The call centre sector is well known for its promotion opportunities. In most such companies, former call centre agents hold management positions. This is the case at CAA Québec, the venerable roadside assistance organization. Anne-Marie Battista, in charge of recruiting at the Montreal call centre, shares her thoughts about jobs in the call centre field.
WHAT DOES THE MONTREAL CAA QUÉBEC CALL CENTRE DO?
Keep in mind that CAA is a non-profit organization. Our main concern at the centre is to provide service by telephone to our 900,000 members, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To do this, our unit has 160 employees, of which 120 are dedicated to inbound calls. Every day, an agent gets between 100 and 150 calls. This means 1.4 million calls a year for the centre overall.
WHAT ARE THE CALLS ABOUT?
Most of our calls are for emergency road assistance. CAA provides assistance throughout Quebec within 30 to 45 minutes after each call. Other agents provide our members with travel information—TripTiks, for example—or book hotels or rent vehicles.
MANY PEOPLE SAY THAT THE JOB IS REPETITIVE. WHAT DO YOU THINK?
It’s not too bad, because each call is different! In addition, during the year, our agents can transfer from one type of service to another to diversify their skills. This allows CAA to balance staff with needs. In winter, for example, we ask agents in the traveller tips sector to lend a hand to their co-workers in the emergency road assistance sector to handle the increased call volume. In summer, it’s the opposite. As opposed to other call centres that hire massively during short campaigns, we prefer to keep the staff that we’ve trained.
NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT, WHAT KINDS OF TRAINING DO YOU PROVIDE?
All new employees take an 11-day training course covering telephone techniques and knowledge of CAA Québec. We explain how our organization works, along with its products and services. Some new hires have never worked in a call centre, so we teach them the basics of customer service, with a focus on quality. Based on our requirements, we also organize other training sessions several times a year. Workshops and role playing give us the opportunity to explore new issues, such as managing stress when dealing with a difficult client. We are making increasing use of e-learning and self-training on specialized software.
ARE THERE OPPORTUNITIES FOR CAREER ADVANCEMENT AT CAA QUÉBEC?
Yes! Agents can apply for managerial positions. CAA Québec has a policy of promoting from within, which facilitates the progression of our agents in terms of responsibility. The leap is not as big for someone who is familiar with our work tools and philosophy as for someone coming from outside.
SPECIFICALLY, HOW DOES THIS PROGRESSION WORK?
Here, people start out as call centre agents at the contact centre for members at $13.55 an hour. The most competent may successively become senior agents and mentor new recruits; then team leaders and manage the operations side of the business; supervisors and also manage staff; and finally, managers. Our centre manager, for instance, started out as an agent in the mid-1990s, as did four of the assistant managers and most of the supervisors. It gave them a better understanding of the realities of the job.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO MOVE UP THE LADDER?
There aren’t really any rules! Everything depends on job openings and individual skills. Some of our employees have gone from one level to the next in only a few months, while others have been agents for more than 15 years. There are no formal career plans.