The Contact Centre industry is one of the United Kingdom’s fastest growing sectors. Through the increasingly sophisticated developments in communications technology, contact centres are playing an important role as a central point for communicating with and supporting customers, using both in-bound and out-bound communication channels such as telephones, emails, SMS and text messaging and other networking channels. The development of contact centres has led to an increasing number of service providers with organisations that are large enough to deliver contact centre operations throughout the UK. In addition, global business developments have led to many organisations operating contact centres throughout the world.
Many employers are starting to realise that how their employees respond to customers is vital to achieving customer satisfaction and loyalty. This has lead to major investments into the development of their workforce and improving the working conditions for their employees. Employers recognise the key role contact centre staff play in determining the quality of the contact centre experience. Therefore there is a need to raise contact centre standards by increasing the supply of people with high level contact centre skills. To do this contact centre employers might want to up skill their current workforce and/or recruit new staff.
Contact centre apprenticeships have a major role to play in this by helping employers address the skills gaps and shortages that they are experiencing and by providing a vehicle for introducing and raising contact skills in the workplace.
Contact centres in the UK currently employ around 650,000 people. Currently, 3,000 apprentices complete contact centre apprenticeships every year and this is predicted to rise by 1,000 each year. The need for high levels of contact centre skills is evident in many sectors. In particular the Finance, Travel and Tourism, Hospitality, Marketing and Retail, Telecommunications, Logistics, Power and Energy sectors. Contact centres operate across all three sectors of the economy – private, public (e.g. the NHS, Police, Fire and Rescue), and not-for-profit, and can range in size from being very small to global.
There are many job roles that apply to Contact Centre intermediate apprentices. These will include: Trainee Agent, Contact Centre Agent, Help Desk Operative, Sales Advisor, Customer Service Advisor, Outbound Sales Agent, Inbound Sales Agent, Outbound Customer Service Agent, Inbound Customer Service Agent, Telephone Banking Advisor, and Telesales Operator. At the Advanced Apprenticeship level contact centre job roles would include: Sales Team Leader, Customer Service Team Leader, Contact Centre Team Leader, Product Specialist, Supervisor, Support Analyst, and Contact Centre Manager.
The contact centre apprenticeships include employer led, up to date, flexible qualifications which meet their demand for higher levels of contact centre skills, including softer-skills such as communication, team working, interpersonal skills and the ability to improve own learning and performance.
Whatever contact centre an apprentice might work in, they will be learning and understanding the key concepts of contact centre operations, customer service and how to apply this knowledge and skills in the workplace. For an intermediate apprentice these skills could involve technical skills to operate the communication technology, knowledge and skills needed to navigate software, communicating with customers, building relationships with customers and colleagues, resolving problems, promoting products and/or services, making sales, using appropriate communication channels, keeping records, gathering customer feedback and working in a team.
For an advanced apprentice these skills could involve higher levels of technical skills to operate the communication technology, higher levels of knowledge and skills needed to navigate software, problem solving, improving customer satisfaction, team leading, improving customer loyalty, gathering and analysing customer feedback, processing complaints and maintaining reliable customer service.
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