Must-Ask Questions for Call Center Agent Applicants (And The Answers They Better Give)



Greg Levine
01/06/2012

Agents are a contact center’s most vital resource. A recent landmark study revealed that if it weren’t for contact center agents, there would be nothing to keep headsets from simply falling to the floor and breaking. Another key role agents play is providing quality service that keeps customers coming back and buying stuff.

With agents playing such a critical role in the success of your contact center and organization as a whole, it’s paramount that you take the time to hire the right people to cram into your cubicles. Too many contact center managers – pressed to fill seats and cover the phones – rush through the agent assessment and selection process. These managers then act surprised to find that the candidate they hired is unqualified, unreliable and/or unconscious.

To help ensure that the frontline folks you hire are top-notch, I’ve come up with two key multiple choice questions that you need to ask every applicant, along with focused analysis of what each answer option indicates. I guarantee that incorporating these two questions into your assessment process (and heeding my advice based on the answers selected) will lead to a big improvement in the caliber of agents you bring on board. If, by chance, you are not completely satisfied with the results, let me know and I’ll gladly send you a list of all the things you probably did wrong on your end.

Now, on to the aforementioned multiple choice interview questions:

1) What is the primary reason you want to work as an agent in our contact center?

a)I’m looking for a challenging yet rewarding opportunity to utilize my strong customer service and problem-solving skills to drive loyalty and revenue.

b)I have always wanted to work for your fine organization and believe that starting out in a customer-facing role would be a great way to begin.

c)The voices in my head keep telling me it’s the right thing to do.

Be wary of applicants who choose "a", as they are obviously very arrogant and egotistical. "Oh, I’m great. Look at me –I’ve got strong skills." How obnoxious. Certainly not cut out for the agent position, which requires humility and selflessness. Turn them down flat, or maybe refer them for a job in Marketing.

Forget those who choose "b", too. They are stalkers. They’ve had an unhealthy obsession with your company for years and are now looking for a chance to get inside and control it like some crazed puppeteer.

Applicants who choose "c" are where it’s at. They show creative potential and a refreshingly different mindset. It’s important to hire a diverse group of people, including those who require a padded workstation free of any sharp objects. And since they already have voices in their head, they are much less likely than others to become overwhelmed during peak calling periods.


2)The most important thing to remember when dealing with angry customers is…

a) To offer empathy and support via such statements as, "I see what you mean", "I understand your frustration", or "If I were there I would hold you close."

b) That you are the person the ACD has chosen to take charge of the situation and turn a negative customer experience into a positive one.

c) That no matter how furious the customers are and how loud they yell, they’re going to die some day.

Applicants who choose "a" here are the same people who always say that everything is going to be okay, even when you tell them that you have to move to Detroit or can’t afford an iPhone. They are deceptive and dangerous. I not only recommend not hiring these types of people, but I suggest you immediately fire any existing employees who respond to this question in the same way.

As for applicants who select "b", run – don’t walk – in the other direction. Trust me, you don’t want "everything-happens-for-a-reason" people interacting with your customers. They’ll use the concept of "fate" to defend their every action in the contact center. "I’m not sure why I told that caller to bite me before hanging up on him – I guess it was just meant to be."

Those who choose "c" have the right idea. They are able to keep a level head in times of strife and are thus less likely to burnout and alienate customers. In addition, their obsession with the futility of human existence typically leaves them with few friends, which means they will rarely complain about the schedule interfering with their social life.

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