Mettl’s assessments have been the biggest filter in our recruitment process. Their platform has helped us reach out to a higher volume our applicant numbers. Mettl constantly keeps innovating on their products and tries to introduce a new aspect to everything.
A call center is intrinsic to business operations, and is the central pivot to engage consumers, create awareness about products and services and drive sales efforts. It is a centralized means of handling queries, resolving grievances and offering add-on services to consumers and service users by employing telecommunication. Call centers have assumed tremendous significance for being the first point of contact. They also offer an organization’s first and often lasting impression and demonstrate its levels of consumer-centricity. They can manifest in several ways, including inbound, outbound, omnichannel, multichannel and cloud-based.
The widely-accepted forecast on consistent Y-O-Y growth underlines the opportunities being created with expanding markets and growing purchasing powers. Such a prediction is also hinged on increasing internet availability, cheaper access to data, continually augmenting computer literacy, consumerism and changing consumer preferences, with convenience and ease taking precedence over face-to-face meetings and inquiries. The ongoing COVID-19 and the likely permanent change in consumer behaviors are expected to expedite the transition to the call centers from the bricks-and-mortar client resolution centers.
Amid the ongoing churn in the consumer side of things, businesses are also streamlining operations and focussing on cost efficiencies. An enhanced global business outlook and aspiration among corporations have further contributed to the sector’s notable growth.
Despite these encouraging contours, the turnover rate has been a consistent challenge for BPOs. We may quibble about the specifics, but data conclusively proves that the sector clocks a 10 percent higher turnover rate than the broader industry average, at 45 percent, which is a matter of concern. Such a high turnover rate lowers profit margins, impacts smooth operations, besides being an impediment to devising long-term employee-specific strategies.
Such a persistent challenge mandates a stricter focus on screening job candidates to ensure onboarding the right fits. Any mismatch in the job role requirements and the onboarded candidates can throw a company in a swirling vortex of repetitive hiring cycles, causing a significant loss of time and financial resources. More importantly, it can severely diminish consumer experience and, consequently, the organization’s reputation and sales pipeline.
Through the years, BPO companies have devised an elaborate call center pre-employment testing mechanism to evaluate candidates’ diverse skill sets to assess their fitment for call center operations. They employ a wide range of call center assessment tools for such evaluations, called call center assessments. A call center assessment test may comprise candidates’ evaluation of aptitude, communication and voice and accent skills, technical skills, cognitive skills, interpersonal and behavioral skills, and attributes, among others, to ascertain their ability to perform tasks at the expected levels of proficiency and elan.
A contact center assessment enables identifying professionals who can deliver high levels of customer service and create a favorable impression of the company. Typically, candidates are invited to the offices to take such assessments, but remotely conducted assessments are being preferred increasingly, given their ease, convenience and reduced logistical hassles for both companies and candidates.
Thus far, we have conclusively established the importance of call centers in business operations and the reasons for their long-term relevance to any organizational outreach to engage the discerning client. Let us now understand the numerous skills and attributes that make for a quintessential call center employee. We understand that zeroing in on the most valued ones may be a trifle difficult for you. We have you covered! We have identified 21 skills assessments for call center agents in different domains, ranging from confidence, English speaking abilities, multitasking, etc., and categorized them into four distinct headers to help you make informed decisions on onboarding employees.
Let us evaluate the different call center skills assessments individually:
You may have experienced a conversation with a sales executive that left an indelible mark on you. It may have been his or her ability to bear with your not-so-friendly tone and tenor as you rang up after a rough day at work, or how he or she connected with you at a personal level to understand your cultural or social preferences and dislikes. Or that agent empathized with the cash crunch that led you to falter on your scheduled payment. These invaluable behavioral and social skills enable individuals to facilitate smoother conversations and derive the maximum possible value from every consumer interaction. Such soft skills are often referred to as interpersonal skills. Imagine having to speak with a call center executive with exceptional communication skills and no empathy for you or your problem. I would rather talk to a bot, or am I already speaking to one? ( The humor was intended!)
There is also a profound business side to it. You wouldn’t want your employees to merely address consumer concerns but drive confident, meaningful conversations, creating additional avenues to ramp up sales. Such conversations can also be the most powerful means for you to create product awareness. I think we have established why interpersonal skills matter to your business and why this call center skills test is mandatory for your employees.
Now let us briefly discuss what broadly constitute interpersonal skills:
You have often heard, no matter what you say, say it confidently anyway.
While we don’t encourage you to position employees with scant product knowledge, brimming with confidence, to address your consumers, but you get the drift!
Your employees must trust their abilities and judgment and exhibit a firm belief and conviction in their words and actions when dealing with consumers. This holds equally true for workplace interactions as such a behavior rubs off and positively impacts the team’s performance, further augmenting its overall efficiency and effectiveness.
Therefore, your call center pre-employment testing must include gauging the confidence levels of your prospective hires.
Not all consumers are well-informed; some are even ill-informed and believe what they know or say is nothing but the truth. Some others may not be well-versed in telephone etiquette or display a shocking lack of knowledge, but your employees must be able to manage such situations seamlessly. They must be patient enough to provide the right information and have the self-control to not let the conversation spiral out of control. Nobody has ever loved a conversation with someone with a bad temper!
Perhaps one of the most understated yet the most critical attribute for a successful call center employee is possessing empathy, not just for customers but also for colleagues. It is not easy working at ungodly hours, servicing clients who may be cheesed off for numerous reasons. Someone may have had a bad cab ride and feels insulted or unsafe; someone else may have missed an important connecting flight and is now stuck in some foreign land, banking on your company’s customer support. A subtle gesture of making people feel comfortable and safe, that you are there for them and will lend a helping hand, do whatever it takes, is priceless. Such a behavior wins you life-long clients who trust you with their problems and are your organization’s most committed ambassadors.
We could not agree more.
Working in a call center environment is a challenging proposition, and not everyone is cut out for it. It involves working long hours, being constantly on calls, working in rotational shifts at odd hours and with a multigenerational workforce (we are keeping the list short). They may even be required to work on national holidays, festivals and birthdays! Such varied and somewhat unique elements demand individuals with high levels of adaptability. Continually evolving consumer preferences may also mandate learning new skills and the ability to upskill reasonably quickly - why we believe adaptability matters.
Imagine speaking with your relatives for two straight hours and hearing them crib about what they did not like about you the last time they saw you. Not a pretty picture, isn't it? Now multiply that by four and some more, and you are looking at a call center employee’s typical workday. Furthermore, it requires continually conversing with consumers with a pleasant demeanor and establishing rapport by cold calling. Such exercises have excruciatingly low conversion rates. Simply put, it is a high-stress job, and one can’t fathom a call center agent with no stress management ability. It is simply non-negotiable.
Times have changed. Office spaces are far more multicultural and ethnically diverse than before. Increased intra-state, interstate and global migration, triggered by globalization (please forgive me for harping about globalization; it is an old concept, and I plead guilty), have shaped such a trend. Your employees must treat their co-workers and consumers with dignity and respect, appreciate diversity and differences, and not discriminate on any possible ground. This is a must to ensure a progressive and forward-looking organization and workplace.
A good sales agent is a master of persuasion in written and verbal matters. He or she understands how to alter opinions, create favorable viewpoints and overcome real or perceived bottlenecks to convert business prospects into real and tangible sales. Such a skill is equally handy in facilitating quicker decision-making (we will get to decision-making in more detail very soon) in a team setting, saving time to focus more on execution than ideation. I hope I have persuaded you enough!
A collective effort always outshines individual brilliance - that is just life. Great teams, not great individuals, make prolific organizations. Don’t trust me. You must onboard employees with a deep sense of teamwork and the ability to take everybody along. Organizations chalk out long-term roadmaps, but every employee must be equally invested in those dreams for them to fructify. One can only achieve the desired results by working together with a sense of common purpose and vision. Also, a routine customer call may require multiple touch-points to assuage their concerns. Therefore, the ability to work seamlessly in a team is highly desired in a good center employee.
Well, Micheal Jordan, the Principal Owner of Charlotte Hornets and arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, has a similar view.
(Sidenote: Chicago Bulls won 6 championships with MJ at the helm.)
A fast-paced work environment mandates employees who possess superlative decision-making skills. Whether to escalate the call to a superior or use hands-on skills to address the consumer’s problem oneself, which emails to answer first and which ones can be addressed later- these are some of the many challenges that confront a call center agent daily. Decision-making abilities are crucial to ensure seamless functioning, and an assessment test for a call center agent must evaluate the prospect’s decision-making abilities. Several companies offer a call center situational judgment test concerning inbox prioritization, which assesses their understanding and execution abilities by prioritizing the task at hand in the desired order.
Let’s face it, no matter your quality of service and product, conflicts occur in businesses. You can’t please everybody! What you can do, however, is have individuals who can resolve conflicts effectively and efficiently. A call handling test can provide you with the necessary insight into their abilities to mitigate conflicts and offer solutions to clients.Internally too, even the most cohesive and well-oiled teams have issues and disputes. These are not dirty words! Individuals must possess conflict resolution skills to ideate a mutually-accepted way forward to ensure the team can perform competently and collectively.We understand that you may be a tad overwhelmed by the number of attributes you must ascertain to correctly evaluate interpersonal skills. You don’t need to be an assessment wonk to find the best-fit candidates. Companies such as ours, and many more, offer specialized psychometric and personality tools to evaluate the candidates’ personalities and also enable you to create personalized assessments on the skills mentioned above. That’s not all! You can even tailor-make call center pre-employment testing assessments for additional skills that you reckon will help you find that ideal candidate.
Have you ever faced an embarrassing workplace situation where you have had a brain fade during an important client call or a presentation, and you simply couldn’t recall what you wanted to say? Or you forgot that your client had made a special request, and now you are wringing your mind to give an excuse that won’t label you careless. It’s all right; most of us have been there.
Now don’t get fixated on Winnie the Pooh! We have some more to discuss.
An individual’s ability to utilize his or her intellect to internalize, process and recall information, along with reasoning competency, are cumulatively called cognitive skills. Quite simply, they are brain-based skills and absolutely vital in enabling a smooth interaction, especially when one must provide real-time information or resolve grievances. They also include visual perception, attention to detail and logical reasoning.
We have briefly categorized its components for your better understanding:
Organizations, nowadays, must innovate continually to stay relevant. A stream of new products, services and offers is necessary to keep the consumers interested and engaged in your company as shortening attention spans and a flurry of information through diverse channels are likely to distract even your most ardent and long-term clients. You can’t take them for granted. But how do you communicate your innovations and updates effectively? Your call center employees are your emissaries who can provide your clients with all the information concerning product updates, latest offers and new offerings.There is a catch, though. While internalizing information is the key to a good call center employee, the pace of internalizing data and information is equally important. Learning agility measures a person’s ability to unlearn, relearn and his or her orientation to learning. Not everyone can process information at an equal pace. Such an assessment allows you to identify your best employees and train those who may not yet be adequately prepared to assume consumer-facing roles.
It’s the data, stupid! (Due credit to James Carville, who coined the term “It’s the economy, stupid” that got Bill Clinton the coveted ticket to the White House and denied George Bush Senior a second term. More on that some other time.) Vast tracts of data are processed daily by leading companies. They may be related to consumer behavior, a product’s traction in specific geographies or what works or does not for a certain age group. They continually tweak their messaging based on such crucial statistical information to remain relevant. Your call center employees must be able to decipher such continual streams of information and deduce rational conclusions or inferences to position your company’s viewpoint efficiently. You must conduct an aptitude test to measure their logical abilities.
Multitasking is a great virtue. The ability to perform multiple activities simultaneously ensures optimal call handling time, which is the time taken to complete an end-to-end conversation with a caller. We have often faced not-so-enjoyable moments where we have been put on hold for several minutes while the call center executives note down our requests or suggestions or dig in their files to answer our queries. And we drown in the pre-recorded message relayed incessantly by a lady who commends our patience and assures us that someone will serve us very shortly (Oh, the horror! I don’t trust her one bit). Albeit momentary, such pauses impede a seamless customer service experience, invariably denting your standing as a consumer-centric company. Consumers hate being stood up. Your employees must be able to engage your callers while typing on the computer. They must be able to quickly lookup the product details or the progress made on the service request, ideally, without having to put your caller on hold. Therefore, you must lend particular emphasis to determine your employees’ multitasking skills.
An overused expression on resumes; a jargon that ironically has not been given the due attention - I can go on. Attention to detail encompasses one’s ability to listen intently, plan meticulously and execute impeccably. It may involve one’s ability to follow a set of instructions without missing out on minor details and perform a required task with the desired quality. Attention to detail and the work’s quality are interconnected. Great attention to detail enables heightened efficiencies too. I think I have made my point.Several assessment companies in the market, such as Mercer | Mettl, offer pre-built and customizable tools to assess the cognitive skills and attributes mentioned above to gauge candidates’ employability. You may even create your own tests on the competencies that you believe work best for you. (It’s a free world, after all).
Some emails are deeply reassuring, warm and evoke a feel-good factor. Others are cold and distant. Some phone calls are soothing and make you like the person instantly, while others, not so much. Such nuances are the outcome of how you communicate, verbally and in writing, with your business prospects and existing customers. These subtle variations in your outreach can make or break your business or sales pitch.
It is a part of the consumer journey, as much as sales and client retention.
Perhaps why BPOs the world over are fixated on analyzing their prospective employees’ voice and accent, grasp on the English language and grammar, tone and intonation, email writing etiquette and clarity of speech.
Let us examine their significance individually:
Your employees can’t execute the desired duties without a discernible command over the preferred language of communication and its grammar, which in most cases happens to be English. It is as simple as that. You don’t want your employees to speak or write wrong English or make trivial errors in their verbal or written communication. It obviously jeopardizes your company’s standing in the eyes of your customers but also dampens your business pitch.
A well-thought-out idea may lose its potency if not communicated with equal precision.
You must be able to detect trainable and non-trainable errors to shortlist candidates from bulk applications. A company can invest time and resources to hone employees’ grammatical skills if they are trainable. An English test for a call center or a language assessment test can help you measure the requisite proficiency. You are also advised to conduct a grammar test for a call center.
Voice and accent proficiency evaluation is the gold standard to ascertain candidates’ employability and the crux of a call center quality assessment. Candidates are evaluated on neutral English accent, dialect and phonology, besides gauging their pronunciation of the words. These attributes that also include tone and intonation, cumulatively impact the quality of the communication and its effectiveness. A sentence’s intention, meaning and outcome may change significantly, depending on which part of the sentence is stressed and which is not.“Hello, Mr. Smith, would you be interested in a brief discussion? We would like to share our newest offerings and their benefits to you.” Or “Hey, Mr. Smith, we are delighted to share that we have launched some new offerings that would benefit you immensely. I highly recommend you to hear me out!” Depending on where the stress is and how the sentences are spoken, they create a different feeling, don’t they?That can be the difference between a successful sale and a valiant attempt! Such technical elements are assessed comprehensively to measure a candidate’s fitment for call center operations.Typically, a VNA (Voice and Accent) trainer evaluates candidates to enable companies to choose the best fit, also earmarking those who can become call-center-ready after training on certain drawbacks identified during the examination. VNA trainers do so by using the CEFR framework, one of the many frameworks to assess a non-native English speaker’s English-speaking proficiency. The framework entails three core dimensions of language activities, domains in which they occur, and drawn competencies when engaged. It divides learners into three segments, which is further bifurcated into six levels of language proficiency. The three segments include basic users, independent users and proficient users. Thus, VNA assessors are able to identify trainable and non-trainable candidates and their proficiency levels. For instance, if someone says, “Seet,” instead of “sheet,” it is considered a non-trainable error. Such a process is the backbone of a voice and accent test.
Email communication is equally a mode of customer outreach undertaken by call center employees. It is the next logical step after a telephonic sales pitch or a product brief wherein they enumerate the advantages of buying a particular product or service and establish the benefits that the prospects would accrue. Such a communication may also be related to assuaging a concern outlined by a consumer, to assure him or her of your company’s best efforts and intentions. Such matters are sensitive and must be tackled professionally. Therefore, writing lucid and succinct emails is as important, if not more, as the ability to make meaningful, insightful telephonic conversations. Such emails must include a catchy subject line and CTA and be mindful of cultural and social sensitivities. They must also be legible, free of grammatical and punctuation errors, why we stressed good grammar and English, and why you must consider an English grammar test and a language test for call center prospects.
I think this is a reasonably self-explanatory argument. Put yourself in the consumers’ shoes. You won’t relish talking with someone who can’t pronounce and speak clearly, who fumbles and mumbles his or her words, has a thick accent (no disrespect!) or lacks the clarity of expressions. The choice of words and phrases, and their sequence, also profoundly impact the communication pitch. Proficient call center employees are mindful of such nuances, incorporate them in their outreach and make subtle variations depending on the client with whom they are conversing. Therefore, the clarity of speech is integral to the call center quality assurance metrics.Given the mushrooming of call centers the world over, numerous service providers now offer tools to measure the voice and accent and English proficiency. SpeechX is one such industry-leading, fully-automated and auto-graded tool that replicates a VNA (voice and accent) trainer. It is powered by artificial intelligence technology and uses the world-renowned CEFR framework to replicate a VNA trailer. It uses Proprietary Speech Analytics and Carnegie Speech’s patented Speech Recognition Engine and Pinpointing Technology. It is combined with proprietary voice analytics.
Technical skills are the practical ability to perform scientific, mathematical and digital work. They are computational and include information technology, industry or product-specific knowledge and expertise. Such skills are gained over time and require continual exposure and practice. In simpler words, they don’t come naturally and are acquired.
Call center employees must possess extensive product and company knowledge and articulate them succinctly to ensure maximum impact on their prospects and consumers. They must be efficient at keying in the callers’ information to optimize the call handling time. They are also expected to have basic computer proficiency as all processes and systems are now computer-based. Every trait mentioned above would amount to a grand zilch unless they don’t know how to operate the computer to access the system and the information therein.
Let us analyze the desired technical skills in more detail now:
A product or service is only as efficient as its understanding and articulation by a salesperson. A BPO employee must possess explicit knowledge of the company’s SOPs, which mustn’t be rote learning, rather a deeper understanding of its procedures. Consumers expect call center agents to possess all company information at the fingertips. Any unexpected delay may create an unfavorable impression, lowering your chances of acquiring or retaining such clients. Therefore, you must evaluate your prospective employees’ understanding of your company’s policies, programs, products and services before you onboard them. And their inclination toward internalizing them. (Learning agility works here too!)
Considerable typing skills are critical to efficiently communicating information with peers and callers, adding new information to a database and optimizing the time taken to handle a call from start to finish. Speed and accuracy are equally important aspects of typing skills and must be thoroughly analyzed to maintain a high degree of consumer satisfaction and company data accuracy.
We have saved the most basic for the last. Can you fathom a call center employee without a working knowledge of a computer, its operation, and how to retrieve and store information when needed? No! Because computer literacy is the backbone of any modern-day office operation. All call centers run on computers, and therefore, you simply can’t hire anyone with no knowledge of how to work online. A candidate must be computer literate even to attempt an assessment test for a call center agent. Therefore, it is highly desired that you conduct a call center computer skills test.
Well, that seems reasonably exhaustive. But such is the business of operating call centers. It requires individuals with pleasing personalities, measurable emotional, linguistic and interpersonal intelligence and solid cognitive and technical skills. Any consumer-facing industry is likely to be playing catch-up with consumers, who are evolving continually and expect the top-of-the-line end-to-end experience from their sellers. Thanks to the internet and community-based platforms, they hear and see everything and are quick to form opinions. You won’t want to take chances as a course correction is always a more challenging and costly endeavor. Instead, you should start right and ensure hiring those perfect-fit candidates who will keep your company’s flag flying high. Therefore, design your assessment test for call center agents in a manner that incorporates a thorough examination of the skills we have discussed in detail.
This was our take on the skills that matter the most. What do you think? Please share with us your thoughts on the skills that make for a perfect call center employee.
We have also answered some frequently asked questions for more clarity on the subject:
A call center assessment is a process of candidate evaluation to determine whether they possess the necessary skills, knowledge and aptitude to undertake a client-facing job. Such an assessment gauges candidates’ language proficiency by making them undergo an English test for a call center, a test of verbal communication skills, interpersonal skills and attributes, technical ability, etc., to make informed decisions on their employability.
A language test in a call center is used to establish a candidate’s language skills, written and verbal, to measure their proficiency and ability to write lucidly and speak succinctly. It usually involves an English test for call center agents as English has emerged as the preferred language for business communication. It may also involve a grammar exam in a call center test.
A call center simulation test places candidates in a real-life situation where they answer calls or perform duties expected of them in a real call center setting. It is the most viable means of assessing a candidate’s ability to undertake the desired role and his or her fitment. A call center simulation assessment enables recruiters to evaluate whether a candidate would adhere to the call center quality assurance guidelines.
A call center assessment is undertaken using various tools available on the market. They may consist of call center simulator assessment tools, cognitive tools, learning agility assessment tools, voice and accent evaluation tools, a language test for call center tools, among others. They are required to analyze and assess candidate proficiency for the desired role.
A customer service interview can include the following questions:
You can employ a customer service situations test and a call center MCQ to identify a candidate’s preference from the available set of options. A situations test would allow you to present hypothetical challenges faced by consumers to the candidates to assess how they solve them following your organization’s guidelines and SOPs.
A BPO exam is a call center pre-employment assessment that evaluates the candidates’ level of knowledge and skills to ascertain their fitment for call center jobs. Such an assessment test for a call center agent has several question types, ranging from aptitude, technical and language proficiency and interpersonal skills, and a typing test in a call center assessment, to understand how well the candidates may perform in client-facing roles. These online assessment exam call centers are the gold standard for gauging candidate employability.
A customer service assessment test is an assessment for call center agents where they are evaluated on proficiency and aptitude for assuming consumer-facing roles. Such a pre-employment assessment test measures candidate fitment by placing probables in a simulated BPO environment to gauge whether they can conduct meaningful and pleasing interactions, resolve consumer grievances and encourage them to buy more products and services to boost organizational revenue. They also include a language assessment test call center to check for language and communication proficiency. Such an offline or online assessment in call center exams is necessary to separate the right fits from bulk applications.
Originally published November 27 2020, Updated March 12 2021
Shashank has been working in the publishing and online industry for eight-plus years now. He has donned many hats and has reported on diverse industry verticals, including aviation, tourism, hospitality, etc. He is currently the senior editor at Mercer | Mettl.
An English proficiency test software is used to evaluate the English-speaking and comprehension skills of an individual. Customer-facing industries like hospitality, retail, BPOs, etc., often used some variant of an English proficiency test software to assess the pronunciation, fluency, accent, intonation and grammar of potential employees.