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BPeSA industry survey bodes well for entry-level contact centre learnerships

Based on a recent proposal rolled-out by industry association BPeSA, a profile of respondents encompassing companies, staffing-solutions agencies and training stake-holders show that a once prevailing demand for experienced call centre consultants is fast in decline.

The call centre industry is one of a few to have enjoyed consistent growth in job-creation when most industries saw a dwindling demand in the wake of the recession – its placements were doubled in the 100 000 positions filled during a five year run-up to the global economic downturn.

This article highlights three pivotal points raised by the survey:

    1. Finding good consultants is no longer a challenge as it used to be
      What the survey reports is that in recent years, many contact centre managers have resorted to grooming their own talent as opposed to poaching experienced staff in a market that’s prone to moving for slightly higher hourly-rates at a more frequent pace. This has had the effect of minimising attrition and has at once seen more motivated, cost-effective and dedicated entry-level staff preferring to put down their roots and grow with their employers enter the workplace.

 

  • SETA and Monyetla learnerships are proving to be viable and valuable alternatives
    Such programs which have grown in popularity and preference with many companies (out of the 57% participating, 80% have reported positive feedback). These learnerships are not only introducing the numbers needed for the industry to grow, but candidates who are meeting the same levels of productivity as seasoned, better-salaried consultants within a three month period on average…at a fraction of their pay.

 

 

  • Generous training grants are accelerating the professionalism of learnership staff
    In addition to learners entering companies hosting them at low cost, government and affiliate organisations have also seen to it that these learners get up-skilled and developed on a regular basis so as to give them a competitive edge against their more experienced counterpart. This has encouraged them to remain in the industry and build rewarding careers for themselves. It’s not just the industry, respective companies, or learners that are benefiting but countless customers who are in call centre queues for shorter periods and are being satisfied more regularly than was previously the case.

 

Professional Contact Centre Agents influence customer relationships

Companies with a large customer base need good frontline staff. In the past, that term was used to refer to neatly dressed, well-groomed receptionists, secretaries and enquiries staff. The first telephone contact people made with a company was through its hopefully well-spoken switchboard operator/s. Now, that has all changed.

In today’s fast-paced, modern world, instant gratification is the catch phrase. People do not have time to travel to stand in queues waiting for face-to-face interaction with a customer service representative who may or may not be able to help them. Customers want to make an inexpensive phone call, with the expectation that they can have their questions answered and problems solved quickly and professionally.

That’s where call centre training comes in. Without it, companies cannot achieve the levels of customer satisfaction that they aspire to. After all, that’s what businesses depend on to keep existing customers and attract new ones.

In the five years since 2006, South Africa’s contact centre industry has doubled in size. Interestingly, salaries for contact centre agents have increased faster than the rate of inflation – even for inexperienced recruits.

Companies have realised the need for skills development and training to increase the pool of reliable, professional agents. They have seen how well employees respond to being presented with the opportunity to better themselves through learnerships and have been rewarded with a more dedicated, committed staff complement.

Efficient communication is vital. There are few things more frustrating than talking to somebody who does not understand you properly (sometimes due to a language barrier) or has not given you their full attention, requiring you to repeat your query exhaustively or hang up in desperation. It begins with listening skills and call centre staff are taught techniques to fully engage with their callers.

Employees work better for bosses who care. Good contact centre agents describe their job as ‘a calling’… ‘you’ve got to love it’.

Training improves staff skills across the board, resulting in less absenteeism, more loyalty, better service, and a higher quality of calls. Of course there’s the added advantage of scoring broad-based black economic empowerment points too.

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