Off Center
 
Managers today realize no contact center can succeed without highly skilled, engaged and (mostly) sober agents manning the frontline. In the best centers, the hiring program is handled less like an agent acquisition process and more like an agent retention tool. After all, taking the time to recruit and select the most qualified and committed candidates is one of the best ways to reduce costly negative attrition among the agent ranks. Rushing through the hiring process may enable you to quickly get bodies in seats to meet the center’s staffing requirements, but those bodies aren’t likely to stick around for long or perform well if you don’t first take the time to ensure that they are attached to heads that are filled with what it takes to succeed in a customer care environment.

I’ve worked with many contact center managers who boast about how their “positive corporate culture” and “powerful brand” results in job candidates lining up outside the door at all times. These managers don’t fear agent turnover too much because they know they have an endless supply of applicants itching to fill the void whenever a space opens up on the frontline. But what some of the managers fail to realize is that just because the line for jobs is long doesn’t mean it’s teeming with talent worthy of interacting with the organization’s valued customers.

Having a large pool of applicants to pick from provides an advantage only when the contact center has the tools in place to separate the real reps from the replicas. These tools include: a focused recruiting process that doesn’t miss alternative yet viable labor pools; proven screening and assessment techniques and technologies that identify which candidates possess the aptitude and attitude to succeed in the dynamic inbound contact center environment; and realistic job previews that show candidates exactly what the job entails so they can make an informed employment decision.  

In this economy, having swarms of a job applicants buzzing around at all times isn’t anything to brag about, and it certainly doesn’t indicate there’s anything special about your organization. If your agents are quitting despite the poor job market, then you definitely don’t have anything to brag about. And yes, agents will leave – regardless of the economic outlook – if they feel like they aren’t cut out for the job, can’t keep up with the persistent demands of customers, and/or discover that what the organization “sold” them during the recruiting and interviewing process isn’t at all reflective of the reality of the agent position.

What does give you bragging rights is having an entire team of agents who are committed to the mission and vision of the contact center and the larger enterprise, who are dedicated to resolving issues and delivering exceptional customer experiences, and who are eager to help bring others like them into the organization.

In my 18 years covering the contact center industry, I’ve seen those kinds of agent teams. I’ve seen them time and again, but only inside of organizations that view their hiring program as, first and foremost, a powerful retention tool.       

Kevin
1/11/2013 03:49:36 am

Greg,

Another bulls-eye for you. Hiring and retention is one of the biggest challenges we face in contact centers. Because this team pool is among the lowest compensated group in a corporation, the turnover rate can be quite high. In the Salt Lake area, we have many contact centers and I believe I read somewhere that our area's turnover rate for that niche is somewhere around 120%. Of course, with my crazy skills, or just craziness, if you will, I've managed to inspire teams and individuals in that same environment to maintain a sub-10% turnover rate. And again, it is largely due to one of those items you highlight above: a focused recruiting process ...proven screening and assessment techniques. HR is a key partner here and an HR department worth their salt will have a number of tools at their fingertips to aid along the way.

That said, I would like to share with you my own personal favorite screening process, complements of a 1981 movie classic:
http://youtu.be/yUAueFkVYvA

Enjoy,

Kev

Reply
1/11/2013 04:15:09 am

As usual Kev, your comment is even more insightful and entertaining than my actual post.

I'll get you for that.

Thanks for the great input (and odd video).

Best,

Greg

Reply
JR Hardenburgh
1/11/2013 06:03:58 am

Greg's article is right on target considering 60% - 65% of the CC budget is spent on agent salaries and recruiting cost can range from $4K - $7K and up per agent, depending on the center. With best in class turnover at 8% there is always a compelling reason to fine tune the hiring screen.

Looks like new year's eve did not destroy as many brain cells as Greg has hoped.

Reply
1/11/2013 08:40:23 am

Glad you liked the piece, JR. Nice stats you threw in there.

And don't worry, I killed PLENTY of brain cells New Year's Eve -- I had the flu!

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