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Customer service and call center jobs: Five best practices for getting ahead

These tips offer advice on common career challenges for customer service representatives and call center agents. Find out how to get ahead in a customer service job.

In this special report, we've collected the top five tips on how to get ahead as a call center agent or customer service representative (CSR). Call center jobs are often stressful and demanding, and require diplomacy and patience, not to mention product and technical knowledge, depending on the industry. Find out some best practices on making the most of a customer service job.

    1. Talk to your call center peers. Take every opportunity to learn.

    A call center is normally a busy place, with agents of all different skill levels working to answer customer questions. Listen to your call center neighbors for tips on answering customers diplomatically and getting up to speed on the software. And ask questions, of course -- of your peers and your managers.

    There are busy, peak hours in the call center, and then there are the downtimes. E-learning software is widely available, and these downtimes are perfect for learning more about your company's products, the software you use and how to deal with customers. The more you know, the better prepared you'll be for future opportunities, whether it's training new agents or a move within your organization. Find out more in Donna Fluss's tip on the top 10 pitfalls of new call center agents.

    2. Connect with your customers.

    When you're at work, it's easy to forget that you are also a customer. Listen to what customers are saying and take a minute to empathize with their situation. It will help you solve their problem, and leave you feeling effective and helpful. Some trainers now are hosting programs on connecting with customers. They've found that a dose of empathy can go a long way in keeping customers happy and reducing the number of escalated calls in a call center.

    3. Keep an open mind about your schedule in the call center.

    As any manager will tell you, call center scheduling is extremely difficult. When you're a new CSR, you might not get the ideal hours, but try to be open minded. Working the night shift isn't all bad. Many call centers are open during the night or part of the night, and you might be able to earn extra money or become known as a flexible, can-do employee if you spend some time on that shift. Donna Fluss offers call center agents tips for getting into a regular schedule to deal with working the nighttime hours.

    4. Satisfying your customers will be rewarded.

    Call center salary may very often be tied to performance and achieving your goals. Quality assurance lets managers know how you're handling your customer calls, so with each satisfied customer, you'll accrue high call quality scores and build a strong reputation within your call center. Fluss gives some tips on how call center agent salaries should increase according to performance.

    5. Find your inner sales person.

    Today's call center agents and customer service representatives must think about up-selling and cross-selling when a customer calls in. Sales might not feel natural, but often you'll be able to suggest products to customers when you're talking. Add-on sales will often be part of a conversation, and it gets easier with each successful customer sale. And, making sales in the call center often offers incentive rewards or commission.

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