CAREER GUIDES

Here's how call centre agents or operators work in an automated office environment

Image: 123RF/Tyler Olson.

Call centre agents communicate with customers through a variety of means—by telephone; by e-mail, fax, or regular mail correspondence; or in person.

Some customer service representatives handle general questions and complaints, whereas others specialise according to the product or service. The service needs of customers vary from one request to another and should be treated accordingly.

Most call centre operators deal with routine questions and requests for customers. For instance, a cell phone company may have call centre agents answering routine questions about balance enquiries, and new products or services and general complaints about service.

In handling customers’ complaints, agents attempt to resolve the problem according to guidelines established by the company. These procedures may include asking questions to determine the validity of a complaint, offering possible solutions, or providing a customer with refunds and exchanges.

In some cases, customer service representatives are required to conduct follow up with an individual customer. For instance, questions from customers may require additional research or further explanation on the part of the customer service representative.

An additional function of most call centre agents is to make changes or to update a customer profile or account information. Call centre agents have access to records of transactions and update and maintain databases of information. Account information can be pulled up on a computer screen while the agent is dealing with the customer.

The advantage of this is that the agent can answer specific questions relating to the account and deal with these queries immediately. Customer service agents have often provide standard answers to deal with common customer questions or queries. They also have guidelines for dealing with complaints.

Most customer service agents use computers and telephones extensively in their work. Customer service agents frequently enter information into a computer as they are speaking to customers. In the event that they encounter a question or situation to which they do not know how to respond, agents consult with a supervisor to determine the best course of action.

Call centre agents communicate with customers using telephone, e-mail, fax, or mail correspondence. Customer service representatives use multi-line telephones systems, which often route calls directly to the most appropriate representative.

Call centre agents work in an automated office environment. Most operators have their own workstation or cubicle space equipped with a telephone, headset, and computer.

Personal requirements

  • A pleasant telephone voice that conveys sincerity and confidence
  • Commitment to providing good customer service
  • Good written and oral communication skills
  • Organisation and multi-tasking skills
  • The ability to work independently or as part of a team
  • The ability to remain interested and focused when repeating information
  • The ability to think quickly and respond to complaints smoothly and tactfully

How to enter

Schooling & school subjects National Senior Certificate is a standard requirement.

It may be an advantage to have a degree or diploma, however a NSC is a requirement to complete a learnership programme. In service training.

What to study

Although some positions may require previous industry, office, or customer service experience, many customer service jobs are entry level. Customer service jobs are often good introductory positions into a company or an industry.

In some cases, experienced workers can move up within the company into supervisory or managerial positions or they may move into areas such as product development, in which they can use their knowledge to improve products and services.

Because of a constant need to update skills and knowledge, most customer service agents continue to receive instruction and training throughout their career. This is particularly true of workers in industries such as banking, in which regulations and products are continually changing.

Employment

Customer service jobs are often good introductory positions into a company or an industry. Call centre agents are employed by:

  • Insurance companies
  • Telephone companies
  • Power, water and gas utility companies and contractors
  • Retail establishments
  • Wholesale establishments such as mail-order and Internet-based companies
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