The No. 1 way to change agent turnover into agent retention is proper hiring. For call center retention, hiring the right employees is a more cost-efficient solution than firing ill-suited ones. If your organization has a turnover problem, then evaluate your hiring process.
Hire the Best
It is important to monitor your identity in the employer marketplace to ensure you are getting the best candidates. Indentify the position’s “gravity” factors, those aspects that pull candidates to your call center. These include, but are not limited to, compensation, benefits, schedule, location, product discounts, accessibility, development opportunities, and company reputation.
After you identify your company’s gravity factors, clearly define the position’s competency requirements. These are the skills, knowledge, and capabilities candidates must have to work in the call center. For example, employees who will be on the phone need to have a pleasant telephone manner, possess fundamental computer know-how, and be able to think quickly and critically. New hires can learn many aspects of the job, but if core competencies are lacking, the candidate may never achieve true proficiency.
Candidates who perform just well enough to avoid dismissal rarely leave voluntarily. Employees without options tend to remain, while the better employees with options exercise them. For this reason, Human Resources should not be the sole party involved in hiring for the call center; the center also must have input. Conduct initial phone interviews to allow for early elimination of anyone without a pleasant telephone manner. After phone interviews, the call center manager and supervisors also may conduct in-person interviews. Many organizations have the candidate sit side-by-side with an agent to observe the job, then discuss the candidate’s impressions. If you plan to do this, let the candidate know the projected duration of the interview so they can plan their schedules appropriately.
During the interview process, don’t forget to consider attitude. Pessimists are a threat to the operation’s energy. A test for optimism might be a wise investment. For example, words like can’t, hardly, won’t, never, and but are negatives to listen for in an interview setting.
Many HR departments use a series of screening tests – such as one for attitude – to further identify core competencies in candidates. Such tests might include talking and typing, service call simulation, computer proficiency, and personality and cultural fit. There are several tests available and currently in use. It is critical to choose these tools wisely, use them consistently, and assess their effectiveness routinely.
Regardless of hiring tools and recommended techniques, follow your instinct. When a call center manager or HR professional believes there is something unsettling or not right about a possible hire, that instinct is powerful and, more often than not, correct.
Fire the Worst
Don’t tolerate hires that don’t fit into your organization. Fighting change, complicating processes, causing peer problems, continually being tardy and absent, and disrespecting members or management are behaviors that, when tolerated, employees will feel are permissible. It is imperative to understand HR guidelines for dismissing employees and then do what is necessary to eliminate, as early as possible, wrong hires.
Be brave enough to ask when retention is a bad thing. Some agents, supervisors, and even managers have been in their positions too long. Displaying negativity, resisting change, undermining initiatives, refusing to comply with adjustments to process, complaining endlessly about new technology, and frequent abruptness with customers are a few indicators that it might be time for a staff person to move on. Even employees who have been with the company 10, 15, 20 years or longer may be more of a liability than an asset. It is a delicate situation, but one that is likely overdue for evaluation.
Learn From the Best
Zappos.com has an innovative approach to retain its best employees: The online shoe retailer pays people to quit. Fortune magazine has consistently named Zappos on its "Best Places to Work" list since the list’s inception seven years ago. At the end of every four-week training class, Zappos offers the entire class $1,500 to leave, to take the money and run. The objective is to create a Zappos workforce that wants to be there and wants to be part of a culture that cares as much for its people and their work experience as it does for its customers. It is a radical move, but one that shows how sincere the company is about hiring only the right people.