Contact Center Labor Issues are Number 1 Challenge for 2016, but…

According to its survey of 277 contact center operators, leading analyst firm Strategic Contact concluded that high attrition is the number 1 issue facing them in 2016. In fact, this contact center labor issue was reported by almost one-quarter of respondents and was over five percentage points higher than the number two challenge. Lobor-related issues occupied four of the top ten spots in this survey.

Yet, paradoxically, when asked about their top priorities for 2016, these very same respondents put refining hiring processes, hiring more frontline staff, and realigning skills – all potential remedies to the attrition problem – in the middle of the pack. These were subordinate to implementing new technologies, improving current operational (but not hiring!) processes, and increasing the amount of information available to the agent.

Why is this? I have a theory.

Many in contact center operations have the opinion that recruitment and hiring are outside of their purview and therefore have to be content with the product – newly recruited customer service professionals – they are given. Sure, there is often feedback regarding quality of hire, but it rarely changes hiring processes that may have been set in motion many years ago. And, let’s be honest, recruiting for the next CMO is a little more glamorous – and high profile – than hiring the next class of agents, many of whom are going to be gone in 90 days anyway. So, instead of treating poor hiring practices as a disease with a cure, as an industry we look at it as something to tolerate. After all, with good coaching, we can turn that figurative sow’s ear into a silk purse, right? Except it never really works out that way, does it?

One solution would be to turn over the reigns of agent hiring directly to contact center management – cut out the middle man. Certainly all the rules of good hiring practices will need to be followed, but those who are responsible for the daily care and feeding of the agent herd are probably in the best position to make the best decisions. Giving these folks a modern toolkit, consisting of online interviewing technologies and predictive analytics, will more than offset the time they currently spend having to retrain new hires and trying to coach the uncoachable.

They are already familiar with this kind of technology – it is similar to the systems they use on a daily basis for call recording and quality monitoring – so the training learning curve will be very short. They are closer to the problem and are therefore more vested in its solution. It also reduces (eliminates?) the finger pointing that often occurs when a bad hire is made. Putting operations in charge of selection and retention puts improving agent retention squarely on their shoulders.

 

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