5 Strategies for Finding Top Contact-Center Talent

Updated: January 14, 2008

Issue

Attracting and retaining top talent is one of the toughest challenges facing contact-center managers today. As if identifying qualified agents wasn't tough enough, the cost of turnover in most contact centers represents a tremendous financial burden. Hancock Information Group estimates that it costs roughly $3,000 to train one agent during a two-week period. Staffing represents nearly two-thirds of call-center operating costs. The typical cost-per-hire for an agent ranges from $5,000 to $15,000. And agent-replacement costs can be 1.5 times the agent's annual salary. The bottom line: Companies simply can't afford to mismanage the recruitment of their contact-center talent.

But there's more than one way to populate a contact center with qualified agents. Here are a handful of approaches to attracting today's best and brightest candidates.

Strategies

1. Hire in-house talent for the right reasons. When searching for fitting candidates, don't just look at an individual's credentials and skill sets. Rather, keep an eye out for applicants that have the determination and motivation to weather the highs and lows of working as a contact-center agent, even if it means passing on someone with superior qualifications.

2. State your intentions. If you're only looking for seasonal assistance to help with a spike in customer demand, be upfront and honest with candidates. Letting applicants know what your expectations are, what's required of them and what their job responsibilities will be will help boost employee morale and increase job satisfaction.

3. Take a fresh approach to hiring virtual agents. The hiring tactics that help you recruit in-house talent aren't likely to come in handy when locating at-home agents. That's because the profiles of the two agent groups are quite different. For example, the average age of an in-house contact-center agent is 23, while the average for the at-home agent is 38 and older, according to a Frost and Sullivan study. What's more, over 80 percent of home agents have at least some college education, as compared to 35 percent of those in brick-and-mortar centers. Targeting such different demographics means developing two distinct sets of recruitment strategies.

4. Consider outsourcing. For many companies, getting customer service right entails starting from scratch by overhauling their entire contact centers. But if finding the right talent still proves too challenging and costly, Michael DeSalles, a Frost and Sullivan strategic analyst, recommended asking yourself, "Do I want to start to build my organization all over again just to bring in this agent pool, or would I rather have someone do it for me?" After all, he said, a third-party provider can invest copious amounts of time and energy searching for appropriate candidates, which allows you to focus on your business.

5. Remember to retain. Recruiting qualified agents is only half the battle of managing a successful contact center. However, ensuring agents stick around for the long haul entails more than simply offering decent wages. From providing employee benefits to offering financial incentives such as gift cards and product discounts, companies need to come up with innovative ways of keeping agents happy if they want to realize an investment on their recruitment dollars.

Recommendations

Finding the best candidates for your contact center is more important than you might think. Without carefully considering the above-listed strategies, you could be stuck with unproductive employees and high turnover rates. Make sure you employ these tips while also maintaining a positive work environment so that your agents are content at their jobs. That way, you'll know you're using your call center to its fullest potential.

For more information on contact centers, consult Focus' relevant research; join a discussion in the Customer Service Group; or pose a question to the Focus Expert Network.

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