In the Direct Response industry, your call center agents are like athletes in a football game. The sales agents are your front-line, assertive minds that dig their heels in and “go for it.” They typically have more of that “competitive edge” and are motivated by money or just numbers in general. They are the ones with the loud voice that want to have the upper hand, or at least that is what most employers want in a sales employee.

But what if you need an agent that works in customer service? What characteristics equate to the perfect support agent? In many centers, if an agent’s conversion numbers do not meet the needs of the sales floor, he or she is transferred to customer service. But depending on the dynamics of the company, if the agent does not make it in the sales department, chances are the agent is not well suited for customer service either.

In many ways, recruiters are looking for the same qualities in a sales agent that they are for a customer service agent, but they just don’t realize it. If you are hiring for your sales floor, you need someone who works well in a team environment, has little to no issues with authority figures, is assertive and feels comfortable making suggestions to a customer, has the persuasive ability to be able to “sell” a customer, and overall, a bold, and outgoing personality.

If you are hiring for your customer service department, you want someone who works well in a team environment, has no issues dealing with figures of authority, can be persuasive with a customer… noticing a trend here?

Having worked in customer service for 9 years, I can verify that when hiring, whether it is for sales or c.s. you should be seeking the exact same type of person: a supportive thinker, innovative, respectful, professional, dynamic, with a “roll with the punches” attitude (because the DR world is ever-changing). What is MOST important is finding out what the potential employee enjoys doing most. In most cases, that is the driving factor in agent success.

In several instances over the years, my best c.s. agents were the best agents when it came to “saves” (customer retention) and they had the highest revenue for reorders, as well as converted more sales than anyone else in the department. These same individuals were also successful on the sales floor, but chose to come to customer service because they were happier doing it. A “happy” agent = a successful agent.

How do you get the best of both worlds? Look for the same type of individual, but find out where he or she feels most comfortable. Provide the same training for all employees: sales training integrated with a customer service supportive philosophy. Then you’ll have your hybrid employee that can take either sales or c.s calls depending on call volume. After all, whether playing on the front line or our position is safety, we all should be thinking “customer retention.”