What’s a Hybrid Call Center Agent?

In the post “ What’s a Hybrid Call Center?” we discussed that it was a call center that handles both incoming and outgoing calls. While this may seem to be a minor distinction, the differences are great. Beyond the basics of headsets and workstations, inbound and outbound work requires distinct equipment and software. Scheduling is vastly different, and agents require differing management, compensation, and motivation. Plus they have polar opposite profiles. As a result, hybrid call centers often segregate these two agent functions, with one group handling inbound calls and the other group handling outbound work. Though they may work at the same location, inbound and outbound activities in a hybrid center are often operated as separated entities. Even for hybrid call centers that blur these lines of distinction, agents often only work in one capacity or the other. Many C-level executives underestimate these important distinctions when they consider their corporate call centers. Inbound Work: Consider that inbound agents must be reactive. A call comes in, and they respond to it by answering it and addressing the callers’ need or concern. Inbound agents take messages, place orders, transfer callers, answer questions, and provide information. Outbound Work: Conversely outbound agents must be proactive. They need to take initiative to place phone calls and engage with prospects, who are often resistant to their calls. Outbound agents close sales, qualify leads, and set sales appointments. Enter the Hybrid Agent: A few call center agents have the ability to perform both incoming and outgoing work. They are able to sit at their stations and wait for calls to come in, reacting to callers’ needs. They are also able to crank through contacts, most often to people who are not open to talk to them. They take action to make things happen. Most people have one skill or the other. Hybrid agents can do both with ease. Schedule Hybrid Agents: Typically hybrid agents are scheduled to work one role or the other at any given time. One shift they may take inbound calls, and then switch to making outbound calls on another shift. While they can do both, they generally only function in one role at a time. However, some hybrid agents, an elite group of an already elite group, are able to switch roles at a moment’s notice. They may start the day answering calls, and if the incoming call traffic slows, they may be automatically switched to making calls. Most agents find it hard to handle this mental switch on a moment-by-moment basis, but a few have no problem doing so. This is the ultimate hybrid agent. Hire Hybrid Agents: Finding qualified inbound or outbound call center agents is challenging, which requires careful screening. However, finding qualified agents who have the skill sets to do both inbound and outbound work is even more challenging. For this reason, many hybrid call centers will have some agents who are inbound specialists, another group who only does outbound, and a third set of hybrid agents who can switch back and forth as needed, be it according to a schedule or on demand. While a hybrid call center composed of only hybrid agents provides maximum flexibility, it is harder to staff. This is an important reality for non-call center executives to understand about the operation of their corporate call centers. Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier consultancy for corporate call centers, whose team possesses decades of relevant business and call center experience. Contact Janet at contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or 800-901-7706. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.