North American Customer Service Management Association

Support for Contact Center Professionals

Step 1 Review Staffing Process


Does the recruiting department accept mediocrity? Are you creating a culture of continuous improvement-moving from good, to better to best-in-class?

Companies that remain complacent become like Howard Johnson’s. In the 1960’s, Howard Johnson’s hotel chain was the largest chain in the U.S. There are still a couple of the hotels around and when you walk into one it is like a time capsule; they look and feel just like they did in the 1960’s. Companies that constantly reinvent themselves and innovate don’t just survive, they thrive. Look at McDonald’s. They have reinvented their menu and restaurants over and over; adding playgrounds, removing playgrounds, redesigning their restaurants, adding fancy desserts and coffee drinks and now they are experimenting with a gourmet burger. Whether you like McDonald’s or not, you can appreciate that the company never stops innovating. What can we learn from this attitude of continuous improvement?

How can the recruiting process continue to innovate to attract quality candidates and keep them in the warming oven until the offer is made? Where in the process are your candidates falling out and why? Have you reviewed your recruiting sources lately? Still using old strategies? Is the time to hire too long? What is dragging out the process?

In competitive markets, contact center candidates are on the market for an average of 10-15 days. The recruiting process can take 7-14 days to complete the initial resume review and schedule an interview, then another 7-21 days to complete background checks and prepare offers. No wonder candidates have already taken other positions! While the recruiting process has come a long way with automating the steps, still more automation is required to speed up the process. For example, resume screening, pre-employment screening, applicant communication, background checks, processing tax credit eligibility can reduce the time to hire if automated. Tweaking these processes to shave time off can make the difference in landing top performers.

Be willing to look at your recruiting process and reinvent it for long-term candidate attraction. The recruiting process is the candidate’s first view of the company. Make the first impression a great impression!

Why is it ok for recruiters to delay communication but if the candidate was late in responding it would be unacceptable?

Recruiters promise to get back to the candidate at the end of the week and the three weeks go by. If a candidate took that long they would be knocked out of the running, yet recruiters expect candidates to sit and wait. Or better yet are expected to be still available. Candidates give up when they don’t get any response. This double standard sends the message of how much you really value the candidate and translates to “Is this how I will be valued once hired?”. Candidates can deal with a “no” response, they just want to know where they stand so they can move on. If you are genuinely interested in the candidate but the process has been delayed for whatever reason, reach out to the candidate with a status update and your candidate will, if still interested, will be more likely to be patient. The mutual respect goes a long way and it will keep your best candidates in the game.

If you really want to improve your process and are not afraid of honest feedback, surveying applicants will provide a wealth of insights that you don’t see sitting from the recruiter’s side. This means soliciting feedback from all candidates even those who were not selected. Many will not choose to help you since they were not selected but those who are still interested in working for your company will participate. You want the good, the bad and the ugly comments. You can’t improve a process if you don’t know what works and what doesn’t work. Seeing it from the candidate’s side will enlighten you.

Here are a few variables that form candidate perceptions, to get you started:
- Candidate was updated and well-informed throughout the process
- Candidate understood where they stood at all stages
- Candidate was made aware of the steps in the hiring process
- Hiring process followed a reasonable timeline
- Hiring process appeared well-organized
- Recruiter was organized, respectful of candidate’s time
- Candidates emails and phone calls are responded to
- Candidates received a quick “no” in lieu of no response

Companies use personality assessments to be sure they have the right person for a manager’s position. It’s time for recruiters to use a personality assessment designed to identify job candidates who will meet and exceed expectations in personality, job fit, soft skills, work ethic, reliability and responsibility while working in a contact center environment. This not only helps the contact center but the agent. Everyone wants to be in the right job the first time and providing assessments to front line agents will get you to the right candidates faster thus speeding up the entire recruiting and selecting process.

There are now cost effective agent assessments that will weed out job candidates that will burnout because they are not suited for your specific contact center work. Just because they have call center experience doesn’t mean they are the right fit for your types of work. Assessments will identify agents who will stick around longer which helps you experience less turnover and more productivity.

Too many contact centers hire hundreds of agents fast and furiously knowing that not all of them will stick. This is a waste of time and resources and is painful for the agents who don’t stick long. Many times, agents are hired but you really don’t know what their keyboarding skills are. Too many agents get the job and then struggle with their desktop; the mouse, moving around within Windows, using dual monitors and simply can’t type. Texting is not typing. Does your contact center require data entry; writing notes or emails with complete sentences? Can they articulate on the phone?

When contact centers test candidates they will weed out the folks that can’t deliver before they are hired. Take the time to provide tests. These can be written, online, or a role-play. Today many can be delivered in an email where the applicant clicks on a link to take the test from the comfort of their own home. This will speed up the process for the candidate; if they don’t fit they can move on to other opportunities. When you don’t hire them, you saved yourself and your management team a ton of time and energy from providing extra support to only end up terminating anyway. Stop the cycle by testing before you hire.

Tips!

Speed; everyone wants to get an interview fast, get hired fast, be offered a position fast, start their new job fast. Engaging candidates with communication and shortening the recruiting process will keep winner candidates in the game so you can hire them.
Manage the exit interviews to better manage the social media conversations. A bad post can sabotage your recruiting efforts.

Take the Next Step!

Process improvement starts with the attitude and desire to want to change and make it better. Not everyone likes change, but change is the driving ingredient for long-term success and this includes the recruiting process. Contact centers hire hundreds of agents and improving the recruiting process will retain quality candidates so you can hire them. The hiring process is the candidate’s first impression and everyone should want to make it a good one.
Companies willing to get the most honest feedback will survey applicants including those who were not selected. While they may not be as positive as those that were selected, they will provide valuable insights and you want to hear from all candidates not just the happy ones. Every recruiting process can benefit from more frequent communication, shortening the time to hire and tweaking what applicants find difficult in the process.
One strategy that speeds up the hiring process and reduces the “bad hire” scenario is using personality assessments designed for people who work on the phones and test their skills. Agent personality assessments determine from the start if you have the right person for the type of calls your contact center is handling. Just because the agent has contact center experience doesn’t mean they are the right fit. Another strategy is to test their keyboarding skills, grammar and writing skills, as well as their soft skills. When you take the time to really evaluate agents you can reduce the turnover by hiring the right person from the start.

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The North American Customer Service Management Association (NACSMA) assists Service Center professionals with improving the delivery of Customer Care to their clients by providing a collaborative networking approach to operational issues.