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Augusta chamber offers call center training

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Olivia Lewis knew she wanted to change her career path from the food and beverage business to the customer care industry.

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People work at the Knology call center in Augusta.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
People work at the Knology call center in Augusta.

The Augusta resident, who had previously spent a year preparing food at Wild Wing Cafe, felt she first needed to brush up on skills before she could achieve her goal.

In October, Lewis turned to a new Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce-sponsored training program offered at Augusta Technical College for guidance.

The 2½-week program is focused on providing participants with training in a multitude of call center situations, such as working with multiple computer screens, dealing with unhappy customers and fielding calls simultaneously.

“It really helped to expand my knowledge and skills dealing with customers,” Lewis said. “We can never learn too much.”

The experience not only helped Lewis better interact with customers but also gave her job interview tips, she said.

After the course concluded, it took Lewis just a week to find work locally as a Sprint collection agent at Convergent Resources on Stevens Creek Road.

The chamber’s Customer Care Center Council (4C) started the program in the autumn, which is made up in part by several local service companies like T-Mobile, ADP, Sitel, Knology and SCANA, as a way to expand employment opportunities in the customer care field.

“We want to make sure these businesses are having all their needs met,” said Augusta chamber President Sue Parr, noting the area’s abundant workforce in the customer care sector.

While just five students in the pilot program, four had taken jobs with Convergent Resources, said Spherion Staffing President Angela Swarts.

Swarts said she hasn’t heard of other state chambers with training programs specifically tailored for the customer care industry.

The program is integral to preparing entry-level employees for the challenges they face when entering a call center setting, Swarts said.

“It’s unlike any environment you can work in,” she said.

The 65-hour program will be offered at Augusta Tech several times throughout the year, said the college’s vice president of economic development, Lisa Palmer.

A handful of participants have signed up for the next course, running from Monday through Feb. 13, she said.

Companies like ADP and Spherion have shown their support for the program by providing funding for some students, Palmer said.

Students receive classroom training but also will visit local call centers and get a networking opportunity at the end of the session.

“It’s basically a private job fair just for them,” she said.

AUGUSTA METRO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE’S 4C TRAINING PROGRAM

Pilot program offered at Augusta Technical College in October 2012

Five students completed program; four were hired by Convergent Resources

Topics included customer contact and call handling, role playing (customer interactions), computer skills, personal effectiveness and more

Next program starts Monday; sessions will be held throughout the year


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