information fast.

Being the agent who knows the answers—or knows how to find the answers in a split-second—will help you resolve calls quickly and create satisfied customers. Over time it will also be what catches the eye of your manager and positions you for long-term success.

5. Learn from the best

Every call center will have a few agents who stand head and shoulders above the rest. Eventually that might be you.

Until then, seek out these top agents and get to know them. Grab coffee or take them to lunch. Be bold about asking them for tips and strategies to become a great agent. Don’t be shy about asking to listen in on their calls or shadow them for a day.

The fastest way to become a great agent yourself is to model your actions on the behavior and skills of someone really great at the same job. Learning from the best is a great way to do this.

Of course, not every tip these superstar agents provide will work exactly the same way for you. You can’t—and shouldn’t—copy/paste their style.

Everyone is unique with distinctive skills and personality traits. The key is to take the essence of what they say and do and make it your own.

It will take some practice to figure out what works best for you. But when you do, you’ll be on the fast track to becoming a top agent yourself.

Possible Promotions For Good Call Center Agents

When you have all aspects of your call center agent role dialed in, it’s time to start thinking about your next career steps. Here are a few higher level roles available at most call centers.

Team lead

Top agents are a natural choice to become a team lead. This role manages a group of agents and is the first level up from call center agent. Moving up to a team lead role usually requires at least six months of agent experience in the call center.

Team leads have a variety of responsibilities that vary from call center to call center. Usually this role manages daily team meetings, monitors agent calls and provides feedback, and acts as a second line of defense to handle calls other agents cannot solve.

The best team leads are excellent communicators and problem-solvers. They’re also usually very motivational and comfortable being a role model and coach to entry-level agents. These are the types of skills you should work on if you want to move into a team lead role.

Call center manager

The next step up after the team lead is usually call center manager. This role directly manages all the team leads and agents. The role is also responsible for overall call center operations.

On a day-to-day basis, call center managers resolve issues, wear a coaching hat to guide agents and leads, make sure policies and procedures are followed, and monitor performance. 

Call center managers also work collaboratively with department managers from other areas of the company and prepare reports that are shared with senior management. 

This means a good call center manager has excellent people and communication skills. They also must be super organized. Finally, they have to be able to understand large data sets and crunch numbers in order to prepare call center metrics reports.

If you aspire to become a call center manager, be ready to show you can do all these things well.

Call center quality analyst

Call center compliance is a big deal. Besides the usual company policies and standards that are in place, there are numerous federal laws and agency regulations that must be met, too.

The call center quality analyst (QA) is the role responsible for ensuring all methods of consumer interaction meet these numerous requirements. This doesn’t just mean phone calls, either. It includes email, live chat, and any other communication channels. The QA manages them all.

The QA also implements and manages the call center quality assurance program. They assess agent performance through evaluation programs, identify learning gaps, create training programs, and build and implement quality scorecards to measure team and individual agent performance.

People in QA roles must have excellent analytical skills and be extremely well-organized. They must quickly identify issues impacting call center and agent performance and come up with solutions to keep the call center on track.

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