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Popular perceptions of contact centre agents being stressed, dissatisfied and constantly looking for the next career opportunity are completely off the mark.
So says Candice Roberts, managing director of CallForce, a contact centre recruitment and human resources solutions provider.
CallForce conducts an annual agent survey to ensure the company is constantly in touch with the needs and desires of thousands of agents serving a range of large companies nationally.
Another misperception is that a contact centre agent position is usually a first job. The CallForce agent survey results show that most agents (53 percent) are between the ages of 25 and 30, with only 36 percent falling into the 18-to-24-year-age group.
More than a third of agents surveyed had been in their positions for more than a year, with many seeing their chosen career path being within the contact centre industry and 74 percent envisaging themselves becoming a team leader, supervisor or manager. Almost 40 percent expect to remain in the contact centre industry for more than 18 months.
The agents, 55 percent of whom were female, were clear on the aspects of their jobs that gave them satisfaction. These included talking to customers (86 percent) and feeling part of a team (96 percent). Job attributes that caused dissatisfaction include pay (53 percent) and opportunities for personal growth (46 percent).
The X and Y generation contact centre agents enjoyed many aspects of their work that would probably cause stress in older people.
These included the noisy environment (82 percent), the structured and measured work process (93 percent), the pressure (91 percent) and shift work (73 percent).
Agents felt that they were consistently meeting their personal targets (70 percent) and were receiving the performance feedback they needed to excel (79 percent).
One finding of this research that stands out is the fact that agents generally have an unrealistically high perception of their own performance, with more than 70 percent believing they were performing better than their co-workers.
This distorted view of personal performance points to a need for consistent, clear feedback in order to manage personal assessments of performance, possibly related to expectations of advancement and reward.
The research findings make it clear that even X and Y generation contact centre agents do not have one foot out of the door in search of the next opportunity, but are looking for security and thus traditional rewards still hold appeal.
These include competitive wages, a medical plan, provident fund and employee assistance programmes. These kinds of benefits are offered by larger agencies like CallForce. Access to home loans, funeral plans and personal loans are also important. Although money is still the main motivator for everyone surveyed, opportunities for personal growth and development are also important, making less traditional rewards such as additional training, attending a board meeting or a conference and shadowing the CEO for a day popular choices.
There are also clear sectors in which agents prefer to work – 36 percent choose financial services and 25 percent telecommunications.
“Contact centre agents on the whole enjoy their jobs,” said Roberts. “They would like to be recognised for their contribution to the organisations they serve.
“They want to develop long-term careers either with their current organisation or within the contact centre industry. The organisations for which these agents deliver an important service would do well to ensure that the right career development opportunities and rewards are in place as this will ensure that the agents deliver at their best and remain loyal to the organisation.
“The message from this research is clear. The majority of contact centre agents want to stay and are keen to grow their skills and their contribution to the success of the organisation. We believe that it is important to invest in their development,” Roberts said.
l For more information, visit www.callforcedirect.co.za