Off Center
 
Contact center managers have been clamoring for more surefire hiring methods for years. They have lost faith in traditional hiring tactics like telephone pre-screenings, personality tests and live interviews – complaining that such tactics provide little insight into whether or not a candidate will remain committed to customer care and a life of poverty.

Great news: A team of top-notch doctors and psychiatrists recently developed a contact center-specific medical exam that promises to revolutionize agent hiring and retention. Following is a detailed description of each test that makes up the exam:


disStress Test. This is somewhat similar to the traditional stress test used by many physicians, but instead of placing agent candidates on a treadmill to evaluate their cardiovascular condition, they are put in a room with a phone and then sent 100 customer calls in 60 minutes.

Candidates who handle between 70-100 calls before losing consciousness should be hired by the contact center immediately. Those who handle between 40-70 calls before losing consciousness should be kept for further testing. Those who handle between 1-40 calls should be rejected immediately. And those who refuse to take even a single call should be placed on the company’s “executive training” track.


Electro-mail-ogram. This test is similar to the more familiar electromyogram, but where the latter features the sticking of painful electric needles into the candidate’s muscles to test for degenerative tissue/nerves, the former features the sticking of painful electric needles into the candidate’s frontal lobe to test for degenerative spelling/grammar. After each EMG, managers receive a full diagnostic report on the candidate’s written communication skills – including a ranking of each candidate from 1-10, with 10 being “masterful wordsmith” and 1 being “college graduate.”

The test is absolutely essential for contact centers in need of e-support agents who will be able to effectively handle customer email. It’s also good for contact centers that enjoy making their applicants cry.


CHAT scan. Not to be confused with a CAT scan, which provides a highly detailed computerized image of a subject’s brain and inter-cranial fascia, a CHAT scan provides a highly detailed computerized image of a subject’s wrist and fingers. The latter test determines whether or not an agent candidate has the proper carpal/metacarpal makeup to succeed in the physically demanding and fast-paced web chat environment. Specifically, the test reveals if there is any existing or potential weakness/abnormalities in any of the muscles and tendons needed for rapid typing or for flicking off managers when their back is turned.

A thorough CHAT scan will also identify if a candidate’s wrist/hand strength is overly excessive. Such brute strength can be a detriment to e-support efficiency, as the agent will be less likely to focus on chat sessions and more likely to focus on trying to remove the shackles that confine him to his workstation.


Rep-lex Test. Just like a reflex test, only completely different. Where a reflex test features the tapping of the patient’s patella tendon to see if they respond with an involuntary kick, a Rep-lex test features the flashing of the phrase “200 calls in queue” across a readerboard to see if the agent candidate responds with a panic attack. Such a traumatic response shows that the candidate truly takes customer care to heart. If, instead of the desired panic attack, a candidate responds by yawning or taking a book out and reading calmly, it’s best to eliminate the candidate from the running, or, if yours is a software support contact center, hiring them as a senior agent.


Flex-ray. This is like an X-ray, but focuses only on the patient’s spinal column. A typical Flex-ray test measures the flexibility of the spine and determines whether or not the candidate is likely to bend over completely backward for the contact center.

Candidates with abnormally rigid vertebrae should not be considered for contact center work, unless of course the company is in need of a scheduler. The ideal is to find candidates with virtually no backbone to speak of, as such individuals are not only easy to boss around, they are able to scrunch up enough to work in cubicles as small as 2’ x 2’, thus saving the company thousands of dollars in facility expenses.



NOTE: No contact center agents were harmed in the making of this blog post. The same will not be said if you actually end up using the medical exam Greg has described. 

 
With call centers and customer care evolving so rapidly, it’s only natural that new types of jobs should start to emerge. Back in the 1980s and early1990s – when call centers were dungeons where supervisors whipped reps whose AHT was higher than desired – nobody could have pictured that centers would one day have an entire team dedicated to quality and customer satisfaction, or that it would be illegal to line cubicles with electric fencing.

These are exciting times for call center professionals who are serious about carving out a career -- one that doesn’t involve day-trading and/or exotic dancing on the side to make ends meet. A whole slew of new and rewarding customer care opportunities are on the horizon. Let’s take a peek at some of them, and then get our resumes ready:   


Chief Customer Silencer. I’ve always been a big proponent of “Voice of the Customer” initiatives, but some customers just need a little assistance in shutting up. That’s where the Chief Customer Silencer comes in.

The person in this high-profile, low-patience position is responsible for monitoring all contact channels and community sites, identifying frustrated and problematic customers, and reminding those customers that their health could take a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse if their incessant public complaints about the company don’t cease.

Ever wonder whatever happened to that guy who made the viral video about how United Airlines broke his guitar? My guess is that United got smart and hired a Chief Customer Silencer.  

When selecting a CSS for your organization, look for somebody with ample knowledge of social media monitoring and service recovery techniques, and who lives in New Jersey, Chicago or Sicily.  


Virtual Agent Secret Agent. Home agent programs are currently all the rage. And while most call centers that have embraced the virtual agent model have a solid selection process in place, there is no guarantee that their remote staff is abiding by all the rules and haven’t at least tried removing their house arrest ankle bracelet. That’s where the Virtual Agent Secret Agent comes in (though you may not know they’ve come in – they’re stealthy).

The VASA’s main objective is to gracefully gain access to a home agent’s house and secretly watch their every move – with the exception of bathing, which few home agents do anyway. VASAs aren’t there to micro-manage performance; that’s the job of the agent’s supervisor. Instead, they take special note of such things as whether or not the agent has changed their pajamas in five days, how often they make their little brother take calls while they nap, and how much they earn daily from selling customer account information to neighbors.     

To be effective, VASAs should be small, agile and have the innate ability to go completely unnoticed in a room, thus the ideal candidate is a life insurance salesperson with a ninja or jockey background. Check craigslist. 


Textpert. With text quickly catching up to voice in terms of how customers interact with companies, call centers need to seriously panic. Centers that are not adept at panicking do have a second option, which involves accepting the aforementioned shift in communication preferences and doing something about it. That’s where the Textpert comes in.

The Textpert is tasked with responding quickly, accurately and courteously to all customer emails, chats, SMS messages, social media comments/inquiries, hate mail and ransom notes. Exemplary spelling, grammar, professionalism and eloquence are all key requirements for this position, which rules out all human beings of working age in the modern era.


Service Saboteur. Numerous studies have revealed what has come to be known as “The Service Recovery Paradox,” which basically states that an effective recovery process following a bad service experience often results in higher customer satisfaction ratings than if the bad experience had never occurred in the first place. In other words, first you have to screw up before you can really impact customer loyalty. That’s where the Service Saboteur comes in.

The person in this important position is responsible for intentionally and strategically providing poor customer service so that the center’s Recovery Team can then swoop in and sweep customers off their feet. It shouldn’t be difficult to find qualified Service Saboteur candidates from you existing staff. Just pick from among your rudest, most apathetic and most incompetent agents, give them a new business card, and instead of reprimanding them every time they alienate or offend a customer, give them a pat on the back and a slight raise in pay.