Posting 2 of 2 in a Series—Call Center Best Practices for Recruiting, Hiring and Training
In our first posting regarding call center best practices for recruiting, hiring and training, we discussed why it is important to determine your minimum requirements for key positions in your call center. We detailed why this strategy is crucial to improving performance and providing a superior customer experience. And we offered three steps to determine minimum requirements to achieve success in meeting customer expectations.
In the second part of this series, we are going to discuss building your recruiting, hiring and training programs based on your minimum requirements and analyzing these programs for continuous improvement.
First, let’s focus on recruiting and hiring. Armed with your list of minimum requirements, you should use this list to determine which attributes and competencies you expect potential candidates should already have upon being hired. These will become your list of “hiring requirements,” and they should be used throughout the selection process. This includes using these requirements in your job posting, interview guide, and the skills verification testing that is conducted during recruiting.
The initial objective during the hiring process is to ensure you are recruiting candidates who will be a wise investment in terms of recruiting and training costs. The ultimate objective is that the potential candidate will be successful at the job in providing a superior customer experience. The purpose of skills verification is to ensure the people you hire have the capabilities necessary to succeed in their respective roles.
When working with our clients, we often find that organizations do not verify skills effectively. Some do not verify at all. Lack of skills verification can result in high attrition, low agent efficiency, poor accuracy and quality results, as well as high customer, client and employee dissatisfaction. In our experience, the more rigorously you test to verify skills and knowledge, the more competent and productive staff you will have to meet customer expectations.
Here are some best practices to follow when verifying skills and knowledge before hiring:
(1.) Use multiple testing methodologies: Do not rely on one or two quizzes, or one interview. There are many ways to test for skills and knowledge, so do not limit yourself in your testing approach.
(2.) Conduct rigorous testing: Test fully for the minimum skills and knowledge required, and administer all testing prior to hiring a candidate.
(3.) Use appropriate and rigorous thresholds: When someone passes their verification testing, the threshold used should be high enough to assure you that the candidate can perform the job at the minimum level desired. Do not rely on an arbitrary number as a passing grade. Understand what that grade represents.
Skills verification should not end at hiring, but should be incorporated throughout the rest of the on-boarding process and should even become a part your normal call center operations.
Now, let’s discuss how to build your training program around your minimum requirements for training. At this point, you have defined allminimum requirements for the job. You also have further identified those that you expect the employee to have upon being hired. What remains are the minimum skill requirements that you expect your new employee to obtain through training. See Figure 1.
When you know specifically what minimum skills need to be acquired through training, the training organization now knows exactly what their curricula needs to contain. This helps to eliminate training time wasted on teaching concepts that people do not need. Or more importantly, leaving out topics that they need to learn.
As with the verification of hiring requirements, you must verify the skills and knowledge that you have included in your training plan. That means you will need to, again, ensure you are using multiple testing methodologies and that the testing is rigorous in both content and thresholds.
Lastly, we recommend you analyze your recruiting, hiring and training effectiveness and make continuous improvements. Recruiting and training your call center staff is costly. You need to ensure your strategy produces employees who are qualified to do the job, are a good fit, and will stay a minimum amount of time so your organization can recoup its training investment.
Through our client work, we have found that high-performing call centers regularly validate attributes that lead to success and longevity on the job. They analyze employee performance based on the minimum skill requirements presented during the recruitment process.
These call centers begin by analyzing training results, such as the percentage of new hires passing training exams at minimum thresholds. Other process-level assessments used to evaluate training quality are critical-error accuracy, escalation rate, close ratio for a sales program, issue resolution for customer service and technical support, volume, and average handle time. Regardless of what you measure, it is important that you make analysis and performance improvement a key part of your strategic recruiting and training plan.
We recommend that minimum skills and knowledge requirements for each key position should be reviewed at least annually, or more frequently depending on the changing needs of the business. Several factors may impact and change your required minimum skills, such as:
- A new program launch or changes to an existing program
- Technology or system upgrades
- Changes to call center performance requirements, such as a obtaining a higher quality goal or sales conversion goal
- Failure to consistently meet performance goals at the call center level, program level, or individual agent level
- High attrition or absenteeism rates
We also suggest using agent-level performance data analysis to make improvements in defining your call center jobs. You should analyze agent-level performance data at least twice a year to identify common challenges, and determine if minimum skill and knowledge requirements of each key position should be modified.
Your strategy regarding recruiting, hiring and training is crucial to your call center’s performance and meeting customer expectations. Although our recommended processes take time to implement, we have seen tremendous success when our clients develop minimum requirements and then apply them to their recruiting and training programs. Finding, hiring and training the most appropriate candidates for your most important positions allows you to build a call center team that achieves high performance. It also helps increase employee satisfaction, reduce turnover and minimize operational costs.