We hosted our second roundtable event for the contact centre industry last week. Our clients from the insurance, banking and utilities sectors joined the discussion.
There are more than 6,200 contact centres in the UK, and more than 4% of the country’s working population is employed in contact centres, with that number increasing annually. So, the numbers are big, and getting recruitment right has an immediate impact on revenue, customer satisfaction and employee engagement.
At our last event we focused on reducing attrition. This time, we took a broader look at the influencing factors on attrition including attraction, the profile of agents, and new ways of working.
1. Attracting the right candidates
Values and behaviours
The role of the contact centre agent is becoming more complex, and customer expectations are high. In the context of recruitment this means it’s more important to recruit for values and behaviours, than for skills and experience.
An appetite to use new technology, the ability to empathise with a customer, listening and understanding skills are all more relevant than previous experience. As a result, in-house recruiters are working with HR and leadership teams to rebuild their recruitment processes around values and behaviours.
A number of our participants are experimenting with elements of the candidate experience including adopting video interviews, using online screening in place of CVs, and changing their assessments to be industry-specific. Some are also considering game-based assessment to measure for specific desired behaviours.
A further recruitment challenge is high renege rates, with successful candidates joining another contact centre just before on-boarding. The group felt a combination of inconsistencies in the recruitment process, assessor bias, and the length of the vetting process are largely the cause of drop-outs.
Some participants are already adopting new ways of eradicating bias and bringing more rigour to the process through technology. A more engaging, consistent and fair experience will help to improve candidate experience and reduce drop-outs.
New ways of working
Our group agreed that flexible working is also a key element of attraction. Working preferences and expectations around work-life balance are changing. Flexible working is proving a challenge for contact centres where traditionally time at work and time spent on calls is measured - and cover for customers needs to be available 24/7.
In response, one of our participants is piloting flexible shift patterns that allows employees to choose their shifts. This is a real culture change for the organisation and required senior sponsorship to pilot. For other businesses, a move to flexible working will require large-scale infrastructure change and significant investment from the top.
2. High levels of attrition
Inherently connected to recruitment is attrition. High attrition results in excessive recruitment and training costs, lower average call handling quality and longer queue times due to inexperienced staff, as well as the vicious circle of lower staff morale, impacting the bottom line. Our group finds that often after six to 12 months, job satisfaction falls.
Our participants are aiming to reduce attrition by trialling retention strategies such as the removal of targets, the adoption of flexible working, and by taking steps to ensure they recruit the right people in the first place.
From a recruitment perspective, companies are investing more in promoting their employer brand and more openly sharing their cultures. In some cases, it’s about adopting leading edge tech, in others it’s about a culture of caring, or being part of a family.
Pitching the brand and values, as well as the role, is helping contact centres to get the right candidates into the recruitment funnel.
3. The agent of the future
The role of contact centre agents in the digital age is changing. As customers deal with more of the simple issues themselves, agents need to deal with the more complex. In the meantime, there is also the challenge of customers becoming accustomed to using self-service apps - resulting in a peak in call volumes in the short-term.
As the role of the agent becomes more complex (both the queries they’re dealing with and the tech they’re using to do so), it’s important to evolve the recruitment process too. Values-led recruitment enables contact centres to hire for behaviours.
Our group are adopting a number of tactics to make this shift. One participant is adopting a new behavioural framework, another is making more use of SJTs and moving to values-based phone interviews. Another company has carried out a piece of work to align company and recruitment values.
The tools contact centres use to attract and recruit agents has a direct impact on whether they are able to retain them. Ensuring candidates who are right-fit enter, and stay in, the recruitment process is an effective way to improve hiring success.
If you're interested in attending future events, join our community of contact centre recruiters.