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How to Ace the Customer Service Call Center Job.

Updated on June 8, 2012

Topics covered in this article.

Most of us that have been seeking a job already know about the basics of acing a job interview; dress for success, do not show nervousness, make eye contact, et al but let's discuss how to really ace a job interview specifically for a customer service call center position. In this article I will discuss the role of a CSR (customer service representative) in a call center; key words and phrases to use in the interview and possible answers to some of the general interview questions for the CSR call center position.


Defining a Call Center and the CSR Call Center Role

If you have never been employed as a CSR in a call center, you must first understand what a call center is and the role of the CSR in the call center. A call center is a location in which inbound calls (sometimes outbound depending on the company's rules) are received in high volume for the purpose of customer service (or sales, marketing or technical support depending on the call center). The role of a CSR in a call center is to provide excellent service to an organization's customers and to give immediate attention to their issues.

4 CSR Call Center Role used in every Call Center


The exact role of a CSR in a call center will vary by each company but there are 4 ways in which the CSR call center role is identical in every call center:

1.) The CSR is at his/her desk for the entire shift (excluding breaks and lunch and an occasional meeting). Some companies may let you get up to send or receive a fax but other than that you are married to your seat the entire workday.

2.) CSR’s are assigned a desk with a desktop computer and a telephone, which you will be given a code to log into and out of. Your assigned code is given to you for a number of reasons; so your manager knows if you are on a call or not, so your time is logged for your pay and for your quality scores (I will cover these later).

3.) The software a CSR uses requires you to toggle between various screens (usually 2 or 3). Customer service software for a business may vary by design but they have at least 3 screens in common; when an call comes in most software usually populates the first screen, which has the caller's information (name, address, et al), another screen that you have to toggle to which has a general listing of possible issues and advice on how to handle the call and another screen that needs to be toggled into for the notes of the call (i.e. reason customer is calling and how you assisted the customer). Toggle means to switch so to switch between screens. Even if you're not pc savy, don't let this scare you off as you're probably toggled between screens on your home computer. For example; if you're on Facebook and you click on an ad that populates another page and you click back onto the Facebook page, you've toggled between screens.

4.) Continuing employment and raises in the CSR call center role is based on successfully meeting assigned quality scores. The number CSR's have to meet on their quality scores are set by each company. You will have a meeting about your quality scores (usually with your manager) once a week and once a month. I will explain the most common quality measurements in the next section.

What Are Quality Measurement Scores?


CSR call center employees are rated based on their quality measurement scores. Quality scores are measurements organizations believe give them insight into how the call center is performing and what consumers are experiencing when they call into the call center. Quality scores are based on your calls throughout a shift, weekly and monthly. Most businesses have software where you can see your scores and keep an eye on how you are doing. The basic quality scores for call centers are listed below:

· Schedule Adherence – How well you follow your schedule throughout the day. Schedule adherence is usually referred to simply as adherence. Adherence monitors not only what time you logged in and out for the day but if you left for, and came back from, your breaks and lunches on time.

· Average Handle Time – Usually abbreviated to AHT. AHT is the total amount of time spent on a call from the moment the call comes in to the time the call is finished.

· Average After Call Work – Usually abbreviated to ACW. ACW is work done after call has been concluded. The most common reason for ACW is to complete your notes for a call. On the call center floor, ACW is almost always called wrap. For example, if you are in ACW completing your notes and its taking quite awhile, a team lead will come over and ask you, “you’ve been in wrap for awhile, are you alright?”

· First Call Resolution – Usually abbreviated to FCR. FCR means that you resolved the customer’s issue the first time they called in so they didn’t have to call back for the same issue. Not all call centers use FCR as a quality measurement but it will come up in training and it is a buzzword in the call center environment so it’s a good idea to understand what it means.

Keywords and Phrases to Use in your Job Interview

Now that you understand the role and the quality scores of a CSR in a call center; let's go over the keywords and phrases that call centers use, and you can use for your interview to make your interviewer take notice and be impressed by you. The keywords and phrases are:

· Quality Scores – I know these are mentioned a lot within the article that is because they are THE most important words in a call center. Whether you’ve never worked in a call center before or you have experience, use these words (and the explanation I have provided in the article) in your interview. You don’t have to break down all of the scores (your interviewer already knows this) but mention them. If you have CSR call center experience, for example, you can say “at my previous employer I met all of the quality scores for daily, weekly and monthly. If you don’t have CSR call center experience, for example, you can ask, “do you use quality scores? Yes. That’s great because I have been doing my research and I am confident I can meet them.” The idea is to let your interviewer know that you know, understand and are comfortable being scored on calls.

· Patience – This is almost, or as much, as important in the CSR call center role. Usually by the time a customer is calling an 800 number to reach you in the call center, there is an issue and they are ticked off for one reason or another (this may not be the case every time but for the most part, it is) and it is your job to calm the customer down and assist to the very best of your, and the company’s ability.

· Follow Through – Mean what you say and say what you mean. In the CSR role, follow through means, for example, if you tell the customer, I will contact such and suck department and someone will get back to you within 3 days, if you are able to, make sure you or someone has contacted the customer back within 3 days.

· Multi-Task – You’re on a call; you’re toggling between screens, you’re researching the customer’s issue and you’re taking notes while assisting the caller, your multi-tasking. Doing a lot of things at the same time.

· Team Player – In the call center environment a team player means; if you’re working with other departments on a customer’s issue, you’re professional at all times, with your co-workers and employers you play well and get along with others and if the company changes it policy or changes one of the scripts, you won’t have a fit or complain. Bare bones this is a team player in a call center. Of course, don’t use that definition for your job interview that was some knowledge for you personally. An example to use the phrase team player in an interview; “my co-worked who sits next to me was having a hard time assisting a caller with an issue that I had taken a call on so I helped her with the issue. I feel being a team player is important and I always happy to help when I can.”

· Active Listening – Are you listening to the customer’s issue or are you just hearing them? I know, I know, it sounds the same but it really isn’t. For example, sometimes you’re speaking with someone (a friend or significant other) and you’re not really listening to them, you’re just hearing them and waiting for them to stop talking so you can say what you want to, big no no in customer service.

· Empathy – You feel for the customer in regards to their issue.

· Own the Call – Similar to FCR. A customer calls in with an issue, you take ownership of the call and see it through to the end, even if it means calling the customer back (if you’re able to) to verify issue was resolved.


Assistance with Answers to General Interview Questions

Now that you understand the role of the CSR in a call center and you know the keywords and phrases to use in your job interview, let's look at answers to 3 of the general interview questions for the CSR call center position. Of course, everyone's background and experience are different but we can see how to use the keywords and phrases to assist us with answering these questions.

Tell me about a time in which a customer had an issue and how did you resolve it? Example; I had a customer with, such and such issue. While I was multi-tasking, I used my active listening skills to understand the customer's issue and I showed empathy to the caller. I owned the call, telling the customer I would call him/her back with a resolution and I followed through calling him/her back an hour later.

What are your strengths? Example: My strengths are; finishing what I started (relates to FCR and follow through), meeting my goals (relates to quality scores) and compassion.

Why should we hire you? Example; You should hire me because I always meet my quality score goals (or I am confident I will if you've never worked in a CSR call center position before), I show empathy and actively listen to each customer and I am a team player.


Some Things to Remember in Your Interview

Being employed as a CSR in a call center means YOU are the business. Yes, you're a representative of the company but to the customer, you are the company, you speak on behalf of the organization so therefore you are the organization. I know you don't have the position yet; its only the interview you don't have the job, yet. This is a rule of thumb to remember in your interview, the hiring person (or person's) is seeking the next representative of the company to own that position.

Also; remember you do have a job in the interview, you're job is to make the interview comfortable and confident enough to hire you. By using the general methods for interviewing we already know (dress for success, make eye contact, show good posture) and the CSR in a call center position methods listed above, you are sure to ace that interview and get that job!

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