Depending upon the nature of the organisation they serve, call centre operators can expect to spend the majority of their time receiving orders, recording technical faults, providing callers with product advice or receiving customer complaints.
Call centre operators fulfil a vital role in any business or organisation. As the first point of contact for most customers or business associates, call centre operators serve as representatives of the whole organisation, and employers will expect this responsibility to be taken seriously.
An ability to remain calm and professional in all circumstances will serve call centre operators well. There will inevitably be callers who seem determined to remain unsatisfied, and it will be your responsibility to pacify them. The best strategy for dealing with difficult callers is to remain polite and reasonable, no matter how unpleasant a caller manages to be! Thankfully, abusive callers are likely to be in the minority, but it is important you are equipped to deal with tough situations if they arise.
Bear in mind that your calls are likely to be monitored by senior members of staff so it is very important that you are consistently polite and helpful. While you will usually be informed at your initial training session that your calls may be monitored at times, it is very unlikely you will be told which calls will be listened to by other members of staff.
You will also need to be reasonably comfortable with using basic computer software, as most call centres use computers to log details of calls or as a source of information for the operators. Initial training sessions should adequately cover the operation of relevant computer programmes and handsets, but some basic knowledge in this area would be a big advantage.
An average call centre operator can expect to earn around £10-15,000 a year. Those with a supervisory role, such as team leaders, can expect to earn up to £25,000. For those who are able to move even further up the hierarchy, call centre managers, who take responsibility for the daily running of an entire call centre, may earn in excess of £30,000.
Your responsibilities will differ depending on the type of call centre in which you work. Your duties may include:
- Answering customer queries (a bank of answers to frequently asked questions is usually provided)
- Receiving orders
- Hearing customer complaints
- Recording reports of technical faults
- Basic administrative duties during periods of low call volume
Call centre staff will rarely be required to hold specific qualifications, although a basic level of education (eg GCSEs) will be assumed. Staff who work on technical help-lines may require further qualifications in the relevant field. However, this should always be clearly indicated in advertisements for the post.
If you are attracted to the prospect of working in a call centre, you may want to consider checking the course list of your local college, as many run programmes such as the BTEC in Introduction to Contact Centres. Bear in mind, however, that few, if any, call centres will require a specific qualification. Before you enrol on a course, it may be worth checking whether you already have sufficient qualifications to apply for a post. However, for those who lack confidence or are keen to perfect their skills before beginning work, college courses can provide a good introduction to call centre work.
- An affable personality and a polite and helpful manner
- A clear speaking voice to aid the elderly and hard of hearing
- Basic computer skills (eg logging in and finding information)
- An ability to remain calm and professional when dealing with difficult callers
As a call centre operator you can expect to work in an office environment. It is usually easy to achieve a good work/life balance, and part-time work is often available. A typical 40 hour working week can be expected in most cases.
Some call centres, particularly 24 hour helplines, may operate a shift system which includes some unsociable hours. Other companies choose to employ staff to work only the night shifts. As night staff are often paid more than day staff to compensate them for working unsociable hours, this may be worth exploring if you would have no problem working nights.
Most employers will not demand specific call centre experience, as full training is generally provided, although some experience of working in customer service would be advantageous. Far more important, however, will be a willingness to learn and an appropriate attitude.
- Most large businesses and organisations (check local press and online advertisements)
- If you are interested in working for a particular company or in a particular type of call centre work (such as IT support or insurance claims) the individual websites of companies often have sections dedicated to job opportunities.
Staff who show an aptitude for call centre work may be offered a supervisory role within the call centre, usually leading a small team of other call centre operators. Team leaders may help monitor calls and the activity of other operators, and are likely to be involved in meetings about call centre policy.
Staff who prove themselves in mid-level supervisory roles may also have the opportunity to apply for management positions.
Also known as…
- Contact Centre Operators
What’s it really like?
Former Call Centre Operator Liz Stratford (24) tells us more about what it’s really like…
“A couple of years ago I spent some time working on the helpline of a company which supplies medical oxygen to NHS patients in their own homes. A typical day involved speaking to patients or their carers who were calling to order more oxygen, to report a technical fault with equipment or, at times, to complain about a failed delivery. The call centre also dealt with administrative enquiries from medical practitioners about Home Oxygen Order Forms.
The best thing about the work was undoubtedly the sense of accomplishment I felt after fixing a problem for a patient. As most of the patients were in very poor health, and some were even nearing the end of their lives, I found it satisfying to help ensure that they had one less thing to worry about at a time of profound personal crisis. There was also a good team atmosphere in the call centre. The call centre operators were divided into small groups of around ten, each led by a team leader who could provide authorisation for emergency deliveries of oxygen and speak with callers who insisted on speaking to a more senior member of staff.
The worst thing about the work was dealing with difficult callers, many of whom were abrupt or even rude. I always did my best to help each caller and to be understanding about their circumstances, so it was often very frustrating to be forced to bear the brunt of callers’ anger. I found this aspect of the work much easier to deal with once I accepted that customers were not attacking me personally. I also found that most of the anger directed at me was a result of fear or frustration. With a sincere apology and a genuine effort to fix the problem, most people calmed down very quickly.
I also found myself frustrated by the lack of personal responsibility. Senior staff monitoring calls were always mindful of which members of staff had their handsets switched off or in standby mode, and call centre operators could frequently be asked to explain why they were not ready to take calls. There were often legitimate reasons for this, such as making an outgoing call to a patient or medical practitioner to fix a problem with a delivery, or making a note on a patient’s file before moving on to the next call. While senior staff were accepting of these reasons, the feeling of being ‘monitored’ did feel a little intrusive at times.
I would advise anyone considering entering this line of work to remember that a good attitude will be their most valuable tool. There is nothing that will rile callers more quickly than the perception that the person dealing with their enquiry is indifferent to their problem. Most callers will be reasonable people who just want to be treated with respect, and will respond well to diligent operators who are obviously doing their best to help them. For the few callers you deal with who seem impervious to reason, try to remember that you are not being personally attacked! Keeping cool and maintaining a calm and professional voice in all circumstances is vital – if you are prone to flying off the handle at the smallest provocation, this may not be the best line of work for you!”