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Contact center pipeline #2 onboarding


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Second of a five-part series on how to decrease attrition in a contact center. Originally Published in the Contact Center Pipeline April 2013

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Contact center pipeline #2 onboarding

  1. 1. PART TWO:WhyOnboardingMattersBy 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, April 2013.A Doherty White Paper: Informationand advice from Doherty experts
  2. 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 2nd installment, Why Onboarding Matters, Mr.Berg dissects an onboarding fail, examines the ripple effectof a badly-managed onboarding stage, and provides clearinstructions and options for building your own effective andsuccessful onboarding plan.Why Onboarding Matters: Does your culture say“Welcome” or “Please leave”?A few months ago I was onsite at a call center as temporaryemployees were arriving for their first day of work. It wasapparent to me as soon as they got to the front door thatattrition was going to be high.How could I predict high turnover before the new agentswere even on the job? The situation revealed itself twodifferent ways in the first hour.1. The manager had asked the new employees to arriveby 8:00 a.m. to start their day. One-by-one they arrivedon time, only to sit waiting in the building’s lobby until8:35. The trainer hadn’t arrived yet!The message from management? Our time is important.Yours? Not so much.2. Once the trainer was in the building, he rushed thenew agents to the training room and proceeded tolecture them on the importance of arriving on timeevery day. After all, absenteeism and tardiness were themain reasons for termination.Message? Do as we say, not as we do.Sure enough, that particular call center struggled withattrition for several months before they finally took actionto improve their onboarding process. The actions theytook empowered managers to reach out to new hires inmeaningful ways that inspired feelings of trust and loyalty,even on Day One. But, first, let’s look at the ripple effects ofpoor onboarding practices.Attrition’s costsAccording to Response Daily, the average contact centerspends $4,000 to hire a new agent and $4,800 to train themin. It’s easy to imagine that in smaller call centers, a highturnover rate can mean the difference between profitableand unprofitable. But, wait there’s more bad news.The long shadow of attritionWhile it’s always been costly to have uncontrolled attrition,it’s never been so easy to get caught in a “turnover tornado.”In this day of social media and the ability to voice one’shappiness (or discontent), people immediatelyATTRITION-PROOF: A Five-Part Series by Eric Bergon Protecting and Conserving your WorkforcePART TWO: WhyOnboarding Matters
  3. 3. communicate their experiences with employers,companies, products, friends—or anything else that comesto mind—to everyone they know. Their impression isoften immediately validated by all their online friendsand, potentially, prospective candidates. One disgruntledand well-connected employee can severely damage yourreputation and your workforce—and in less time than ittakes you to get home from the office.Some employers respond to this very real threat byenacting punitive social media policies—and adding“Facebook Cop” to their list of responsibilities. Not onlyis that a futile and unmanageable exercise, but it’s an HRheadache and does nothing to promote your business orbuild your reputation. Is there a better way?A process and workplace to be proud of (and brag about)As employers in the contact center industry, we know thatour agents’ attitudes and behaviors have a direct impact oneach centers’ success. We also know that we seem to havemore than our share of absenteeism and attrition.There’s a good reason why the late business visionaryStephen Covey was fond of saying, “Always treat youremployees exactly as you want them to treat your bestcustomers.” Is it reasonable to expect employees toapproach a call with joy and enthusiasm when they aregetting a clear message from management that they areunimportant?See your center through their eyesThat first positive impression we make with our employeeshas a lasting effect on their attitudes and behaviors, whichin turn affects the center’s culture. Before onboardingyour next set of hires, take a look at your organizationthrough their eyes. What is the culture and environmentthey’re entering? Will they be supported in their desireto be successful on the job? Is it clear they’re valued asimportant members of the team? When they go home aftertheir first shift, will they tell their friends about their newrole and that they’re proud to be working there?Remember, most employees want to do well at theirwork and enjoy it. They understand that it makes theAccording to Response Daily, the averagecontact center spends $4,000 to hire a newagent and $4,800 to train them go faster to be engaged with and contributing to thegoals of the group. Here are a few things I have done toencourage those feelings of belonging and to ensure thatthe employee’s initial experience is a positive one.1. Roll Out the Red Carpet – Literally. In one of myprevious contact center positions I went to a carpetstore and bought a red rug that I put at the entranceto the training room. Every new hire was requiredto “walk the red carpet” into the training room.Sure, it was corny but it was also a great ice breakerthat made the employees realize we were trying tocreate a special experience for them. Perception canbe a powerful thing.2. Give them Energy. I have always provided food formy call center agents. After all, sustaining contagiousenthusiasm is hard work! Doughnuts are a great way tosugar them up and get the energy in the room going,but I also provide healthy options like granola bars orfresh fruit to prevent an energy crash when the sugarwears off. And, of course, I always have bottled wateror beverages available. Having these items around canhelp people stay focused, and also shows them youcare.3. Make it Social. Remember that when onboarding youhave a room full of people who don’t know each other.The first weeks can be intimidating and opening up isdifficult, even for some of the most outgoing agents.Plan an exercise that allows the call center reps to getto know one another, perhaps a team building activityor game. By getting to know their fellow trainees,agents can build bonds with their coworkers and thushave a greater likelihood of remaining an employee —through the training process and beyond. This isn’tjust wishful thinking—Gallup polls consistently findthat employees who have close friendships at workare correlated with higher customer engagement andhigher profitability. In fact having a best friend at workis number 10 in their list of 12 key dimensions thatdescribe great workgroups.©Doherty Employment Group, 2013
  4. 4. 1. More about Introductions. Put some thought intoyour one-to-one introductions—behave like youwould if you were hosting a dinner party—andshare something you know about the people you’reintroducing. For example, instead of “Joe, meetSharon,” say something like, “Sharon’s been here fortwo years and she’s a passionate racquetball player.And Joe comes to us from Company X, where his rolewas Y.” The benefits to this practice are considerable.For one thing, you’ve demonstrated that you knowsomething you can share about your employees—aspeople off the clock—a very valuable investment inretaining them.2. Drink the Kool-Aid. Brainwashing is a good thing!Well, let me explain further. We need our newestemployees to start “drinking the Kool-Aid” and realizethey have a great job at a great company. That meansthe first day is the best time to brag. Talk about yourcompany’s successes, benefits, opportunities andculture – and don’t forget to mention the rewards andincentives for the contact center team.3. Stop and Say Hi. Want to make your new employeesfeel valued? Have your executive or leadership teamsstop by on the first day to introduce themselves. Feelinglike a number is a big reason for attrition, so thispresence can have a great impact on new employees.Plus, new employees will likely feel more comfortableapproaching leaders with ideas and issues if they’vealready met.Eric Berg is the Director of Doherty Customer Contact Solutions. An 18-year veteran of the contactcenter industry, Eric also serves as Treasurer of the Midwest Contact Center Association (MWCCA) andon its Board. Contact Eric at Customer Contact Solutions7645 Metro Blvd | Edina, MN | 55439 | 952-818-3257 |©Doherty Employment Group, 2013Is it reasonable to expect employees to ap-proach a call with joy and enthusiasmwhen they are getting a clear message frommanagement that they are unimportant?4. Do it Every Day. Although first impressions are critical,we need to make the employee experience a positiveone every day. Ask yourself, “If I were a new employeehere, would I brag about the training? The supervisorsand trainers? The culture and company?” If the answeris unclear, it’s time to make a change.The cost of effective onboardingThe best part about implementing a strong onboardingprogram is that tips 3 through 7 are 100% cost-free, and tips1 and 2 are negligible, especially compared to the cost oflosing a trained employee.Onboarding is a crucial part of an employee retentionprogram, but it is not an expensive part. This is a no-brainer—onboarding costs are greatly outweighed bybenefits.The takeawayNo matter how many years someone has been bringinghome a paycheck, the first day of a new job is a big deal.As an employer, it’s also the perfect time to demonstratethe enthusiasm and graciousness that you expect youremployees to show to your customers and prospects.Give your new employees a reason to be excited and shareall the details of their first day, and their partners, spouses,friends and families may become your new candidates—assuming you ever have any openings to fill.