The contact centre industry offers a diverse array of career opportunities that extend far beyond the conventional image of customer service representatives answering calls. In today’s dynamic business landscape, contact centres have evolved into multi-faceted hubs of customer interaction, problem-solving and innovation. From roles in quality assurance and training to leadership positions and supplier management, this industry caters to a plethora of skill sets and aspirations. This article will explore the myriad of career options within the contact centre sector, the range of different skills that can be developed in these roles and a call to action for the industry to do a better job of sharing the rewarding pathways to a much wider talent pool.
Not just for Christmas…
A career in customer service is rarely seen as a viable career option for new entrants, often overlooked for different industries that are assumed to provide better career paths. The misconception that contact centre roles solely contain monotonous tasks or unrewarding interactions leads to careers within contact centres being disregarded. However, this misconception fails to recognise the growing complexity and importance of these roles which require a diverse skill set, from empathy to complex problem solving and technical know-how. With the levels of customer service being widely reported as being at an all-time low in the UK, the need to attract the best talent into this industry is vital.
It is a well-kept secret that many highly successful individuals have utilised their time working in contact centres, not merely as a stepping stone, but as a valuable training environment where foundational skills, such as communication and problem solving, have been developed and supported them on their future career journeys. Phillip McMullan, Director of Learning Design at Babington, a leading national apprenticeship supplier is the perfect example of this. He still uses the skills, experiences and knowledge gained from a part-time contact centre role whilst at university, in interactions with colleagues, clients and learners in his role today.
There are also the lifers. People who have spent their whole career in the industry and would not dream of working anywhere else. As well as the skills you can develop, the team ethos and positive culture are spoken of with genuine warmth. It is simply inspiring that many individuals in senior positions within the industry started their career answering customer calls. And, some of these individuals are now excelling in C-suite positions, influencing at an organisational and industry level.
The options are endless…
So, what career paths does a contact centre career provide?
Contact Centre Advisor
The contact centre advisor is the bedrock of any contact centre operation and the starting point for many careers. With the advancement of technology, the skills developed in this role will be even more specialist, with the simple interactions removed with automation. This does not mean the role will become obsolete, it will just require more advanced skills. The ability to make complex decisions alongside being technology savvy is vital today and will continue to gain momentum. However, the human touch and ability to display empathy will continue to be the cornerstone of excellence in customer service.
Climbing the leadership ladder is one of the ways to advance your career in the contact centre industry. The critical front line leadership role of the Team Leader is the first rung on this ladder. The Team Leader plays a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth and efficient operation of a contact centre and is essential in maintaining high quality customer service and fostering a motivated and cohesive team. From an advisor perspective the team leader embodies how they feel about the organisation. The role is critical, not only to achieve results, but to represent the organisational values and purpose to the advisor population who have the direct contact with your customers.
Being a Team Leader is not an easy role. Martin Teasdale, creator of the Team Leader Community, talks about demands coming from all angles. From the people they lead, their leaders, support teams and customers. Martin is adamant that if you are able to “get this population of your contact centre right and you can achieve anything”. So passionate about this belief Martin has set up the Team Leader Community where Team Leaders and aspiring Team Leaders come together to learn and share best practice.
Moving beyond team leader to Operations Manager and then to Head of Contact Centre, the skills in communication, decision-making, prioritising, time-management and employee engagement continue to be required and developed. However, with more responsibility comes the additional skill necessities of strategic thinking and stakeholder management. The ability to plan for the long-term, taking the external environment into account, as well as achieving buy-in from stakeholders is critical for success. All of these leadership skills will be enhanced by working in a contact centre, can also be transferred to a wide variety of careers that involve managing people.
The QA function plays a crucial role in the contact centre ensuring the customer experience is of the highest quality. The Quality Assurance team will monitor, review and assess interactions with customers across all channels, retrospectively or in real time. Scoring and evaluation is against pre-defined standards which can be regulatory, brand or service standards. Assessing agent performance requires attention to detail and a customer focus to ascertain if customer needs have been met and their custom has been retained.
A range of skills are needed to be successful in quality assurance. Analytical skills to interpret performance data and pinpoint the root cause of quality problems. Communication skills will enable issues to be shared with team members, leadership and training. Coaching skills allow the effective feedback of performance observations to advisors or team leaders. Additionally, a continuous improvement mindset is vital, with the primary focus of this role is improving the quality on customer service and advisor performance, the quality insight provides the continuous improvement loop.
The Trainer in a contact centre is agile, resilient, a great communicator and has to be able motivate the new recruits to deliver a great customer experience in sometimes challenging circumstances. Delivering content which is often detailed, may be regulated, or complex multiple systems takes skill and patience. Having knowledge about the content and delivering the training is only part of the challenge.
The external environment has a significant impact on customer emotion so designing training that takes this into account is vital. Recent times have seen a rise in vulnerable customer training and a focus on empathy in interactions.
Change and Continuous improvement
Executing a change well in a contact centre is a team effort. With the overarching purpose of improving the customer experience or eradicating any impact to the customer, working in change is an important role. Change management or project management roles within a contact centre not only require the key skills of organisation, communication, stakeholder management and analysis and planning, a knowledge of how a contact centre works is also valuable. Understanding how a change can impact a telephony line or add on seconds to AHT causing inefficiencies, secures an increased chance of success in this role.
Continuous improvement, the iterative approach to identifying and executing areas for improvement, is a key element in a contact centre. Everyone should have a continuous improvement mindset but having a team with expertise in making small changes and refinements will achieve better results, efficiency and quality. A love for detail and a drive to discover and track benefits of any improvements are pre-requisites for a role in CI.
Resource Planning and Real Time Management
Resource Planning is the link between all functions in a contact centre. Responsible for the systematic allocation and management of resources, the efficiency and effectiveness of the contact centre operation depends on it. Accurate long- and medium-term plans for resource allow for budgets to be achieved and the right amount of resource to be available to serve customers. If the plan is wrong and there is not enough resource, customers will be disappointed and advisors will be stretched. Too much resource leads to inefficiencies and overspending on budgets. A forward-looking mindset, financial acumen, attention to detail and great stakeholder engagement is vital in these roles. Having an awareness of change on the horizon that will impact forecasts is fundamental for success.
The scheduling of resource in a contact centre is a balancing act. Ensuring there are just enough people at the right time of the day, on the right days of the week to serve customers but, to also offer shifts that advisors want to work requires well developed planning skills, an ability to utilise technology and an understanding of the workforce. On the day, or Real Time Management, to deal with those call drivers you just cannot plan for, requires prioritisation skills and a drive to maintain service levels.
Management Information and Insight
There are copious amounts of data available within a contact centre. Alongside reports on interaction performance, there are metrics available on attrition, quality, system adherence, to name just a few. Management Information is usually available via reporting and dashboards. Working in this area would require data analysis, attention to detail, technical proficiency and communication skills. Understanding how to present the data so it can be easily understood and utilised is key.
Transforming information into insight that can be shared to improve operations and customer experiences is essential. Some practical applications of this can be in resource allocation, training and coaching, performance metrics, proactive issue resolution, compliance and quality, the list goes on. If you are a natural problem solver, enjoy getting to the root cause of the issue and love discovering cause and effect connections, this may well be the role for you.
Partner Management and BPOs
There are not many industries that afford you the opportunity to work with multiple brands, in numerous industries, travel the world or even live abroad. Jordan Shaw, a Business Development Director at Sigma Connected, shares that the six years he was able to spend in South Africa was life-changing. He believes that working in different parts of the world “gives you such a different perspective both personally and professionally”. A role, either within an outsourcer, or as a Partner Manager, working with an outsourcer, literally opens up the world for you.
People who work in the outsourcing industry cultivate advanced financial management, contract negotiation skills and develop the ability to see opportunities that will enhance the client offer. These supplier management skills will support you wherever your career takes you.
There is an abundance of contact centre technology and the stack is growing taller all the time. Managing and optimising the technical infrastructure is a varied role ranging from collaborating with vendors, programming to integrating systems and trouble shooting. An interest and expertise in technology is required.
As AI rapidly gains traction within contact centres, revolutionising operations and enhancing efficiencies, the Technical Specialist has the opportunity to be at the forefront of this advancement, keeping professional skills relevant.
The world of contact centres is rapidly transforming and constantly adapting to emerging technology and changing customer expectations. There will be roles in the contact centre of the future that do not even exist yet. With this notion and the current diverse range of career opportunities outlined above that offer a path to build varied and rewarding careers, there is no reason that the contact centre industry should not be a career of choice.
People working in the industry love and champion the contact centre profession, we now need to shout louder so talent entering the job market can hear us.