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Your Next Great Employee Is Calling – Improving Quality of Hire for Your Call Center

by Joseph Murphy

Last year, Deloitte published the results of a survey of global contact centers, which identified several noteworthy trends, including:

  1. Contact centers continue to grow in size and strategic importance.
  2. Customer experience is very much a competitive differentiator.
  3. Contact centers suffer from very high annual turnover rates among their representatives.
  4. Contact center staffing is more important than ever and many contact centers face the challenge of hiring people who just aren’t a good fit.

Call centers are providing differentiated customer service as a means to increase loyalty and satisfaction. They are seeking to ensure that their staff emulates the service delivery models of their clients – demonstrating the same kind of customer focus, product knowledge, and service delivery etiquette as a full-time employee of that client.

This enhanced customer service effort ultimately comes down to people. Hire the wrong call center agent and suffer the consequences of low customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, productivity (including sales), team morale, profitability and brand delivery, to name a few.

Finding the Right People – The Resume Fallacy

So, how do you ensure you have methods to manage quality of hire for your call center?

Unfortunately, when it comes to talent acquisition, there is no magic bullet.  Not all call centers are created to deliver the same experience.  As such, qualities that make for success in one call center are often not the secret sauce in another.  A call center agent’s long-term success depends more on job-fit factors than on past experiences and product knowledge. Some key characteristics of a successful call center candidate are their ability to:

  • Respond to callers in a service oriented, brand positive way
  • Convey confidence and rapport while providing proof understanding
  • Split their attention between two tasks simultaneously
  • Quickly and accurately enter data
  • Navigate complex and multiple data sources for information and answers
  • Understand and draw conclusions from information pertaining to the caller
  • Accurately and quickly document call outcomes and actions needed

Often recruiters and hiring managers hone in on resumes as a means to ascertain the best fit for their environment. This is a logical, but limited approach. Research on the usefulness of resumes for identifying future successful employees shows that resumes are at best marginally useful to ascertain job fit. They add almost no predictive value and are not consistent from one applicant to the next.

A Better Hiring Approach

Work-sample, or simulation based assessment of candidates’ capabilities can help you hire better call center agents who will stay longer. Work samples provide objective and consistent evidence to support hiring decisions that improve quality of hire.

Simulation-based pre-employment assessments systematically evaluate candidates’ capabilities and help you make smarter, more informed hiring decisions that drive business results. These multi-method assessments are used to measure a variety of attributes ranging from personality traits, motivations, specific skills and abilities like multi-taking, computer navigation, problem solving, and overall job fit. Simulations often provide candidates with realistic job previews of the call center work environment and a sampling of agent job tasks. By rolling up their sleeves and trying out aspects of the role during the screening process, albeit virtually, you can ensure that the candidate experience delivers a better understanding of the reality of the job.

Here are a few quotes from call center candidates after completing a simulation.

"Very user friendly, easy to understand and I would highly recommend it to any of my close friends looking for work."

"What an amazing application! I've never experienced a Virtual Job Tryout, and what an amazing tryout it was!"

"Really well presented and easy to understand. A good introduction to the CSR position, as it gives examples of what the CSR may encounter when real people are calling the office."

"Loved the Tryout. It really showed how fast paced things are in a CSR environment."

"It’s a great way to see if you are really interested in this job. Very creative!"

"It was well thought out and provided me with a realistic model for the job expected of me."

Effectively identifying high-potential candidates requires a more evidence-based hiring approach than resume reviews. Words on a page do not convey a meaningful story of job-fit. Companies that go beyond resumes and experience to assess candidates’ competencies achieve double-digit percentage improvement in sales, productivity, retention, and other key call center metrics.

So what are some of the best practices for improving quality of hire for your call center? And, what type of ROI can you expect from pre-employment assessments? Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll delve deeper into both of those topics and more.