Call Center Management Feature Article
June 24, 2014
Agent Retention Starts With Hiring the Right Employees
By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor
While all businesses face problems with employee turnover, some industries suffer far higher rates of turnover than others, and this is a real problem. Companies hire individuals, train them and get them up to speed with their jobs, only to lose them after a few months. Not only have company resources been wasted in these cases, but organizations are losing knowledgeable workers and replacing them with newbies, which can bring down the quality of service offered to customers. Nobody wants to run a businesses staffed entirely by rookies.
This is a particular problem for the call center industry. High turnover means that contact centers are always in hiring and training mode, and when employees leave, they take the skills and experience they have racked up with them, leaving customers in the hands of trainees. While most contact centers are aware of the problem, they’re far less aware of what steps they can take to mitigate it. Paying employees more is often beyond organizations’ abilities, particularly those working on fixed budgets, and still doesn’t guarantee that employees will stay.
It may help for contact centers to examine case studies for other high turnover industries, such as food service and restaurants, which also experience high turnover and are under the same pressures to provide excellence customer service. A recent blog post for the National Restaurant Association explores how hiring the right people in the first place may help stem high turnover. Tom Clark (News - Alert), area partner for FATZ Café, which has 47 locations across the Southeast, told the NRA that the chain brought together a taskforce to develop interview guides to help managers ask questions that identify whether an applicant is a good fit.
“We put a lot of emphasis on finding a certain personality,” Clark says. “We’re looking for someone who is happy, a doer, a natural team player, who is always helping others. The questions are designed to bring out an applicant’s personality and accomplishments.”
Often, hiring is left to managers’ whims and personal preferences (or simply desperation to fill a job) and less attention is paid to whether that person is a good fit to begin with. Some successful organizations today have sought to change this, developing interview guides that include questions about skills and knowledge, personal attributes, availability, previous experience and job accomplishments. The guides include space for interviewers to rate each response and make notes, as well as rate personality traits, such as enthusiasm and communication skills.
In the contact center, managers should be looking for people with personality traits that include patience, empathy, a true desire to help customers and a friendly, outgoing personality that enjoys talking to people. Pre-employment testing solutions exist that can help companies develop a guide for recruiting the kind of people who display these character traits. To take the subjectivity out of the process, it may help to run applications past more than one manager to find recruits who are most likely to fit the contact center’s culture.
Once the right employees are hired, there are also steps contact centers can take to keep them, such as positive feedback, regular performance management evaluations that focus on career development, perks such as a pleasant working environment and schedule flexibility, which can be accomplished with the help of modern workforce management tools. Using WFM to make sure employees are scheduled for tasks at which they excel and that allow them to swap schedules and request time off based on performance and merit can go a long way to keeping the right employees in place.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi