Strategies that Separate Myth From Fact in Contact Center Hiring: Understand and Define the Job

Last month at the International Customer Service Association (ICSA) conference in San Antonio, Texas, Barbara Morrison, a Human Resources Director for Suddenlink Communications, and Jeff Furst, President and CEO of FurstPerson, presented a case study titled Separating Myth from Fact: Hiring for Peak Performance and Service.

Based on this discussion, FurstPerson has summarized three key strategies that enable contact center hiring managers to separate myth from fact when developing and operating contact center hiring processes.  These three strategies can be applied to any contact center organization.

Contact center hiring faces many challenges.  But, if these challenges are not solved and poor hiring decisions become the norm, the contact center suffers a financial penalty.  Based on FurstPerson’s study of attrition costs in 2009, the average per agent cost of attrition is $4,284.73.  While attrition is expensive, hiring new employees who perform poorly on the job can lead to additional financial penalties.  Customers who contact you but do not get their issues resolved may defect to competitors.  New agents in production that have higher average handle times may force you to unnecessarily increase headcount to meet service levels.

Over the next couple of weeks, using Suddenlink Communications’ experience as our example, we will focus on proven strategies that separate myth from fact in contact center hiring.

Strategy 1:  Understand and Define the Job

Frequently, contact center organizations do not have a factual basis behind their perceptions of the contact center job.  And, when those jobs change, the hiring model does not adjust based on the changes.  This leads to hiring managers bringing their own views about the job into the hiring process.  The net result is a failure to understand and define the job.

Suddenlink has used multiple job analyses to carefully define their contact center jobs and keep them updated.  The job analysis process enables hiring managers to survey subject matter experts currently working in the job or supervising the job to identify key job requirements.  These job requirements can be defined in terms of the competencies (abilities, behaviors, and skills) that allow a new hire to be successful on the job.

FurstPerson’s four quadrant model provides a foundation for the job analysis process:
FurstPerson's 4 Quadrant Hiring Model
Suddenlink has three main job families:

  • Customer Service
  • Technical Support
  • Inbound Sales

From 2008 to 2010, Suddenlink continued to drive innovations in their operating model.  As a result, the nature of the three jobs changed over time.  Different performance metrics became more important to meeting financial goals.

When Suddenlink updated their job analyses for the three main job families in 2010, the competency profiles had changed compared to previous results.  As an example, the chart below shows the difference from 2008 to 2010.
Suddenlink Technical Support Job Analysis

One of the key changes is that learning aptitude is now critical to successful performance in the Technical Support role.  This led Suddenlink to consider amending the hiring process to include a problem-solving assessment to measure the candidate’s ability to absorb and apply new information.

Our next post will look at another key strategy to successful contact center hiring.

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