Off Center
 
Collectcorp doesn’t want to find highly skilled new agents for its contact centers.

It wants to retain them.


Rather than rushing warm new bodies into workstations to handle the steady flow of customer contacts, the Toronto-based collections outsourcer takes its time with comprehensive recruiting and assessment tactics aimed at attracting and keeping top agent talent. It may take many weeks before an agent candidate actually dons a headset and handles calls, but once they do, they do so very well – and for years to come.

Jason Brunet, Vice President of Global Strategy and Managing Partner at Collectcorp, attributes much of the contact centers' – and larger company’s – success to this philosophy of hiring as a retention tool rather than merely an acquisition tool.

“Our firm’s strength is creating tailored business solutions for our clients by utilizing its global experience and its unique talent acquisition and retention programs to improve program and portfolio results,” says Brunet.  


E-cruiting/Recruiting Work-Ready Reps

Collectcorp takes an eclectic, well-rounded approach to agent recruiting – relying on three key practices. The first of these involves tapping the power of the web to find qualified agent candidates. Collectcorp’s “e-cruiting” efforts center around online career and staffing websites such as Monster.com, Workopolis and Job Boom. The call center posts compelling and detailed job ads that capture the attention of hundreds of applicants visiting these sites. “The sites allow for flexibility and control when selecting qualified applicants,” says Brunet.

The second recruiting tactic is more hands on and a little old-school, though highly effective. Collectcorp’s Recruitment Department regularly attends financial industry job fairs in its search for experienced service stars (each Collectcorp agent must have at least one year of experience in a customer service/contact center environment). Recently, Collectcorp attended a job fair in hopes of identifying 15 prospective agents. Mission easily accomplished: “The company received over 350 new applications from candidates with an array of first-party and third-party customer support experience,” Brunet explains.

In addition to face-time at fairs, Collectcorp relies heavily on word of mouth to find new agent blood. The company’s employee referral program has become a potent recruiting tool – one that benefits not only the contact center and its clients, but the referring agents, as well. For every referred candidate who ends up being employed and stays in place for at least three months, the referring agent receives a cash reward.


Testing the Talent Before Inviting Them to Training

While its solid recruiting practices help to attract promising candidates, Collectcorp’s comprehensive screening, assessment and interview tactics enable the contact center to clearly identify which candidates truly have what it takes to thrive on the phones.  

“Providing the most qualified and best-trained collectors begins with proper personnel selection,” says Brunet. “The unique fiduciary relationship that exists between Collectcorp and its clients makes it imperative that the company only employ persons of high character and professional background.”

The applicant assessment process begins with a pre-screen telephone interview to evaluate communication skills and to learn about each candidate’s experience. At the same time as the pre-screening, Collectcorp provides an overview of the position, the center’s hours of operation, and discusses the candidate’s hours of availability.

“This preliminary stage helps us to avoid wasted time testing and interviewing candidates who are not interested in or qualified for the position, or who cannot work the assigned hours of operation,” explains Brunet, who points out that roughly 40% of applicants are weeded out during the prescreening process.

Those candidates who make it through the pre-screening phase are then tested using advanced personnel selection software. The system is designed to identify candidates with the following skills and qualities critical to success in the agent position:

• Integrity
• High level of inter-personal and communication skills
• Higher than average aptitude level
• Results-driven personality
• Willingness and ability to take direction
• Strong decision-making skills
• Ability to analyze financial data
• Positive attitude


In addition to completing the automated assessments, each agent candidate who is being seriously considered for a position must undergo a thorough background investigation (of both personal and employment references) as well as a series of interviews. The first interview is conducted via phone by the department supervisor. Based on the supervisor’s discretion, the candidate is then sent for a face to face interview by the department Manager. Applicants who impress the manager are scheduled for a final interview with the Vice President of Operations prior to receiving a formal job offer.

According to Brunet, about 20% of candidates do not pass the written test and/or background check, and only about half of those who make it to the interview phase are offered a job.

Such a stringent agent selection process is far from the norm in the contact center industry. Many centers, eager to attack the queue, offer applicants a headset as long as they have a pulse and are currently not incarcerated.

And while Brunet acknowledges that hiring at Collectcorp is time- and resource-consuming, he wouldn’t change a thing.
 
“Our level of commitment to our client’s is to allocate top talent. This remains key to producing ‘best in class’ performance and customer treatment results. Our corporate culture is to provide superior results, win competitive races, earn increased market share and reduce our clients’ operating cost, while ensuring a healthy and prosper work environment for our employees.”

Collectcorp – The Big Picture:

Location:  Multisite: Toronto, Kingston, St. Catharines, Gatineau Canada; Phoenix, Arizona.; St. Luis Park, Minnesota, Mazatlan, Mexico and Hobart, Australia
Hours of operation: 24 x 7
Number of agents: 1,800
Products/services provided: Offers customized accounts receivable management and call center support services to the largest private and public sector institutions.
Why I like them: The center’s world-class employee recruiting and assessment practices ensure that the center is always staffed with – and retains – talented and committed agents.

Jared Fletcher
8/31/2010 07:21:44 pm

Greg, thanks for sharing. Sounds like Collectcorp has a solid strategy to recruiting and retaining agents. The traditional radio and newspaper approach to recruiting has certainly taken a backseat to many of the approaches outlined above.

Reply
8/31/2010 10:53:06 pm

Very true, Jared.

While there is still a place for traditional recruiting methods, the best contact centers today go beyond the banal with their hiring tactics.

What Collectcorp is doing is very representative of the best practices I cover in Chapter 2 ("Higher Hiring") of my upcoming ebook -- FULL CONTACT, due out soon.

Thanks for your comment!

Regards,

Greg

Reply
Andrew
9/1/2010 02:05:05 am

Greg-I'd be curious to know what strategies Collectcorp uses to retain after hire? Proper screening only goes so far-top talent can be expensive to retain as well. Are there ancilliary benefits offered aside from a strong corporate culture/competitive compensation?

Reply
9/1/2010 02:51:28 am

Good question, Andrew. Yes, Collectcorp has a number of agent engagement and retention initiatives in place to keep agents, well, in place -- and motivated.

Shoot me an email at greg@greglevin.com and I'll be happy to provide you with Jason Brunet's contact info. That way you two can share experiences/insight one-on-one!

Best,

Greg

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