By David Marshall, Regional EMEA Lead at Intradiem
Filling contact centre roles used to be easy. Full time? No problem. Temporary staff? Easy. All within 10 miles of the contact centre? Sure. But fast forward to today, and this is no longer the case.
The Great Resignation has seen the UK undergo the highest turnover in staff over the past two years. In fact, in the contact centre industry it’s reported to be around 26%, far higher than the national average of 15%. [i]
In a bid to attract new staff, businesses are going above and beyond, offering more than the typical salary, which has created a ‘war’ for talent. Businesses are buying out skilled staff which leaves other companies unable to compete and retain their staff – resulting in high churn, poor customer service and insufficiently trained agents.
Now, with many people reassessing their priorities to determine what they really want from work, it’s not only candidates, but employers who must put their best foot forward during the recruitment process.
So, with all these challenges contact centres are facing, how are they expected to attract and retain staff? In a nutshell, to attract the best people, you need to be ready to answer questions that would never have been asked five years ago, starting with…
What’s in this job for me?
Recruiters need to be ready to offer a decent package. This means far more than just pay. There need to be an alignment with the vision and values of the organisation along with rewards, and a real focus on wellbeing and care.
A legacy culture of inflexibility, and a strict focus on internal metrics rather than customer outcomes such as First Contact Resolution, Customer Effort and Net Promoter Score (NPS) too often come at the expense of agents’ needs. However, there is a shift happening within the industry where contact centres are putting employee wellbeing at the heart of their operations. A company where agents are heard, and where their needs are accommodated, can reap the rewards in retention, performance and brand perception.
By automating previously inflexible processes, companies can offer an unprecedented level of flexibility to their staff as well as making significant improvements to agent engagement and wellbeing. By improving engagement between agents and their employers, and fostering a culture of support and encouragement, everyone benefits.
How quickly can I progress?
The biggest question, especially from younger applicants, is how can I climb the career ladder? Recruiters need to be clear about offering careers and progression into the business – there are numerous cases of C-Suite execs starting out by taking customer calls and these need to be both visible and accessible in positioning career paths in the organisation.
While more and more organisations are getting wise to the benefits of a culture-based approach to training and development, a fairly major oversight persists, which when addressed, can have a hugely positive effect on the bottom line. That oversight is the personal development of front-line customer service staff. Not only the professional development of their skill set for their current role, but the personal development of their qualities and aspirations, too.
Developing the whole person and having self-aware contact centre managers and mentors who can fully realise the value of their people will ensure businesses reap the benefits. Investing time and resources into personal and professional development has been proven to offer competitive commercial advantage.
What’s the team and support like?
People want to know they’ll be cared for. Customer-facing roles are tough. Social media and Glassdoor mean there’s no hiding. You need to show you’ll look after people using contemporary workforce management and automation tools.
Engagement drives everything from profitability to retaining the best talent. It comes from bringing people together and aligning them to a common goal. There are a number of reasons why having good lines of communication throughout the contact centre is essential. Perhaps the most obvious is so that the team can share knowledge with one another, but also to ensure that agents feel fully listened to and supported.
Blending front- and back-office operations using workforce optimisation tools and techniques can be a good way to improve communication within the contact centre. By automatically detecting levels of performance and sending real time prompts, employees are consistently supported, and supervisors stay consistently informed. In addition, real time automation finds appropriate moments during an agents shift to deliver work updates, system incident communications, or off-phone tasks and other personalised messages. Best of all, it can prompt when it’s right to take time off or just offer an early finish when conditions allow.
What tech are you using?
People are more tech savvy than ever. They want to know what type of infrastructure they’ll be working on, and what systems are in place to enable them to do their job better.
With the accelerating transformation of contact centres, integrations are commonplace, and technology infrastructures grow ever more advanced. However, contact centres that deploy automation technology is placing the power in the hands of agents.
Using AI-powered technology, contact centres can ensure that agents get the support and the information they need. Through its unique ability to process the massive quantities of time-sensitive data generated, which can be translated into immediate automated actions, agent efficiency and engagement skyrockets. In turn, this yields a consistent experience that reinforces an organisation’s customer service reputation.
Technology that allows agents to react to everything that’s going on around them in real time, while putting their wellbeing first, could finally make contact centres an employment option of choice.
How will you get me up to speed and train me?
With a lot to learn in a short space of time, people need to know you’re going to prepare them and offer training that lives up to the promises of progression. In the UK, one in four contact centre agents believe they’ve not been adequately trained[ii], so it’s important to implement a detailed induction plan into your business, as well as offer ongoing training and support for agents.
Agents need to feel invested in, and training is key to staff motivation and performance. By finding the time to train agents on how to deal with customer calls appropriately, as well as providing the downtime they may need afterwards, technology can motivate and assist agents to provide the best possible customer service.
With its ability to automatically identify lower call volumes, workforce automation ensures employees can stay productive through busy seasons and daily peaks. When employees reach lulls or idle time, they can be redirected to development, training, or one-on-one coaching to enhance the skills they need to navigate customer conversations.
Given it can cost contact centres up to £20k for each member of staff that leaves after 12 weeks, being ready to answer these questions – and then live up to the expectations set – is vital.