Jobs In Call Centers: Skills, Outlook, and Salaries

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Call centers are in fast-paced environments that rely on strong communication skills. Learn about the salaries, career outlook and skills needed for this career and whether it is a fit for you.

[Featured image]: A call center worker is sitting at their desk working on her desktop in her office.

If you excel in communication and are passionate about helping people, working in a call center could be an excellent fit. Many people work in call centers for its great benefits, flexible working environments, and customer interactions. For some call center positions, you may earn a commission on products you pitch and sell to customers. 

To excel in a call center position, you will typically need to use a mix of interpersonal skills, communication skills, problem solving, and technical capabilities. Working in a call center creates a great opportunity to expand your transferable skills and sets you up for many future professional opportunities.

 

What is a call center?

A call center is typically at the core of a business or organization and handles its communication services. This includes:

  • Reaching out to customers to market products 

  • Responding to customer questions 

  • Helping with technological difficulties 

  • Performing consumer research 

There are various options in the call center space, and depending on the type, your responsibilities may vary. 

Inbound call center 

 If you work at an inbound call center, you’ll receive calls directed to the company. This typically includes customer service calls, such as calls from customers asking about repairs or specific products. You may also be responsible for fielding staff calls about company processes and news. 

Outbound call center 

If you work at an outbound call center, you’ll typically market a product to potential customers. This includes reaching out to an identified list of numbers and convincing consumers that your company’s product will benefit them. You also perform surveys and conduct market research to inform future products. 

Remote call center

While inbound and outbound call centers are the most common, there are additional variations and career options in this field. For example, remote call centers often let their employees work from home and call from their personal cell phones (usually through anonymous software). This can be a great option if you’re looking for a more flexible work schedule or if you don’t live in the same region as the call center.

What skills and qualifications do call center representatives need?       

 Typically, the most important skill for a call center worker is communication. Most call center workers directly interact with customers, so you want to be able to build trust between you and the customer and ask specific questions to ensure you understand their needs. Depending on your role, you may also interact with customers who are agitated. If you’re in this position, having the communication and interpersonal skills to remain calm and compassionate is essential.

 

A high school diploma is the minimum requirement to work at a call center. Experience in consumer support, especially via the telephone, is usually essential. Having job experience where you directly interact with customers might also help you negotiate a better position in a call center with more responsibilities. 

Additionally, experience using technology and working as part of a team can help you build a strong resume for this type of position. As you gain experience, demonstrating active listening skills, adaptability, and showing initiative in the workplace can help you show growth within your position and open opportunities for promotion.

Call center agent job duties      

 Your job responsibilities will vary depending on the type of call center and organization you work for, but across most call centers, these are the job responsibilities you can expect:

 

  • Manage incoming calls or make outgoing calls

  • Actively listen to customers

  • Identify customer needs

  • Research customer problems

  • Answer questions and inquiries professionally

  • Offer solutions to customer complaints

  • Manage and track customer calls

  • Make updates to customer databases

  • Maintain call center equipment and systems

  • Adhere to company policies and regulations

  • Transfer customer calls when appropriate

  • Work quickly and efficiently

  • Take opportunities to upsell to customers when appropriate

  • Train new members of staff on policies and procedures.

 

Working at a call center: Pros and cons       

 

As with all positions, there are subjective pros and cons to working at a call center. Remember that every person will have different aspects of careers that they consider to be positives and negatives, so take what resonates with you.

 

Some pros of being a call center worker include: 

 

 

  • Building skills to transfer to other professional endeavors. This includes communication skills, problem-solving, data management, marketing, and interpersonal skills, among others.

  • Indoor work that’s not physically taxing. Working in a call center could be a perfect fit for those with movement difficulties or who prefer sedentary jobs.

  • No student loan debt and minimal degree requirements. While advanced education can often increase pay, most call center positions do not require a college degree. This is good news for those who would like to avoid costly student loans.

  • Flexible working hours. Often, call centers work on shift schedules, and workers can determine the shift schedule that works best for them. This is even more of a perk for call centers that allow workers to work from home.

  • Excellent benefits and opportunities for growth. Call center workers often have paid vacation time, annual salaries, and convenient working hours. Many people desire this level of job security and can provide a stable income with predictable benefits.

  • Improving patience and interpersonal skills. Consistently working with customers may increase your ability to understand the perspective of others, speak empathetically to those in distress, and communicate with people of different backgrounds.

 

On the contrary, some reported cons of working in a call center include:

  • Professional burnout. A call center is a fast-paced environment, and often call center workers have milestones they must meet. These milestones can rely on non-stop customer calls and work, which may lead to feeling burnt out, particularly when dealing with emotional customers.

  • Working with difficult clients. Some call center jobs include interfacing with customers unhappy with the product they purchased. Consistently dealing with angry or frustrated customers may be emotionally stressful over time.

  • Lack of physical movement. Those who prefer an active profession may see the sedentary nature of call center jobs to be a negative

  • Repetitive tasks. When you work in a call center, many of your days will typically involve the same types of responsibilities. 

  • High transfer rate. Many people work at call centers for a short time before moving to another position. However, if you stay at the call center for an extended period, internal promotion rates at some centers are high. This is an important question to ask during the hiring process.

Are call center operators in high demand?       

 Many companies rely on call center operators to take important customer calls, manage customer relationships, and collect consumer data. Because of this, many jobs are often available in the call center space. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for call center customer service representatives is expected to have little or no change in the employment outlook from 2020 to 2030 [1]. 

What is the average salary of a call center agent?‎ 

 Call center salaries for agents are typically paid hourly and average $17.75 per hour. This is well above the minimum wage in most states and provides an annual salary of around $36,920. In addition, many workers have paid leave and can sign longer-term contracts for greater job stability [1].

Career paths for call center operators     

 Call center jobs are typically entry-level and are a great way to get experience in the customer service industry before seeking higher-paying professional opportunities. Call center hiring managers often look for demonstrated communication and computer skills. You will also stand out to employers if you have additional customer service experience, such as working in a restaurant or in retail.

 

Many call centers promote from within, and after a few years in the call center, you may be able to begin managing other call center employees and making strategic business decisions for the center. With a good amount of call center experience, you may be able to grow into mid-level customer service positions such as customer service specialists, product experts, and customer service management positions.

Next steps

Call center jobs provide a great avenue to gain customer service experience and build communication skills. You are at the center of a dynamic workspace with great benefits and opportunities for growth. If you’re interested in working in a call center but don’t have a background in customer service, consider courses like Customer Service Fundamentals by Knowledge Accelerators on Coursera.

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Article sources

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Customer Service Representatives : Occupational outlook handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/customer-service-representatives.htm.”  Accessed August 17, 2022. 

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