Part 1 of 2 in a Series—Call Center Best Practices for Recruiting, Hiring and Training
To improve performance and provide a superior customer experience, call centers often focus on the three main functions of operational management, quality, and workforce management. While these areas are important, your strategy regarding recruiting, hiring and training is also crucial to your call center’s performance and ability to meet customer expectations.
You cannot rely on just having good processes. You have to recruit and train agents who have the appropriate skills to meet the challenges of providing superior service to an omnichannel customer. You also have to recruit, hire and train supervisors who have the right skills to manage agents to high performance.
COPC Inc. suggests two key strategies for recruiting, hiring and training effectively:
1. Determine your minimum hiring and training requirements for key positions within your call center
2. Build your recruiting, hiring, and training approaches based on your minimum requirements
In this post, we will be focused on the first strategy: Determine your minimum hiring and training requirements for key positions within your call center.
Determining your minimum requirements for your key positions is important because without having a well-defined list of skills, knowledge or attributes necessary to perform the job, you will have a difficult time filling the position correctly. Instead of comparing applicants to specific requirements, finding the correct person for the job will become a matter of luck.
To develop the right set of minimum requirements, you need to know how to review your data to define true “good performance” attributes, and you need to understand the core skills required to do the job effectively.
COPC Inc. offers three recommendations to determine the appropriate skill set needed in hiring call center professionals to address the needs of an omnichannel customer. The examples presented are agent-focused but the same approaches can and should be applied to supervisors and other key positions.
Start by analyzing the core skills of your best performers.
What attributes make these people high performers? Figure 1 shows an example of how a COPC Inc. call center client analyzed various metrics to determine true high performance. The metrics highlighted in green were used as the center’s basis for analyzing the core skills of those agents that led them to be high performers.
When you think of “high performance” make sure your definition is a balanced view and not based on just one metric. For example, in Figure 1 several metrics were compared and weighted to determine overall high performance of sales agents. Rather than just measuring one metric such as average handle time (AHT) or close rate, the call center added other parameters such as conversion/close rate and weighted number of orders based on time worked. Finally, the cancellation rate was also included when they were determining top performers.
Second, isolate the core skills of top performers in your call center and then look for correlations between attributes and performance.
Once you have identified the top performers, determine the skills they possess that contribute to their top performance. To isolate core skills, COPC Inc. recommends brainstorming with your human resources group to determine key skills, such as typing speed, listening effectiveness, customer orientation, problem solving skills and communication skills. Then test those skills and analyze to see if those skills correlate to high performance.
Figure 2 is an example of a COPC Inc. call center client’s analysis that shows a correlation between typing skills and the agent’s AHT. In fact, because you see a high R2 of 0.79, this means there is a strong correlation. You can conclude that a newly hired agent’s typing speed is correlated with how well they will be able to perform on the AHT metric.
In fact, when COPC Inc. paired this analysis with an outlier analysis (not shown here), we found that if the call center wanted a potential recruit to be able to reach an acceptable AHT without typing skills being a barrier, then they needed to establish their “requirement” for typing speed at no less than 35 words per minute. This was a higher rate than their original typing speed had been set.
Last, ask both your customers and your management team for feedback.
It is important to ask your customers what skills they value in your agents, particularly when customer satisfaction levels with your call center are especially high or low. Use your current customer satisfaction data to find specific customers to query. Or assemble a customer focus group to ask about the skills they expect in an agent when they call your center.
You should also turn to your management team to get feedback about the skills they believe lead to high performance. Make sure to provide sufficient definition about a minimum required skill. For instance, it is common for a sales queue to hear that the minimum requirement is either “prior sales experience” or “prior call center experience.” However, the attribute “prior sales experience” does not fully define the requirements necessary to be a good sales agent. You have to dig deeper to find the specific skills that all good sales performers possess.
Once you have identified all of the minimum skills needed to perform the job well, we recommend that you consider the following:
1. Which of your minimum skills are necessary for hiring and therefore apply to recruiting?
2. Which of your minimum skills and knowledge are necessary for training?
Figure 3 provides an example of a minimum skills list and how you should define which skills should be hired to and which should be trained. It is important to make the distinction between skills to be hired to versus those to be trained so your recruiting and training strategies can be developed accordingly.
Defining minimum requirements to be used during recruiting and training is critical to improving performance and providing a superior customer experience. This critical first step drives the rest of the process and ensures you have the staff in place who will succeed in meeting the demands of today’s changing call center.
Please check back soon to read Part 2 of our series, Best Practices for Recruiting, Hiring and Training. We will look at how to apply your minimum required skills to build your recruiting and training programs to focus on high performance.