A live call agent or call operator will often serve as the first impression of your business to potential customers. Because of this, it is important that your business’ agents and operators display compassion and professionalism.

Compassion is a trait that is not easily taught to employees and is usually innate to individuals. Holding this to be true, the key to having compassionate call operators is to hire compassionate people. 

As Dexcomm’s human resource manager for the past 15 years, I have met many candidates, some who display compassion and some who do not.

While conducting interviews for a Dexcomm live call operator, compassion is a key quality that I am searching for. But how can an employer determine if a potential employee truly has compassion?

How does compassion look in the workplace

What is Compassion in the Workplace?

When someone has true compassion, they can put themselves in someone else’s shoes and then support them. When dealing with customers over the phone they do that by:

  • Showing Concern: A compassionate operator will show concern in their voice when speaking to a caller. Not only does this show that the operator is truly listening, but it also makes the caller feel better because they know that their concerns are being heard. At Dexcomm, we like to explain this as treating the caller with the same respect and compassion that you would give your own grandmother.
  • Truly Listening: Since operators are not able to see a caller’s non-verbal communication (body language, facial expressions) they must do an even better job of listening. This means focusing on the caller completely and filtering out all other distractions.
  • Assisting the Caller: A compassionate operator will always strive to connect their callers with the actual person that can help them. Shortcuts and “passing the buck” are habits that a good operator will not do.

That means that through our hiring process we must determine as much as possible BEFORE HIRING. And our key question for call operators is “Does this person have true compassion for others?”

At Dexcomm, we focus on compassion because it is a trait that is needed for this role. Our call operators will be faced with delicate and difficult situations and they will be able to use the training that we have given them to overcome whatever challenges the situation presents to show compassion.

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How to Recognize a Compassionate Employee

When trying to determine if a candidate is compassionate, you must consider their past work experiences. These are the things that I listen for in the hiring process:

  • Has the candidate been able to handle a difficult customer in the past with patience?
  • Has the candidate received any compliments for going above and beyond for a customer?
  • Was the candidate able to see past someone’s anger and strive to help them despite their own frustration?

Sometimes applicants will tell a story about helping someone who was angry, upset or impatient. They have compassion when they detail that they helped a customer and their own thoughts or feelings could be pushed aside to be there for their customer. These are some of the phrases that show compassion:

  • “I understand your frustration.”
  • “I enjoy being able to make someone’s day better.”
  • “I could understand her frustration and see that she just wanted me to listen.”

What Questions Should I Ask a Candidate?

An interview is just one way to determine if someone has an innate sense of compassion to meet our needs. We hold several interviews with candidates in different settings on different days. We find that breaking the ice and getting people comfortable is one way to get a sense of their true selves. These are a few of our curated questions that talk about compassion:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to display a large amount of patience with a customer.
  • What is the best work-related compliment that you have ever received?
  • Tell us about a difficult customer that you have made happy?
  • Can you describe a situation when you went above and beyond?

We ask a very interesting question in our interviews that does not have a right or wrong answer but has been a very good judge of someone’s purpose in life: “What are you doing to change the world?” We have had answers from some of our wonderful staff that show their compassion and a drive to make others around them better, true empathy:

  • “Be a good person”
  • “Raise kind and compassionate children”
  • “One smile at a time”

Signs That a Candidate Might Not Have Compassion

For every great candidate that we find there will be other candidates that don’t share all our core values. They may be perfect for another position, but not for our operator position that requires compassion, concern for others and personal growth. There are some key phrases that can represent a lack of innate compassion:

  • “I’ve run across some customers that will always find something to complain about”
  • “I had a customer that I could not please”
  • “I wanted to help but I had to follow policy.”

One other big piece that is important in our hiring and management decisions is whether an employee can show personal growth. Inevitably we will not always succeed on our first try but it is important that we don’t fail but that when we fail, we strive to grow and become better every day.

The Importance of Compassion in Employees

Compassion is a key trait that is ingrained in our employees.

Compassionate employees can overcome difficult conversations with callers. That trait comes naturally to them so they can focus on helping your callers in a way that supports your business but also handle situations that may be outside of the norm without much effort. That employee is engaged, ready to listen and help in any situation.

This benefits your business because in our automated world, human contact is still so important. The voice on the other end of the line may be the good impression that will make your company stand out from others that are relying on automation or voice mail. When someone without compassion is handling your phone calls it could make your customers feel unheard or not valuable to you.

The Benefits of a Compassionate Call Operator


Providing an operator that can act with compassion is beneficial to you because this compassion shows itself as an employee acting on your behalf with whatever your business needs may be. This employee can handle problems with care and concern as well as treat your regular callers with a human connection.

We see the result of our hiring and training practices in compliments that our staff receives from customers and callers. Our operators frequently hear genuine compliments and thank you’s from callers for their compassion and concern.

When one of our staff receives a compliment for showing compassion, we recognize them and thank them for exhibiting our core values. This recognition then reinforces that behavior in their future interactions. We thank Dr. Paul Marciano for his book Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work. His book is one of the management tools that we use for our leadership development and it has been invaluable.

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Dexcomm is a Louisiana-based corporation that provides answering services to businesses and service agencies across the United States. We have been open since 1954, employ a staff of roughly 50 people, and our average client retention rate is 10+ years.

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Read More About The Author: Steffy Ritter