There is a clear difference between active and passive agents. Active agents call customers independently, according to certain selection criteria, in order to offer them services or products. Passive agents, however, only accept incoming calls. A typical example of passive agents are employees who deal with faults or complaints.
Although the role of an agent in a call centre often requires no particular vocational training, an employee should nevertheless meet certain requirements. Important skills include an understanding of the products and services in question, as well as knowledge of the industry. In addition, agents should have a basic knowledge of the psychology of how to deal with people and when conducting conversations. Further requirements for an agent are a pleasant and at the same time credible voice, a positive attitude, skilled handling of a PC and phone, as well as a certain amount of resistance to stress.
The telephone system is at the heart of each call centre and supports the agent in their duties and activities. The most important function of the system is Automatic Call Distribution. Here, the system divides the incoming calls among the available agents according to certain criteria, or keeps them in a holding pattern until an employee is free. Voice response systems may be used to interact with the caller and to assist with getting calls allocated correctly. Computer Telephony Integration (CTI), which combines phone and computer system functions with each other, allows data, such as the telephone history for each caller, to be made available to the agent. This helps the agent to better meet the particular concerns of the customer.