Contact center pipeline feb 2013 applicant intake process

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First of a five-part series on how to decrease attrition in a contact center. Originally published in the Contact Center Pipeline, Feb 2013.

First of a five-part series on how to decrease attrition in a contact center. Originally published in the Contact Center Pipeline, Feb 2013.

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  • 1. PART ONE:Why yourApplicantIntakeProcessMattersBy Eric BergDoherty Customer Contact Solutions | 7645 Metro Boulevard | Edina, MN 55439952-818-3257 | www/dohertycontact.comATTRITION-PROOF:A Five-Part Series byEric Berg on Protecting andConserving your WorkforceOriginally published in Contact CenterPipeline magazine, February 2013.A Doherty White Paper: Informationand advice from Doherty experts
  • 2. We’re all rooting for the economy to recover, but greaterturnover can be a side effect of a healthy employment rate.In this five-part series on limiting attrition, call centerstaffing expert Eric Berg reveals five critical moments in youremployer-employee relationship, and explains how managingthose moments can curb the high costs of uncontrolledattrition.In this first installment, Why Your Applicant Intake ProcessMatters, Mr. Berg dissects an intake process failure, examinesthe ripple effects of a badly-managed sourcing and screeningstage, and provides clear instructions and options for buildingan effective and successful applicant intake plan.Why your Applicant Intake Process Matters:Do you know what’s working?Recently, I was asked to consult with a contact centerexperiencing nearly 300% attrition annually. In my meetingwith the leadership team I asked, “What is the personalityprofile of your most successful agent?”That was the moment I learned why their attrition rate was sohigh.The contact center leadership had no clue about thepersonalities or behaviors of their top performers. Theycould tell me what their best agents’ metrics were and howoften they hit their goals, but they had no idea why theywere successful.Then I asked them about their current applicant intakeprocess. Their answer? A typing test.Seriously? The contact center leadership had no ideawhat made a successful agent. And, worse yet, they werechoosing applicants based on a skill that had nothing to dowith success in a contact center environment.These mistakes are common to contact centers as wellas other organizations. By assessing applicants basedon inexpensive and easy-to-acquire skills, and payingno attention to their inherent and often intractablepersonalities and behaviors, companies end up with WPMinstead of ROI.The costs of a bad hireAs the U.S. economy improves it’s getting harder to attractand retain agents. In an effort to put “butts in seats,” somecompanies hire talent who are just not as talented as theyneed to be to protect the company’s brand.According to CareerBuilder, the average cost of a bad hirecan range from $25,000 to as much as $50,000. And, thecost to hire and train a new contact center agent is $9,400,according to Response Design. That means a contact centerwith 100 seats and experiencing 300% attrition has anestimated loss of $2,820,000. Ouch!It’s easy to see that an applicant intake process that reducesattrition will quickly show a good return on investment,even if your turnover rate isn’t at the 300% mark.Hidden costs to your training programWhen agents leave there is a tangible and measurable costto replace them. What cannot be measured easily is theATTRITION-PROOF: A Five-Part Series by Eric Bergon Protecting and Conserving your WorkforcePART ONE: Why yourApplicant IntakeProcess Matters
  • 3. effect of turnover on your brand, your other employees,and morale. It’s hard to quantify, but real.The typical learning curve for a contact center agent is3 to 6 months. If your contact center is experiencinghigh turnover, a large percentage of your agents maysimply be too new to provide the level of service yourcustomers expect, and the result could be customerattrition. Furthermore, a constant flow of new employeesmonopolizes your training team, deferring ongoing orenhanced training for your experienced staff.Stress on your high performersYour core agents may also feel the strain. They mustcontinue to meet their own goals, but may also help trainnew colleagues, answering the many questions a new hirehas in his or her first weeks on the job. They may also feelpressured to pick up the slack that results from a bevy ofnew staff not performing to full capacity.High attrition can rattle your core staff, who start to absorbthe stress in the environment and wonder, “Is it worth it?”Should the turmoil cause the loss of some or all of your topperformers, your problems will grow exponentially.About your hiring process: Are you hiring or selecting?The Ritz-Carlton hotel organization is known for theirworld-class customer service—and their notoriously slowand multi-layered hiring and interview process. Manystaff members meet the candidate and get involved inthe process, and the focus is heavily on an applicant’spersonality, strengths, and raw talent, valued above skillsand training. At the Ritz-Carlton, they use the word“selection” instead of “hiring.”In the book, “The New Gold Standard: 5 LeadershipPrinciples for Creating a Legendary Customer ExperienceCourtesty of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company,” HervéHumler, president of international operations for The Ritz-Carlton says, “Hiring can be nothing more than findinganyone to fill a job, but selection? That is choosing the bestperson to provide exemplary service.” (Joseph A. Michelli,2008)According to a Purdue University study, it’spossible to reduce overall attrition by up to21% with the right applicant intake process.Changing your applicant intake processAccording to a Purdue University study on decreasingattrition in a contact center environment, it’s possibleto reduce overall attrition by up to 21% with the rightapplicant intake process. An applicant intake process thatis in alignment with industry best practices will include thefollowing:• Statistically validated assessment• Realistic Job Preview• Behavioral interview.Before we design your new process, ask yourself 2 criticalquestions.1. What are my goals?2. What personalities and behaviors do my agentsneed to meet those goals?What are my goals?What is the desired outcome of a customer contact in yourcall center? Is it:• first call resolution?• upselling?• closing a sale?• collecting a payment?• tracking an order?• solving a technical issue?• satisfying the customer?Find your purposeIn addition to your primary goal, do you also have apurpose? Perhaps your contact center is dedicated to“excellent caller experiences,” or “world-class problem-solving,” or “error-free data entry.”Find a worthy purpose and hang it on the wall. It willremind your team that they have more than daily goalsand tasks—they have a path to greatness.And it will remind you—as you select new staff—to lookfor people who naturally want to excel and be part ofsomething exceptional.©Doherty Employment Group, 2013
  • 4. What personalities and behaviors do my agents need tomeet those goals?Once you determine your goal(s), you can start thinkingabout which types of personalities are best suited to meetthose goals.For example, iIf you have a highly-controlled processthat requires agents to follow a script verbatim (such asa complicated legal or financial communication), thenyou are looking for detail-oriented personalities. Agentswho can listen to a situation and access a knowledgebase to determine the best solution for the customerneed judgment, effectiveness and reasoning. If sales areyour goal, then confidence and persuasiveness—theability to close the deal, overcome objections, or discussfeatures versus benefits—are probably the most importantpersonality traits in a candidate.Finding the right assessment toolsLook for well-regarded personality assessment tools thatidentify traits your business needs, whether assertiveness,leadership, persistence, judgment, reasoning, effectiveness,attention to details, or others. Some versions of broadly-accepted personality tests include:1. Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)2. Personality and Preference Inventory (PAPI)3. Predictive Index (PI)4. Profiles, Inc5. First Advantage Call Center Scenarios6. SHL (PreVisor)You might want to try out a test by having your topperformers take it. A good assessment tool will reveal thedesirable qualities that they share so that you can identifythem in an applicant. Their results then become yourprofile for success.Customizable assessment software and online test productsare available for every level of complexity and budget; areputable vendor will let usually offer a trial period.Realistic job previewThis is soul-searching time. Are new hires promisedmore than they receive? By week three, do they have aperpetually surprised look on their faces? By week four, arethey interviewing somewhere else?Again, the solution is to turn to your core agents andtop performers. Request a candid assessment of thejob, including work environment, opportunities foradvancement, incentives, and daily tasks. What surprisesdid they encounter in their first week? Does your way ofsharing performance statistics motivate some agents butdiscourage others?Use their input to refine and redevelop your job descriptionrealistically and eliminate unpleasant surprises for newhires.Behavioral interviewYou’re probably already asking “behavioral” types ofquestions when you interview. These can reveal how aperson will perform when faced with a situation on the job.Some examples are:• Tell an example of a goal you reached and how youachieved it.• Describe a stressful situation at work and how youmanaged it.• How have you handled a difficult coworker orcustomer?The more specific you can be, the more likely you will get anhonest, unrehearsed, answer that accurately forecasts howan applicant will react.The takeawayLook at you! You’ve determined which personalities arecritical to your operation, and you have assessments toreveal which applicants fit best. You’ve defined a sharedpurpose for your team, and implemented a hiring processwith a more realistic job preview and guidelines forbehavioral preferences. Your newest agents feel right athome with the rest of your carefully selected staff. Andyou’re getting even more out of your top agents by askingthem for valuable input and having them serve as templatesfor your future staff. They like the attention and they feelvalued.You are well on your way to reducing turnover and attritionin your organization.In fact, you’ve found the key to every long-lasting andsuccessful process ever designed—you’ve identified whatworks and made it repeatable. Congratulations!Eric Berg is the Director of DohertyCustomer Contact Solutions. An18-year veteran of the contactcenter industry, Eric also serves asTreasurer of the Midwest ContactCenter Association (MWCCA)and on its Board. Contact Eric ateberg@dohertycontact.com.Doherty Customer Contact Solutions7645 Metro Blvd | Edina, MN | 55439 | 952-818-3257www.dohertycontact.com©Doherty Employment Group, 2013