Hiring and Training

5 Lesser-Known Benefits of Hiring Remote Contact Center Agents

Thanks to cloud software, the remote contact center agent is possible, and even preferred in some cases. There are a lot of benefits to having at-home contact center agents:

  • Cost is lowered for both you (no office space) and them (no commute).
  • Remote agents tend to be happier.
  • Your contact center will be more scalable than a 100% brick and mortar one.

Those are just the obvious benefits, though. Here are five more that you may have never considered.

  1. The cloud is uncomplicated.

With the cloud, agents have the same capabilities and accessibility they would in an office. Plus, there isn’t any installation, and your company’s data is just as secure as always.

  1. Overstaffing can be avoided.

For the contact center, one of the best ways to control cost is to balance staffing needs. Customer needs have to be met so that the customer experience can remain positive. At the same time, overstaffing – which impacts the budget – has to be avoided. Remote agents can jump in to help when needed, then log off when call volume dips again.

  1. Scheduling becomes much more flexible.

With remote agents on the team, the forecasting and scheduling process doesn’t become more difficult, but instead allows for even more flexibility. You’ll run forecast simulations the same as you always have, but agents can be located in all different time zones, working shifts and hours they prefer, which increases schedule availability.

  1. Tracking performance is the same as before.

Reporting and analytics doesn’t change when it comes to your remote agents. You’ll still be able to see real-time information, agent activities, performance, schedule adherence and shift assignments.

  1. You’ll find it easier to reach service level goals.

Even with excellent forecasting technology, call volume can change quickly. If a product is included on a “Best of” list, call volume may skyrocket. Or, you may have a day when several of your in-office agents are unexpectedly absent. Without enough agents to handle the influx of calls, emails and social media messages, wait times can increase, leading to a drop in customer satisfaction scores. To avoid this, your remote agents can be used as backup when needed.

One last thought.

When you enable some of your agents to work from home, it shows that you trust them. When agents feel appreciated, they’re motivated to perform better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortifying the Career Path of the Contact Center Agent

Employers are experiencing a serious talent shortage, according to a 2016-2017 report from ManpowerGroup. Part of this could be because more and more employees want to work for an employer who will help them advance their career, and they’re happy to leave an employer who prevents them from doing so.

At the same time, contact centers are harnessing the power of AI and chatbots, eliminating the need for agents to perform repetitious, monotonous tasks. As a result, the agent’s role is becoming elevated. Customers want more adept service, too – when they have a complex issue, they want customized service from a knowledgeable, human agent who can creatively problem-solve and who is empowered to make important decisions. This circles right back to benefiting the contact center, because the way to stand out from the competition is to offer top-notch customer service.

Due to the changing workforce, smart contact centers are giving agents the opportunity to advance in their role as well as their career. As management puts trust and faith in their employees, agents feel that their long-term success is important to the company, which improves their performance and loyalty. Even if customer service agents move out of their current job and into a higher position, they bring with them in-depth customer knowledge that they gleaned during their time as an agent.

Even if an agent isn’t yet ready to move up and out of their position, they can become more essential to the contact center and more helpful to the customer by become an SME, or a subject matter expert. SMEs are the go-to agents who have deep understanding of a specific process or product. The SME can help train agents in the same field, deal with escalating calls, and enrich the self-service knowledge base. They may also be asked to work closely with other departments at the contact center, like marketing or product design.

If you’re unsure of where to start when it comes to elevating your workforce, start by asking agents what they’re most interested in. Let your employees shadow parts of the business that they want to know more about, then hold a meeting with the employee to learn about their experience. If your employee shows a strong interest in a different or more advanced area, speak with management to find out how to best accommodate the agent.

 

 

 

 

How Employee Engagement Can Reduce Agent Turnover

How Employee Engagement Can Reduce Agent Turnover

With so much focus on the customer journey, it’s easy to forget that contact center agents have their own journeys, too. According to ICMI, more than 40% of contact centers estimate that agent turnover comes with a cost of more than $25,000 annually. It’s impossible to prevent all agent turnover, but some causes can be addressed and prevented. The happier agents are, the better their customer service will be.

Compare Management Practices

Your contact center’s business practices – such as benefits, salary and schedules – need to match or beat industry standards. If an employee knows they’ll get higher pay and a more flexible schedule at a different contact center, or at most other contact centers, their focus will be on getting a job elsewhere.

Give Additional Responsibilities

For an employee to value their job, they have to feel like they are doing something valuable. Giving your agents responsibilities from the very beginning lets them know that they’re an integral part of the team. Expectations should be clearly defined and they should know who they can go to when they have a question, concern or suggestion.

Setup a Rewards Program

Contact center agents should be recognized and rewarded when they do an outstanding job. A rewards program can motivate employees to continually strive to do better. By creating incentives, agents will be more engaged with their work and their job satisfaction will increase.

Support Each Agent’s Career Path

Managers need to understand that each employee is going to have their own set of goals. Instead of expecting every person to stay in the role they started in, it’s better for both the agent and the company to create an environment where there are promotion opportunities. Open positions should always be filled internally whenever possible. When an employee knows they’re working towards something, like a better role in the contact center, they’ll be encouraged to work harder to show that they’re the right person for the promotion.

Hiring agents is undoubtedly expensive. Costs include screening, recruiting, interviewing, hiring and training. If the agent provides poor customer service, that’s another hidden cost, one that’s difficult to measure but no less important. Once you have a new contact center agent on board, it’s important to keep them happy, engaged and informed. Aim to keep them content with their job so they will continue to work hard for you.

How to Measure the Costs of Agent Attrition: Inebriated Executives

ron.davis

Ron Davis, Founder, CEO: Tenacity

Call Center Managers Rarely Know the Actual Cost of Employee Attrition

As the CEO of a company that helps contact centers reduce employee turnover, I have a lot of conversations with executives about the cost of attrition. Their estimates are as random and dangerous as a game of drunk darts.

A Data Driven Industry?

I find this especially amazing, because year after year these leaders fill out surveys saying that agent turnover is their #1 problem. But after decades of hand wringing, they have no idea what it costs them. For an industry dedicated to painstaking measurement of employee performance, this is surprising. And for an industry suffering with razor thin margins whose biggest preventable costs come from agent turnover, it’s inexcusable.

It’s true that many of these senior managers think they know what it costs when employees leave. Perhaps they read an interesting article about agent retention online, or a consultant gave them a rule of thumb. Maybe they were a bit more ambitious and got someone from the finance team to try and model the cost of agent attrition in a particular call center four or five years ago. Or the executive herself sat down and did some back of the envelope calculations to figure out the hiring and training costs, and figured she had a pretty good grip on the total price of agent turnover. If only they knew.

In most cases, when I dig a little deeper, I learn that these call center bosses have very little idea of the actual, hard, measurable, bottom line costs of losing their employees. And unfortunately, just like in real drunk darts, ignoring your biggest money sink is a hazardous way to spend your time.

Off by 400%

As an example, we recently spoke with a very senior executive about employee retention at his North American contact centers. His thousands of agents go through six weeks of training and two weeks of heavily supervised calls afterward, and then have a nearly eight-month learning curve before becoming fully productive. He said the average cost per attrit is around $3,000. After asking a few more questions, it became obvious that the real, hard, measurable, tangible cost to his bottom line was a bit more than four times as much.

Why is Measurement So Poor?

The reason for this variance is twofold. The first is that the industry has no widely held best practices for measuring the cost of employee turnover, and none of the thought leaders seem to have dedicated enough mindshare to change the way the industry thinks. And fixing this requires more than careful intellectual work – it requires leadership. Unless someone drives the industry forward to embrace standard forms of measurement, the drunk dart “measurements” will continue.

The other reason is incentives. If 5% of your employees quit each month, and there is no standardized definition of the cost of attrition, would you rather report to your boss that this costs $3,000 per person, or $12,000? Mark Twain said there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Clearly, he had never seen a financial model designed by the person whose performance would be judged by its outputs.

Want to fix attrition? Start by getting honest with yourself about its costs.

How to Hire New Contact Center Agents

 

As the face of the company, contact center agents play a major role in the customer experience. In order for your contact center to meet its objectives, the recruitment process has to be well thought out. Training can only do so much and it won’t be able to fix what was ultimately a bad hiring decision. By defining your recruitment process, you’ll be able to choose the best candidates from the start.

Here are four tips for hiring new contact center agents:

  1. Be professional.

Job candidates get their first impression of your contact center from how you present yourself during the recruitment process. Hiring new agents should be approached with the same care that you use when handling customer service inquiries.

  1. Write realistic job postings.

It’s common for job postings to have a lengthy list of “must-haves” for job seekers. However, a lot of these “necessities” are based on corporate boilerplate information instead of actual, meaningful job requirements. It’s better to list just the necessary minimum requirements for the specific role you need to fill. Get rid of any cognitive, personality and behavioral requirements that won’t actually impact job performance. It’s likely that there are agents out there who would be a great fit for your contact center if only they didn’t have to meet a multitude of extraneous prerequisites.

  1. Screen call center candidates for specific job roles.

Some characteristics will be important for contact center hires across the board – communication skills and critical thinking, for example. The rest of the screening and assessment process, though, should focus on how each job candidate will fit the specific role you need to fill. A person interviewing for a sales position should demonstrate skills of persuasion and the ability to convert. A person interviewing for a customer care role should showcase their empathy and their knack for problem solving.

  1. Take advantage of technology.

Finding the right agent is partly a numbers game. The more agents you can attract and consider, the more likely it is that you’ll find the ones who are right for your contact center. Expanding your reach means you’ll have to consider alternatives to traditional hiring practices. Consider interviewing some agents virtually. There’s even cloud software that can record answers, making it easy for you to sift through candidates when you’re ready to take the next step.

Agents are the heart and soul of the contact center. State-of-the-art equipment and brilliant cloud software will never be able to replace quality agents.