Contact Center Skills Assessment Techniques for the Omnichannel Era

In the age of omnichannel service, Mike Aoki shares his expert tips on modern best practices for contact center skills assessment.

Contact Center Skills Assessment

In the old “unichannel” days, contact center skills assessment consisted of hearing a candidate’s “phone voice” and having them do a typing test. That was it.

Today’s omnichannel environment demands a much higher skill set: agents need great phone skills AND great writing skills, primarily for live chat, email and text/SMS customer service.

In addition, they need to multitask across channels and use social media, the combination of which puts a premium on candidate testing.

Agent testing in the current contact center recruitment environment requires some new approaches to ensure staffing requirements are adequately met in the sector.

Utilize a contact center simulation program

This will help to determine how a candidate will react to generic customer service and/or sales situations.

Candidates are played customer audio clips at a computer with a headset and have to find information, select the appropriate response, and continue to interact with the “customer.”

Many of these programs measure a candidate’s reaction time, ability to find information, keyboarding skills, and use of appropriate responses. That gives recruiters a much better sense of the candidate’s contact center skills.

This simulation also helps candidates identify if they want to work in a contact center. If not, they can withdraw from the interview process. Voluntary withdrawal is better than having them occupy a seat in your new hire class, only to resign once they start taking calls.

Evaluate a candidate’s reading comprehension level

The ability to understand a customer’s written inquiry is crucial for omnichannel agents. Ideally, every customer would write logical, well laid out inquiries, but the reality is that many customer emails and live chats are filled with vague references and jumbled comments.

That is not the customer’s fault; customers are not product experts. They may also be confused and unable to properly articulate their concerns. Over the phone that might not be a problem since, the customer’s vocal tone conveys so much information. However, in written communication, it is up to the agent to “read between the lines” to identify the customer’s tone and reason for writing, placing a high premium on reading comprehension skills.

You can test this by having candidates read sample customer emails and live chats. You can replace any confidential information such as customer name or account number with “Customer #1” and “Account number 1234” to protect confidentiality. The candidate does not need to know your products yet, you just want them to read the customer’s message and determine the customer’s general tone and an idea of what the customer needs.

Test your candidate’s multitasking skills.

This is very important for live chat where agents have to handle up to three simultaneous chats. There are a number of online multitasking tests available that will help you determine if your candidates can juggle several tasks at once.

Evaluate your candidate’s live chat writing style

Can they write short, concise answers? Can they formulate well written questions to gather information from a customer? You can use your company’s live chat platform to do this, if it has a “test” mode. Or, you can use an office instant messaging program, such as Slack, to simulate a live chat between you and the candidate.

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Test their social media skills

Show them an example of a customer post from your company’s Facebook or Twitter account and have write a sample response. Is the candidate diplomatic? Can they show empathy in writing? Do they understand the various social media platforms used by your company? If they do not, they can learn those platforms later, but prior familiarity with social media platforms lessens the learning curve.

Evaluate your candidate’s phone voice

This test is a little older, but still totally valid for contact center agent candidates: start with a pre-screen phone interview to hear a candidate’s voice and evaluate how well they think on their feet.

A higher technology twist is doing video interviews via Skype or other programs, which allow you to hear their voice but also see their facial expressions and eye contact. Video interviews with candidates will become more important as the industry moves into video-based customer service channels.

Conduct a basic typing test

This is another “oldie but goodie”. Candidates need typing proficiency since, so much of today’s omnichannel environment depends upon keyboarding skills.

One last tip

Work with your human resources department to ensure testing complies with local employment standards. Depending upon your local jurisdiction, certain tests may not be allowed.

Overall, these assessments will help you evaluate candidate skill levels. It will help you – and the candidate – see if a contact center role is the right fit for them. Take advantage of these technologies to ensure a better skill level and on-the-job performance.

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