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What You Need to Know About the Call Center Industry

Female call center employee talking on her headset

As consumers, we call companies to pay a bill, make a purchase, resolve an issue, or ask for information. When we need help, we want it fast–and we’re becoming more demanding with each passing year about how quickly we expect to receive service. 

The people responsible for delivering that service? Call center agents, and they’re the foundation for a positive relationship with your customers. As shopping patterns continue to shift away from physical storefronts to virtual options, friendly and efficient customer service is more important than ever. 

Here, we’ll explain what you need to know about the modern call center landscape and the most critical things to keep in mind when hiring for this essential business function. 

The Importance of Hiring the Right Talent for Call Center Success

The call center talent you hire impacts your business in a number of ways. 

1. Customer service quality

Customer service agents not only resolve problems but also make customers feel heard. High-quality agents empower your company to deliver fast, efficient service that makes the customer feel like they matter to the organization. This aids in customer retention and boosts customer lifetime value. 

2. Brand reputation

It’s a piece of business wisdom you’ve probably heard repeated many times before: a happy customer keeps it to themself, but an unhappy one will tell anyone who will listen about their negative experience. If you want to preserve a positive brand reputation, you must keep negative interactions to a minimum. This starts with hiring empathetic and resourceful agents. 

3. Turnover

Turnover is a huge challenge in the call center industry, with average annual turnover rates ranging from 30 to 45% (a turnover rate of 10% is considered ideal). Hiring candidates who are a strong fit for the job can minimize resignations, which reduces the cost of hiring and training new agents. 

4. Data collection

Call centers are a massive source of data on customer trends, product issues, and opportunities for innovation–powerful information that can transform your business. Better agents can yield better data, which can be used to produce desirable business outcomes. 

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The Breakdown of the call center environment

Call centers are offices dedicated to handling inbound and outbound customer service. Some call centers are owned by or contracted with a particular company, while others provide service to numerous firms. 

Inbound vs outbound call centers

There are two types of call centers: inbound and outbound. Some call centers function as both inbound and outbound service providers. 

Agents at inbound call centers receive hundreds, and perhaps even thousands of calls every day from customers. Issues range from questions about accounts, billing matters, and order placement to technical support inquiries. Representatives assist customers, record calls, and document key information. 

Team members perform marketing activities at outbound call centers by calling customers about promotions and other services. They might try acquiring new customers, upsell existing customers on additional products, collect overdue accounts, conduct feedback surveys, or provide proactive customer notifications. 

Both types of call centers feature a built-in system to track the number of daily calls received, the duration of these calls, and other metrics.

Though there are online schools that provide call center training programs, most call center positions do not require a college degree or previous experience in the field. Many companies offer on-the-job training.

Call center environment

The typical call center is a large space with workers stationed in cubicles, each with a computer and headset. Traditionally, call centers have been known as less-than-appealing workspaces, with little natural light, unexciting decor, and an abundance of screens. The work is fast-paced, and the environment can often be loud and hectic. Thus, it’s no surprise that the physical space itself is an obstacle to attracting and retaining workers. We’ll talk more about overcoming these obstacles a little later on. 

The Outlook of the Call Center Industry

The global call center industry is massive and growing, projected to reach a value of $494.7 billion by the year 2030. It’s growing at a rate of about 6%, which is a bit higher than the average for all industries. With this strong projected growth outlook, companies will need to maintain steady call center hiring in order to keep pace. This means overcoming the staffing challenges that plague the industry. 

Thankfully, technology and other market factors have sparked a transformation in the call center industry in recent years. For example, COVID-19 forced many organizations to adopt remote and hybrid work arrangements that workers found favorable. Artificial intelligence and machine learning increasingly allow agents to offload more tedious support inquiries, which can help reduce burnout. 

Companies looking to keep pace with the call center industry’s continued growth will need to adopt forward-thinking strategies to onboard and retain superior agents. 

The Impact of Technology on the Call Center Industry

Technology is shaking up the call center industry in numerous ways, many beneficial to businesses and employees. 

Remote work

The pandemic forced companies to adopt novel strategies to minimize service disruptions, and one of those strategies was to facilitate working from home. Agents can provide secure, high-quality support remotely with the help of technology like VPNs and cloud-based call center software. 

Remote work opportunities not only promote a greater work-life balance that makes agents happy but also reduce the infrastructure costs associated with maintaining large facilities. Additionally, they can help companies maintain a more diverse team of agents and cover all time zones. 


Artificial intelligence helps agents do their jobs faster and more effectively. Intelligent call routing systems, for example, can route calls to the most appropriate agent on the first attempt, reducing frustration and resulting in better service. AI can also tackle tedious agent tasks, like answering frequently asked questions, and aid in information gathering ahead of a live call to help agents work more efficiently. 

Key Skills and Attributes for Call Center Staff

Here are the top skills and attributes to look for when hiring call center staff.

  • Communication. Call center agents communicate daily, both verbally and in writing, making strong communication skills a must. 
  • Emotional intelligence. Good agents empathize with a customer’s situation and can tactfully navigate challenging conversations.  
  • Problem solving. Agents often encounter complex, frustrating issues. They must be able to quickly assess those issues and determine the most appropriate course of action. 
  • Conflict resolution. An effective agent must be able to maintain professionalism even when dealing with difficult customers and should de-escalate the situation when possible. 
  • Product knowledge. Strong knowledge of the product or service helps agents answer questions and troubleshoot customer issues more effectively. 
  • Adaptability. The topic of conversation can vary dramatically from one support call to the next. The best agents can easily transition from a billing issue to a tech support question. 
  • Tech-savvy. Call center agents must navigate various systems and pieces of software to retrieve customer information, resolve issues, and keep records. Being amenable to new technology is essential. 
  • Time management. Agents often handle multiple inquiries simultaneously, so strong time management skills are necessary to prioritize tasks and meet performance targets. 
  • Attention to detail. Customer service agents must be detail-oriented to keep accurate records of their interactions and comply with the specific rules and regulations that are pertinent to their industry. 
  • Resilience. Call center work can be mentally and emotionally draining. Agents who are equipped with healthy coping strategies will be better positioned to succeed. 

Are Virtual Call Centers the Future?

Companies use call centers to manage customer orders, questions, and complaints.  While traditional call centers are housed in central brick-and-mortar locations, a call center trend over recent years has seen many companies implementing virtual agent teams.

According to Liveops, more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies are either currently using or planning to use home-based agents. These companies are discovering that the virtual agent business model reduces costs, improves customer service efficiency, and decreases employee turnover.

The virtual agent model is appealing to the business and employees alike.  For the company, it allows them to reduce overhead expenses by eliminating costly office space  while hiring from a greatly expanded candidate pool. For the employees, it allows for s the opportunity to work from home, and the elimination of  commute time and costs, while providing better work-life balance due to flexible working hours.

Today’s work-at-home call center agent model has also grown with expanded training capabilities and improved cloud-based software options. This strategy provides almost no geographic limitations as long as employees can access high-speed Internet at home. Complete virtual call center firms like Arise, Sykes Home, and Working Solutions pioneered this model and have seen great success. Corporate titans like HSN, Enterprise, and Amazon have leveraged the virtual model to coordinate their growth effectively.

The call center industry trend of hiring work-from-home employees is accompanied by a shift in focus from cost containment to a pleasant customer experience. Because of the improved technology, more companies are shifting their call center roles from foreign countries back to the United States. Understandably, consumers tend to get a better customer experience when call centers are staffed by people with whom they can communicate clearly. Keeping technology infrastructure in the United States is more cost-effective.

Retention Challenges and Strategies to Consider

Stressful work 

The stressful nature of call center work is arguably the biggest challenge recruiters face. You can always offer higher pay but can’t make customers any less frustrated. You can, however, alleviate the stress by providing adequate training and empowering agents with cutting-edge technology that makes their work more seamless. 

Recognize agent accomplishments and incentivize high performance. Invest in culture initiatives so workers don’t feel as though they’re disposable. Most importantly, prioritize accurate hiring so that you’re onboarding people who are a strong fit for the unique demands of call center work. 

Nonstandard hours

Some call centers require staffing around the clock, which means agents work nights, weekends, holidays, and every other undesirable time. You can make the nonstandard hours less unpleasant by ensuring there are enough experienced agents on every shift to respond to challenging inquiries and scheduling new agents on shifts that typically have lower volume. Employ transparent scheduling practices and give agents greater control, like using technology that simplifies shift changes and time off requests. 

Unappealing environment 

We talked a lot about the negative aspects of the call center workspace already–cramped cubicles, a bland office, and so on. Adopting remote and hybrid work arrangements can minimize the downsides of working onsite and give agents the increased flexibility they desire. 

Let Us Help You Hire the Best Customer Service Staff

4 Corner Resources (4CR) is an experienced and innovative leader who helps companies like yours find skilled and qualified team members for their vacant positions.

We offer call center staffing solutions for businesses of all sizes – from startups to SMBs and large corporations throughout the United States. Our knowledge and passion for what we do, and our flexible terms and conditions, set us apart in the world of headhunting and recruiting.

We welcome the opportunity to connect if you need help identifying the right candidates for your vacancies! We’re on standby to help you transform your workforce and find the ideal candidate today!

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn