Earlier this month, in an eBroadcast coordinated with Frost & Sullivan, Keith Dawson, Frost’s Principal Analyst for Information and Communication Technologies, Mike Trotter, VP of Customer Experience at Vonage, and Jeff Furst, President and CEO of FurstPerson, discussed how leveraging the agent hiring process can lead to improved customer experience results.
In part I today, we’ll highlight Keith Dawson’s comments and analysis. In part II, we’ll provide highlights of the conversation between Mike Trotter and Jeff Furst as they discuss how Vonage is changing its hiring process to drive better business outcomes.
Last year, a Frost & Sullivan survey identified the three biggest challenges faced by contact center managers: controlling costs, improving customer satisfaction, and maintaining call quality. According to Dawson, automating the agent on-boarding process is a relatively simple way to address these challenges, yet it’s often overlooked by many contact center managers resulting in a managerial blind spot.
Reducing agent turnover is a key component to controlling costs in your contact center. Results from FurstPerson’s 2009 Contact Center Recruitment and Compensation Survey show that the average per-agent cost of attrition last year was over $4,200. Pre-hire assessments have long been effective tools for reducing employee turnover, in contact centers and other industries as well. But perhaps less obvious to many contact center managers is how using pre-hire technology improves customer satisfaction and helps maintain call quality. Keith Dawson makes a powerful argument for why this is also the case.
In the contact center industry, high (and sometimes extremely high) turnover rates are readily accepted as an ongoing issue lacking a “magic bullet” solution. But in resigning themselves to this, too many organizations overlook strategies and technologies that can reduce their turnover rates. Directly in the managerial “blind spot” is the fact that when turnover rates are exceptionally high, overall quality suffers because at any given time, the majority of their agents are new and inexperienced. Few, if any, have had opportunities for advanced training or professional development. Keith Dawson also cites the lack of longevity in institutional memory as a result of turnover – in these situations, who remembers the policies, shortcuts, lessons learned and best practices within your organization? All this has a direct impact on agent interactions with your customers.
In many contact centers, the hiring process is often solely managed by the HR or Operations divisions of their businesses, and contact center managers see agent on-boarding as a different organizational function outside of their domain. Many HR departments lack the available technological tools specific to call center hiring, which take into account the unique needs of a contact center and the specific characteristics of a good contact center agent. This is sometimes because hiring managers don’t know such tools exist, but more often contact center managers don’t understand or convey to hiring managers the importance of these tools. According to Dawson, managers in both roles need to pay closer attention to the skills and culture matches between the available talent and the agents that are needed, and build this information into their automated hiring process. In the contact center managers’ “blind spot” is how fixing the agent entry point provides multiple benefits for their organizations. In addition to cost savings in hiring and training, automated pre-hire technology shortens employee incubation periods, and provides a better culture and job fit for your employees, which, in turn, improves morale, lowers turnover and strengthens your institutional memory. All of these factors lead to an improved customer experience.
Most contact centers use current technologies and automation to monitor and improve call quality, reduce average handle time and improve agent performance. But these processes all occur later on in the employee lifecycle, after agents have been hired. When labor and staffing make up 65-75% of the ongoing costs of running a contact center, and with average monthly contact center attrition rates at nearly 10%, why isn’t more time spent automating the hiring process? Pre-hire assessment and screening technology is not only designed to reduce employee turnover, but hiring the right employee in the first place also addresses contact center managers’ three biggest challenges: controlling costs, improving customer satisfaction and maintaining call quality.
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