How Vonage is Increasing Customer Satisfaction by Hiring Better

Frost & Sullivan recently hosted an eBroadcast titled “The First Step Toward Improving the Customer Experience: Recruiting and Hiring the Right Agents”.

In Part I, we summarized ideas from Keith Dawson, Frost’s Principal Analyst for Information and Technologies, and his concept of a “blind spot” that many contact center managers have when it comes to understanding the importance of automating their hiring process and its relationship to overall customer satisfaction.

In Part II, Mike Trotter, VP Customer Experience at Vonage, and Jeff Furst, President and CEO at FurstPerson discuss the methodologies used in effective pre-hire assessments and how Vonage has leveraged these technologies to improve the hiring process and link it back to Vonage’s drive to improve the customer experience.

In the contact center world today, the customer experience is critical. It’s easy to understand that a positive customer experience leads to repeat business. As Mike Trotter points out, "If I keep turning my people over, I keep exposing my customers to new agents as opposed to experienced agents…and our agents have a huge impact on our customers’ experience. The contact center today is absolutely the connection point between the customer and the business. In many cases, it’s the only experience the customer will have with your company aside from using your product or service.” As an industry veteran, Trotter notes that contact centers still face the same primary challenges now as they did 20 years ago. That is, “… Finding good quality people and then keeping them in your seats long enough to become experienced, high-quality employees.”

Trotter and Furst both discuss how contact center hiring has become much more strategic with the use of tactics and tools based in data-driven research, technology advancements, and systematic linkage back to the business objectives. These tools take into account the most and least critical competencies based on the job analysis and introduce a measurable approach to assessing these competencies in applicants.

Jeff Furst explains that to effectively staff a contact center, a crucial first step is to understand the business objectives and how your agents are connected to those objectives. Company culture, details of the job, and specific competencies also need to be evaluated and understood in order to construct an effective hiring model. According to Furst, “…Organizations are hiring to specific call types or job roles instead of the ‘one size fits all’ model in thinking about customer care, sales, collections and technical support positions.” In order to hire the right agents for their needs, hiring managers must first define what their agents need to do to deliver the right customer experience. In the case of Vonage, their objective is to find agents who are customer-focused and able to provide effective and efficient responses to customer needs with an emphasis on first call issue resolution. Finding agents with low average handle times and who can do efficient post-call work are important to them, but not as important as finding agents who can listen and respond with empathy to clients, and who have the ability to identify issues and deliver specific answers effectively and efficiently.

Vonage’s first step was to conduct a job analysis with subject matter experts. Through their job analysis, Vonage discovered that candidates who demonstrated competencies such as composure, listening, compliance, probing ability and problem-solving were more effective in their positions and experienced lower rates of turnover.

Second, Vonage linked the hiring profile based on the job analysis to predictive assessment tools like personality tests, abilities screening tests, and pre-hire simulation test. By using the assessments before scheduling the interview, Vonage is able to saves time and money by screening out the candidates who do not possess the desired competencies. They also identify those who were more likely to do well, “fit in” with the job they’re applying for, and thus stay on the job longer. “We brought in a lot of data to help us drive the hiring process and to help us assess the real compatibility of the individual job candidate to do the work,” said Trotter. “…Because not everybody is a fit for talking on the phone or capable of working at a computer while talking on the phone. Being able to screen candidates created a better process for us, and actually lowered our costs and gave us a more effective, higher quality individual and reduced attrition as well.” In addition, Vonage discovered that using a pre-hire simulation in their hiring process also allowed candidates to self-select and sometimes withdraw their applications when they realized that contact center work wasn’t a good fit for them.

Increasing customer satisfaction is a stated goal at Vonage. As Keith Dawson pointed out during his comments, the relationship between hiring the right employees, particularly in a contact center, and increasing customer satisfaction is often overlooked by hiring managers which creates a blind spot. By automating its hiring process, using a more strategic approach and taking time to analyze the job and their employee competency needs, Vonage has been able to identify and hire candidates that better meet the needs of their contact center and who are more likely to stay in their positions for a longer period of time. Vonage is avoiding this blind spot by leveraging investments in hiring tools and processes and focus on linking the hiring process to an improved customer experience.

One comment

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your post if I’d written it myself! The National Telecommuting Institute (NTI) is a non-profit company that places disabled workers in virtual positions as call center agents and medical transcriptionists. Every year we see between 7-10, 0000 applicants come to our web site looking for jobs. There is no way we could process that many individuals if we hadn’t automated our screening and assessment process.
    Our clients demand qualified agents with specific job capabilities. The thought of even trying to do that in depth analysis without automation is daunting. At NTI we have a slight wrinkle in our approach. Where other call centers and outsourcers goal is to weed out applicants ours is to identify the applicants strengths and weaknesses and provide the necessary training to fill the gaps. But like other call centers and outsourcers we want to have people self-select out if being a virtual agent/MT is for them.
    Providing training for virtual positions has its own set of challenges. The success of your virtual agents depends on more than just the skills and aptitude your selection and hiring process confirms. Training them on the tools and content to successfully perform the job for which you hired them is equally critical.
    Just as your recruiters will conduct successful recruiting and hiring without any face-to-face interaction with applicants, your instructors will also never meet their students. They will deliver training via virtual classrooms. Training departments can select from among a plethora of distance learning platforms to adapt and extend the in-person training they currently provide in physical facilities to curricula for virtual trainees.
    Great post! Keep it up.
    Alan W. Hubbard


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