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Linking Contact Center Hiring To Sales and Service Effectiveness
Many consulting firms sing the praises of systemic integration, or circular touch points, or other such buzz words inside a company. When it comes to hiring in contact centers, the story can evolve into another kind of circle.
I've been in the business of advising management on methods to achieve revenue growth through more effective utilization of people and process for over 20 years. Although much has changed in business since the start of my career, one thing holds true: the hiring process sets the stage for success or failure in meeting sales, service and revenue objectives.
Ideally, a contact center manager sources and then identifies candidates who will excel at job requirements, and trains them to perform masterfully in a variety of customer situations. In reality, managers scramble to fill open positions, or as the old adage says, "put bums in seats." How a candidate will be performing on the job, or if they will even be on the job in a year, takes a back seat to filling open requisitions. A circle, or rather a downward spiral, develops – one of poor hires at high cost, failure to meet job requirements, with the loop being closed by even more costly turnover.
Here is a real life example: A contact center technology client was running over 40 open requisitions a week. The
only statistic that eclipsed hires was exit interviews. I started to get a glimpse of what was going on when I met him.
Ushered into Jerry's office, I sat across from him. Jerry motioned for me to come around and look in the file drawer.
There, on end, like trees in a forest, were hundreds of name plaques. "See these? This is the drawer of the dead." And so began our relationship. Jerry had developed a reputation in the company for running the highest employee turn in the business. His formidable style did little to deter me – it only made the engagement more intriguing. Our research showed that the lead of this group had never taken accountability for the success or failure of hires into his organization. Though others had tried and failed, our perseverance led to an over 50% reduction in turnover in the first six months of the project, with gains over subsequent months. Here are the lessons the client learned from our work together:
Develop a hiring profile that encompasses product knowledge ability, relationship skills, and sales aptitude. Successful contact center management understands the premise that memorable sales are an extension of providing exceptional service. Searching for the candidate who will artfully meet all three requirements may take longer but will reap greater rewards in shaping brand loyalty through quality of customer experience.
Hire based on emotional mindset as well as skill set. Contact center jobs are typically high stress, low control situations. Reps hear continual sales, product and service complaints, yet in the majority of organizations, have little authority to make policy exceptions to satisfy the customer. The stress cycle escalates until frustration or other job dissatisfaction results in a turnover statistic. Use interview strategies that reveal the level of resiliency a candidate will display in a high volume, high stress position.
Understand the broader business issues of the organization and the candidate's aptitude for contributing to the company. Managers as well as contact center reps can fall into the trap of the Dilbert syndrome: a cube-centric existence far removed from business goals and how their job contributes to the big picture. Widening the view by asking the question of how the candidate has the potential for fitting in to the broader scope of the organization can be used to support a yes or no hiring decision.
Search for limitations Just as there are hundreds of resources for managers to become effective interviewers, there are as many tools available to job seekers. The interview becomes a dance – the manager desperately needs to fill a position, and the candidate wants to be seen in the best possible light. Questions like, "So, you like to talk to customers?" do no more than reinforce the interviewer's plaintive need for "bums in seats." A better approach is to search for limitations – to find out, through skillful questioning, where a candidate may not meet expectations in key areas. Once brought into the light, a hiring manager can then make the following educated decisions: If an area is below the job requirement, 1) does the candidate have the aptitude to develop the needed skill(s)? and if so, 2) do I have the time and the willingness to train to the standard?
Only by linking candidate hiring standards and process to actual employee sales and service performance will contact centers achieve the consultant's nirvana of systemic integration, or in plain English, close the loop on excellence in call handling.
Barbara Poole is the President of Poole Resources, Inc., a Fairfield County, CT based revenue improvement firm she began in 1992. She has developed a number of management tools and processes for corporations to build market share. Barbara has been an Adjunct Instructor in the Hofstra-Cornell NYSSILR Labor Management Studies program, and has addressed such organizations as the American Society for Training & Development and the National Retail Federation. She is quoted in national business media and contributes articles on management to a number of trade publications. Barbara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Poole Resources works with mid-market to Fortune 1000 firms to help tap an often-overlooked asset - what they already have inside of the business - to achieve top-line growth, without additional capital investment.