A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking at the annual gathering of the Hampton Roads Contact Center Group in Virginia Beach. I had a great time and I was able to see some old and valued friends.
During the discussion the issue of better hiring practices arose -it always does.
Although hiring well is important across the entire organization for obvious reasons, hiring always seems to have a solid place on the 3 contact centers issues list, so I thought I would comment on it here.
When we don’t hire well, turnover increases and productivity and quality decreases. It all adds up to additional costs, both hard and soft. So, it’s important to find the right match for the job.
A question came up during the meeting: Can a good agent be made as opposed to hired?
We spend lots of time and money looking for the right candidate with the appropriate experience etc. More ofthen than we’d like, after all this effort, we still find an unacceptable level of risk in our hires. So, would we be better off training them from scratch?
My political answer is Yes and No. (I should run for office)
Of course, I think we can train and purposefully develop great agents, however, some people have better aptitute for particular types of jobs than others. We can probably agree that a collections agent is not usually the same person as a customer support agent.
So yes, training is necessary and can be very effective, however, if climbing trees is the goal, I would much rather start with a monkey than a chicken. You know what I mean?
Although I think we can develop much of what is in a great agent, I would still rather start with a person that has many of the key skills, personality traits and cognitive abilities critical to job success. Looking for these candidates from the “get-go”, increases our chances of a better fit.
The right match means the right aptitude, cognitive skills and attitude as well as experience and skills. Given a choice, I’ll pick the first 3 over the experience. When building from an appropriate base, training is more natural and faster, and the results are better and longer lasting.
Of all the problems related to hiring at Contact Centers, the single largest and most costly is Short Term attrition. The majority of agent attrition occurs in the first 90 days and is a direct result of poor fit.
The average cost for an attrition-ed employee in the first 90 days is between $5,000 ~ $8,000. You can do the math yourself, by counting how many people you lost last year iduring this period.
Anything we can do to improve our ability to identify and hire the required skills, personality traints and cognitive abilities, the better off we will be.
Two things that have made a difference in my experience.
1. Improved communications regarding the job.
So many applicants arrive at their first interview (phone or in person) not fully understanding the job for which they are applying. Mostly because of poor communications about the particulars of the position. A full, clear, and honest explanation of the job is very important. Also, a download-able or a stream-able recording of typical calls can make a significant difference.
2. Understand and Look for the characteristics that matter most.
If we could assess an rate the critical characteristics for successful agents across your population, we would be better served to start looking for candidates that more closely match these characteristics in personality traits, cognitive abilities, and the like.
I belive in profiling. It provides the opportunity to identify the key required traits and then allows us to assess new prospective employees against these requirements.
I have found dramatically decreased short term attrition as a result of these two practices.
There are software products out there that can assist in this area: wp_attrition11
Yes, we can create make the agent we want, but the resources and time required are dictated by how close the new hire matches the proven and appropriate profile.
Committed to XCS !