Customer Service Representatives — People-Persons for a Living

VOIP headset on laptop computer keyboard

Ever wonder what kind of special person it takes to answer dozens and dozens of calls each day customer service? Who decides to become a customer service representative (CSR) for a living? We had the opportunity to find out when we spoke recently with Aerotek contractor Jake Dana. His story might surprise you but it will also inspire.

From TV news to “how can I help?”

Jake Dana didn’t start out as a CSR. He spent the first twenty years of his career working as a television director. “Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be a film or TV director. My dream came true for twenty years, and I loved every minute, even though it was a pretty high-stress job. I worked on TV news, sporting events, lifestyle magazine shows, you name it. It’s funny; people come into customer service expecting it to be high-stress. I tell them that directing a live TV show with sixteen cameras and twenty people all talking to you at the same time, that’s a high-stress job.”

Aerotek contract employee Jake Dana
Jake Dana, Customer Service Representative and Advocate

10 seconds can change a life

Jake talked about his philosophic approach to his work as a customer service representative. “My approach to being a customer advocate is pretty simple. On every call, there’s a point where, if I spend ten seconds in the right way, I have the chance to change someone’s life. It’s always about establishing a connection, something we can both relate to. Believe it or not, sometimes it’s about connecting to their anger. This empathy opens them up, slows them down, puts them in a state of mind where we can solve whatever it is needs solving, together.”

Call me advocate

We noticed that Jake referred to himself as a customer care 'advocate' rather than a customer service representative. Was this a new industry trend? “More and more we think of ourselves as advocates. The idea of ‘representative’ referred to being an agent of the company. The idea of ‘advocate’ turns this around somewhat, in that we’re advocating for the customer. It’s a mindset shift and an important one. We create a culture of advocacy towards each other in the call center and then for our customers who call.”

“If you come to a job like this, with the view that you’re actually making people happy for a living, you will enjoy this work!”

Quality over quantity

We suggested this all sounds pretty ideal from a human standpoint, but we wondered about the business side of the equation. How is a successful “advocate” measured?

“It’s a good question. We’re assessed on quality and quantity. We’re tracked on ‘average handle time’ which means how long our calls last. That ends up equating pretty directly to quantity, or average number of call per shift. But we’re also measured on quality, using post-call customer surveys and all of our calls are monitored by quality managers.”

“I don’t worry too much about quantity — some calls are short others are long, it evens out over time. I focus on quality. I always remember there’s a human being on the other side of each call. Whether the caller is upset, confused or just in search of information, keeping a sense of humanity ensures that your calls are of high quality."

Where’s Jake?

We weren’t surprised to learn that Jake has become a trainer and mentor to up-and-coming CSRs wherever he works. “I really love helping new people learn the ropes and excel at this job. I tell them — it’s a tough job, and it’s too easy to become a robot. But you can’t. If you’re working for a healthcare insurer during open enrollment you will be on 50 or 60 calls a day. On each of those calls you have to break the wall between you and the customer. Sometimes that’s with a silly joke. Whatever it is, you can never get robotic You’ve got to treat each call like it as your first call of the day, and you’ve got all the time you need. I tell them: You know when you’ve succeeded when a customer says, ’Is there any way I can get you on the line if I have to call back?’”

Jake told us something else about those new recruits he trains and mentors, often before they’ve even met in person. One of the first questions most ask when they get assigned to the call center is “Where’s Jake? ... I need to meet Jake and thank him.” “That’s immensely gratifying for someone like me, who loves what I do so deeply.”

If that’s a measure of career success you’re up for experiencing, you’re probably as much a people-person as Jake Dana. If so, we’d love to help you find your calling as a customer service representative — aka advocate. Create or modify your free Aerotek career account today.

Jake Dana appears courtesy of Account Manager Kelly Kitt and Recruiter Lead Brittany Napier.