Building a great team with contact centre expert Kaye Kennedy

Contact centre agent with colleagues

With more than 20 years’ experience, Kaye Kennedy is a contact centre expert. As moderator and assessor of the New Zealand Certificate in Contact Centres (Level 3) version 2, she’s passionate about organisations’ development of people – people who have a key role as Customer Service Representatives (CSRs). 

What has been your path working with contact centres? 

After becoming a contact centre manager in the late 1990sjoined the Contact Centre Association. I felt strongly that people should have access to qualifications of integrity and when the opportunity came up to become a moderator for the certificate through the ElectroTechnology Industry Training Organisation (ETITO), I took it. Since becoming semi-retired from my contact centre Manager roles I’ve moderated and assessed full-time – I absolutely love it. I’m also one of the mystery callers for CRM audit calls.  

How have contact centres changed?   

They used to be where people took orders and made simple fixes. Today, simple solutions are offered online and customers can self-help. Therefore, Customer Service Representatives answer more complex customer questions regardless of whether they work in medical centres, government organisations, or businesses.    

Is there a lot of training for CSRs? 

A contact centre is a business’ first point of contact with customers so often there is extensive induction training for CSRs – it can be weeks-long for some organisations. It’s important CSRs are trained well as even the most confident CSRs can be daunted when taking the first call. That’s one reason why gaining a contact centre qualification, such as the New Zealand Certificate in contact centres (Level 3) version 2, is important.  You’ve already had the induction course and the systems training, so the qualification training –a 7 to 7 month qualification –  enhances this by including everything such as customer service, health and safety, legislation and emotional and mental well-being 

What are the benefits to gaining a contact centre qualification?   

There are huge benefits to both the individual and organisation. I have been invited to graduations where people are presented with their certificate, and I can see such a sense of pride on their faces; there’s such a sense of accomplishment when gaining the qualification.  And the support that they receive from their team leader encourages them to excel.  After gaining the contact centre qualification, people often step-up – the qualification is great for career development. 

Are there benefits to the online course?

People love the fact that they can work at their own pace during times that suit them. As their confidence builds, so does their motivation, and thirst for further learning. I often hear, “My learners just finished the contact centre course and they’re interested in what’s next”. 

How does the programme enhance an organisation’s training? 

There’s an opportunity through the programme for an individual to fine-tune their training. One area includes resolving complex calls and customer complaints. Sometimes customers can present a complex situation –  and a CSR doesn’t understand what they’re looking for, so it’s really listening to what they may not be saying directly and picking up what the real issue is. 

Does the programme take into account how CSRs now often work from home?    

Working from home has become huge for CSRs since the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s where the health and safety module comes in. It’s key that your work station’s set up correctly – there are ACC guidelines on how to set up your work station properly. Also, at times connecting to servers can take more time, so it’s important that the CSR is able to make chit-chat, and to support customers who may have been on-hold for awhile to avoid “dead air”. 

What do you love about Skills’ Contact Centre programme? 

It’s a nationally recognised certificate that’s relevant and enriching to both an individual and organisation.  Subject matter experts are involved throughout it who share knowledge and information. It’s a programme created by people who are passionate about contact centres, which is good because you get the right people there to make a difference, and these are the people who are part of reviewing the qualification ensuring it is relevant and up to date.