Paul Smith, who owns specialist recruitment agency Citrus Group with his wife Gordana, previously told My Business that call centres are making a significant comeback in the Australian market, having been offshored by many firms over recent decades.
In doing so, he said these businesses are transforming call centres in customer service centres. And the primary trait being sought out among job candidates for these centres is empathy.
“One thing that we look for, and that all our clients look for, is empathy. Is understanding. Not that scripted ‘oh, would you like something else’. And that’s what you get from overseas a lot, it’s all very scripted. What we look for in a candidate is that empathy,” Mr Smith said.
“You can train someone in skills and how to communicate effectively, but it’s that care factor that we look for and that’s key now to retaining customers.”
A big part of achieving that empathy, Mr Smith suggested, is to try and match the age of staff with the target customer base.
“If you’re selling… to somebody who is in their 50s and you can hear that this person is like 21 years old, it doesn’t always work that well,” he said.
“Not in every instance – you do get very mature young people – but certainly we look for that right fit, right mix.”
It is this empathy that no amount of technology can replicate, and while automation, artificial intelligence and the like have streamlined everyday aspects of business like common FAQs, Mr Smith said it is the ability to speak with another human being who can relate to their needs which customers need and are crying out for.
And it is for this reason that empathy forms a key selection criterion for the “hundreds” of people his agency interviews each week.
“You can’t express that empathy and passion via chatbot – you’ve got to have a person on the end of the phone to do that,” he said.
“Automation is great, it’s going to be used, it is being used – but for certain tasks.
“There’s other parts where you want to talk to someone and you want them engaged with the conversation.”