Hiring and Training CSRs for Digital Contact Center Work
Hiring and Training CSRs for Digital Contact Center Work
In today’s world,
customers have become accustomed to serving themselves. This phenomenon may
have started with fuel. With the notable exception of New Jersey, customers
have been pumping their own gas for decades. Self-service quickly spread across
other industries. ATMs have all but replaced drive-through services at banks.
Self-service checkout lanes are proliferating in grocery stores. Even post
offices have kiosks where customers can weigh items, buy postage, and send
items, all without the assistance of a customer service representative (CSR).
Why the proliferation of self-service options? It’s all about time and efficiency. People believe they can do things faster themselves, and most often they can. They also want to be able to complete transactions—whether at the bank or grocery store or hundreds of online locations—when they want to.
Emotional intelligence is about being socially aware, self-aware, and able to recognize the effect of emotions on behavior.
Self Service and the
This trend toward
self-service has moved into the contact center industry as well. Modern contact
centers are offering digital channels, such as interactive voice response (IVR)
menus, websites, chatbots, SMS, and even social media sites, to give customers
as many options as possible to find information and complete transactions in
the ways they prefer.
Digital channels offer
customers an avenue for completing simple tasks online. But when those tasks
are more complex, customers need to talk to a CSR. Customers can certainly pay
car insurance bills online without assistance, but if they want to change the
amount of coverage they have on a vehicle, add additional vehicles, or report
an accident, that often involves speaking to a person. That means the CSRs taking
those calls must be trained and ready to handle these complex questions. They
also need the soft skills to handle the emotions that come with a higher level
The New Breed of CSR
CSRs are now expected to
answer and assist with increasingly complex questions. They are also speaking
with customers who have looked for answers online and come up short.
These CSRs need better training than their peers of just a few years ago to help the digital-first customers who are contacting them. They can’t simply read answers from a script, as customers have already found that online. CSRs must be able to think critically and act quickly. In addition, CSRs with high emotional intelligence (EQ) can sense what a customer feels and how to respond appropriately.
Just as CSRs need new
skills, contact center managers need to adapt the processes they use to hire
and train new CSRs. Hiring for more complex skill sets means looking for
different attributes in individuals. It also means using distinct training
methods to ensure that new CSRs can help customers with complex tasks.
How to Hire New CSRs for
Digital Contact Centers
In general, it is easier
to teach and prepare people in areas in which they are already strong. This
holds true with contact center recruiting. Hiring managers should seek
individuals who have a natural inclination to help others. This service
mind-set cannot be taught.
For digital contact
centers, CSRs need to have excellent critical thinking skills and a high degree
of emotional intelligence. While people can be taught ways to improve critical
thinking and problem solving and can learn strategies to improve their ability
to read emotions in situations, it’s easier for trainers and managers to start
with recruits who already have some ability in these areas.
help assess potential hires for critical thinking, EQ, and problem-solving
skills. To assess, a hiring manager might give a potential hire the following
situation: A customer calls into the contact center because his card is
declined at a point of sale. When looking at the system, there appears to be no
reason for the card to be declined.
What step would the
potential hire take? In assessing critical thinking, hiring managers aren’t
looking for a correct answer. It would be nearly impossible for a potential
hire to know the correct steps to take for that specific contact center. They
are looking for potential hires who go beyond the response: “Sorry, I can’t
help you with that.” Managers should look for potential hires who state that
they would ask customers and themselves questions to get to the root of the
problem. Managers look for that way of thinking.
Additionally, emotional intelligence is about being socially aware,
self-aware, and able to recognize the effect of emotions on behavior.
Hiring managers screen potential hires for EQ by observation and through
To help determine EQ, a
hiring manager can ask, “What are your two biggest strengths?” A person with a
high EQ is self-aware and gives an answer that matches everything else the
interviewer has observed. If she says, “I’m very outgoing, and I like to meet
new people,” yet spends the entire interview sitting on her hands and
whispering answers, she may not be very self-aware. Although it’s ideal to hire
someone with a high degree of self-awareness, if she has a service mentality
and excellent critical thinking skills, a few lessons in reading emotions will
help bring her up to speed.
How to Train New CSRs
for Digital Contact Center Work
For digital contact
center work, trainers begin with defining the desired mind-set. They explain
that CSRs must use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to be
successful. Prior to self-service, contact center work involved reading scripts
and learning workflows to assist customers. Since customers are taking care of
simple issues themselves, a CSR’s priority is now unpacking a given situation before figuring out which solution to apply.
works best when preparing CSRs for digital contact center employment. Trainers
can give new hires a scenario and then talk them through the process of solving
the problem, pointing out tools they use along the way. As they progress, new
hires practice with calls coming in from a trainer in another room. CSRs then
move to a nested environment, where they take live calls with a seasoned CSR
nearby to provide support and take over if needed.
To assist new hires in
learning to read customers’ emotions, trainers play ten-second recorded clips
of the beginning of calls. Trainees identify each caller’s state of mind and
determine the best approach to take when communicating with that caller.
Since different callers
require different approaches, CSRs must be prepared to change the way they
interact with customers based on what they hear. Take the declined credit card
at the point of sale, for example. If the customer calls in when being declined
at a business lunch, he may be demanding and frustrated. A CSR would approach
this caller differently than a person who calls in from a family reunion and
wants to chat for thirty seconds about seeing relatives for the first time ten
In the first scenario,
CSRs would use an “all business” approach to quickly reinforce that they
understand the problem and get to work by asking questions to diagnose the
situation. If CSRs use that approach with the second caller, they risk
offending someone who has just shared a personal story and seeks acknowledgment.
A third caller may be
hesitant and doubt he even has an issue. This caller needs reassurance that the
problem is real, and the CSR can solve it. Acknowledging customers’ emotions
helps diffuse the situation, since people ultimately just want to be heard.
To Sum Up
is the most effective method to train new contact center agents and prepare
them to serve customers. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills can be
taught. While EQ is a level of intelligence, CSRs can work on developing skills
to improve the way they read and serve callers.
Hiring managers can also
use situation-based questions to determine which potential hires have a high EQ
and a natural aptitude for critical thinking. They can also use an interview to
assess whether an individual is self-aware and has a service mentality.
Combined, these attributes help hiring managers make the most intelligent decisions in staffing digital contact centers.