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Call Center Staffing – Best Practices and ROI

by Joseph Murphy

When you operate a call center, you want to know which candidates can perform the job, will stay in the job long enough to be productive, will provide a return on the initial recruiting and training investments, and will have the greatest impact on key call center metrics.

To ensure you’re using the right approach to assessing candidates for your call center, I’ve identified a few best practices to consider for improving quality of hire:

Multi-Method Measurement: A combination of assessment types during the hiring process provides a more comprehensive assessment of candidates, compared to using a single test.

Realistic Job Previews: Present candidates with a balanced and candid overview of the company, the call center environment, the work hours, management style, and performance expectations so they can make an informed decision.

Data-Driven Decisions: In the case of high-population jobs, such as call centers, in particular, using data as the foundation for creating a business case and documenting return on investment for your staffing processes is critical.

Use of Job Tryouts or Simulations: The best way to identify whether an individual has what it takes to thrive in a call center environment is to allow them to attempt tasks that mirror the complexity of the work. This gives insight into both their behaviors (how they do it) and outcomes (what they achieve).

Job Tryouts - A Closer Look

A true job tryout or work sample – where a person is hired and then demonstrates whether they can handle the job demands – can be very effective, but it is not a very practical approach to staffing. A better option is to obtain a work sample from the candidate prior to extending an offer of employment. This is the premise of the Virtual Job Tryout or customized simulation. This type of whole-person, day-in-the-life assessment is like test driving a car before buying it.

For applicants, a Virtual Job Tryout is a fun and engaging experience that provides a realistic preview of the job and the company. At the same time, you get to learn about the candidates’ capabilities, not by searching for key words or experiences in a resume or application, but by immersing the candidate in the role and actually having them perform key duties. What better way to ascertain candidates’ capabilities than to have them perform activities that mimic key job responsibilities?

Return On Investment

When it comes to investing in a staffing process such as job simulations, there are three avenues where you can expect a return:

  1. Administrative efficiency: The use of technology delivers efficiency improvements with regard to managing candidate flow. Cost-per-hire, time-to-fill, and interview-to-hire ratio are a few metrics that can be tracked to demonstrate administrative efficiency.
  2. Reducing waste, rework and defects: New hires that are separated within 90 days of starting can be viewed as staffing process defects or waste. The total investment in sourcing, recruiting, on-boarding, training and wages paid can be calculated to determine the cost of a staffing defect. Rework is then required to replace or repair defects and waste. Replacement hires must back-fill the new vacancies, doubling the cost and time to achieve the proficient performer stage. Significant savings can result from reducing staffing waste.
  3. Reducing performance variation: When it comes to staffing, reducing hiring decisions that allow poor performers into the organization can have significant economic impact. It is important to reduce low-end performance variation by screening out anyone who would emerge as an under performer. This can lift the average level of performance in a work group. And hiring above average candidates is important. Quantifying the impact of performance variation with talent analytics reveals vital business insights.

Improving Quality of Hire

In high population jobs such as call center agents, candidate evaluation methods can be used to objectively and cost-effectively differentiate performance potential. In our consulting work, we have documented the difference between candidates’ performance on simulation-based assessments (i.e., work samples) and on-the-job performance. Agents who score higher on the assessment perform at higher levels when it comes to key indicators of successful call center agents.

Quality of hire is documented by on-the-job performance. The chart below documents the Average Handle Time for two groups of hires: Those with Low Job-Fit Scores (bottom 30% of candidates) and those with High Job-Fit Scores (top 70% of candidates).  High scoring individuals entered the job producing more efficient work, at a more consistent level.  The low scoring individuals were immediately less effective and it took a year of experience (plus additional coaching) to approach the call efficiency levels of other new hires.  The impact of that performance gap can never be closed.

Through proper talent analytics, you can be armed with measurable assessment results and robust data to compare and contrast candidates, your recruiters and hiring managers can objectively and reliably make choices about which call center candidates should be considered for an interview. With this information in hand, you can invest your time with better candidates, reduce the interview-to-hire ratio, and increase the quality of hire.

Interested in discussing further? Come visit us at ERE in San Diego (Booth 820).