Great customer service and support doesn’t happen by accident. So why do so many contact centers hire “accidental” agents?
Not familiar with that term? That’s because I just made it up – but it’s a fitting one.
Most contact centers rush through the recruiting and hiring process in order to quickly fill agent openings, and, in doing so, end up with agents who never intended on working in customer care but who applied anyway because times are tight and decent jobs hard to come by. In other words, these agents landed in their job by accident. You can’t fault these individuals for their aimlessness. You can, however, fault contact centers for theirs.
If your center’s recruiting and hiring program is characterized by a “ready, fire, aim” approach, expect accidents to occur. More often than not.
There are plenty of viable and passionate agent candidates out there – people looking to embrace a career in the contact center and to create positive and memorable customer experiences. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a team of inspired agents who truly want to be in your center rather than a bunch of placeholders just biding time until they find another job “on purpose”?
In order to build such a team of agents, centers need to embrace the following recruiting and hiring practices:
1) Actively encourage and incentivize employee referrals. “Old school” as they may be, employee referrals remain one of the best recruiting methods at the contact center’s disposal. A hiring practices study conducted by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) revealed employee referrals to be the most common AND most successful recruiting method used by contact center professionals.
Not surprising. After all, who knows the agent position and what it takes to excel in it better than your existing agents? Those with a passion for the job enjoy sharing their experiences with friends, and are thrilled to help bring those with talent into the fold. To help pare down the number of unqualified referrals submitted by staff, many contact centers offer small cash incentives (or other alluring perks) to agents whose referrals end up being offered and accepting a job. In some centers, additional incentives are provided when the person the agent referred performs at a high level, stays with the job for a pre-determined minimum amount of time (six months, one year, etc.), and never once cries on the phone.
2) Strategically use social media to attract agent talent. The most progressive contact centers use social media not just to respond to customer complaints and queries but also to recruit the center’s future stars. Concise and captivating tweets like “Hot job for customer-focused folks” that include the right hashtags along with a link to a compelling job description can go a long way toward attracting highly qualified and social media-savvy agent applicants. What are the right hashtags? I recommend using at least one or two of the following: #custserv, #cctr, #contactcenter, #callcenter, #custexp, and, of course, #jobs. It’s also a good idea to tag your city (e.g., #Seattle), and to include a good subliminal hashtag, like #leaveyourcurrentcenterandworkforus.
Twitter isn’t the only social media e-cruiting tool contact centers can use. Many centers announce jobs on their Facebook page as well as in Linked In groups dedicated to contact centers and customer care – all of which feature a “Jobs” section.
3) Partner with colleges and trade schools that offer contact center/customer service curriculum. A growing number of post-secondary schools have created contact center and customer service-related programs and curriculum for students who have always dreamed of owning their own headset. Many forward-thinking contact centers have partnered with these schools – helping to create course content and even teaching some classes in exchange for getting first crack at graduates. In many programs, students complete internships with partnering contact centers, where they handle basic calls in a controlled setting. In essence, the center gets to “test drive” these aspiring agents at little risk (and the student gets to see if they really want to work in a contact center environment). Successful internships typically result in job offers, thus the center ends up with new, well-trained and committed agents who are workstation ready.
4) Invest in a pre-hire agent assessment solution. Adopting the recruiting practices recommended above will certainly help you to avoid hiring “accidental agents”, but you still need to test each qualified applicant to ensure they truly have the goods to effectively handle your customer contacts and abuse. The best way to do this is via a good pre-hire agent assessment solution. Today’s assessment solutions are primarily web-based product suites with a range of modules and reporting tools that contact centers can customize to fit their specific business environment. The leading solutions feature tools that assess agent skills, personality, work habits, level of motivation, and likelihood of spontaneously combusting during peak calling periods.
5) Track the effectiveness of each recruiting method – and take appropriate action based on the results. Contact centers that consistently acquire and retain talented and dedicated agents have a holistic recruitment tracking process in place, one that not only tracks how many qualified applicants each recruiting method brings in, but also how those applicants who accept a job perform during training and beyond – and how long they stick around. By continuously keeping tabs on which recruitment methods give the most bang for the buck and which ones need to be improved or perhaps eliminated, these organizations continually maintain a focused and cost-effective hiring program that sets them – and their agents – up for success long into the future.
There are a host of applicant recruitment/retention tracking tools and software on the market that contact centers can use, many of which don’t require a large up-front investment, and all of which will help keep managers from going insane while trying to track recruiting effectiveness manually.
Does your contact center utilize any of the above recruiting and hiring practices? What other kinds of things do you do to avoid staffing the center with “accidental” agents? Please share in the comment box below.
About Greg Levin
Greg Levin, Founder of Off Center, is one of the most unique and refreshing voices in the customer care industry. He has been researching, reporting on and satirizing contact center management and customer care since 1994 – first with ICMI, a leading consulting and training firm, and now as an independent writer, speaker and rabble rouser.
Greg offers a wide range of valuable and compelling resources – all aimed at educating, empowering and entertaining contact center professionals worldwide. Most notable is his popular weekly Off Center blog and his critically acclaimed ebook, Full Contact: Contact Center Practices and Strategies that Make an Impact.
To learn more about Greg and what he brings to the table, go to: