Tactics for Hiring the Right Communicators for Your Contact Center

Only people uniquely qualified to fit an ideal contact center Communicator profile are going to stick around long enough to justify the investment made to hire and train them. After all, the turnover rate in the contact center industry is between 30 and 45 percent, compared to 15 percent overall for other U.S. industries. So, finding candidates with traits that match up with the job requirements should be a priority for contact centers that strive to provide stellar customer service.

After all, a contact center is only as good as its Communicators. So, how can you avoid wasting time, energy and money on Communicators who are ill-suited to the position?

First, realize the challenges you’re up against. The United States is host to approximately 5 million contact center jobs (with about 12 percent of those outsourced overseas). That makes the job of contact center Communicator one of the most common in the world, meaning that many businesses are competing for the same pool of workers.

The point is that contact center supervisors need to have high expectations when hiring Communicators despite these hurdles; elsewise, customer service and business as a whole will suffer. For instance, seek candidates with top-notch communication skills, speed and a willingness to go the extra mile for customers.

Beyond that, define your own ideal applicant. You can easily do this by assessing the qualifications possessed by your existing top Communicators and extrapolating those into your profile. Look for things like a capability for fast and efficient resolution of issues. According to the Avaya Preference Report, 41 percent of contact center users rate this skill as the most important factor influencing their perception of the interaction.

When interviewing candidates, how can you determine whether they possess these traits or any others you desire?

Asking the right questions will take you far. When assessing critical thinking, for instance, you might ask a candidate to describe his or her biggest challenge when interacting with customers, and how he or she resolves it when it comes up. This will give you insight into what a potential Communicator considers a challenge and how he or she works through a problem.

Here are some questions that’ll help you find the right hires for your contact center:

  1. What motivates you in the workplace? If they talk about wanting to help others overcome problems, you could have a good fit.
  2. How do you learn? It would be good to know that the candidate has an ability or technique for quickly absorbing new information. Customers have more confidence in Communicators who can answer their questions without pause (ostensibly, to look up information or ask a colleague).
  3. What does being a team player mean to you? Assertive and sociable Communicators can boost overall contact center performance and morale.

When you’re looking to make your next great hire, be sure to attract the right people, interview them thoroughly, and evaluate their skills accordingly—doing so may require more attention up front, but will undoubtedly save you time and money in the long run.

Career Path Progression

A dead end. The one thing no one wants to run into, especially when it comes to their career. I have been extremely lucky to have been with the same company as long as I have, but I have talked to plenty of colleagues and friends who have left jobs for the simple reason that they felt “stuck”. No one wants to work at a place where they feel there is no room to grow or foster a career. The truth is, you would be hard pressed to find someone who is willing to stay at the same job with the same company for many years without any potential to advance professionally.

We celebrated our 30th anniversary as a company earlier this year, and we have always had a strong history of hiring from within to fill open positions, and we are proud of it!

I have benefited personally, along with the majority of our senior staff, by starting our careers as Communicators or as entry-level supervisor or account representatives in the company’s various call centers and divisions.  Over the years, as InfoCision has experienced success with internal hiring, we developed a program to formalize the process called the Career Path Progression Program.  As employees move up through the ranks, they bring with them a unique understanding for the specific responsibilities of the employees now in their supervision, because they held similar positions themselves.   Everywhere you look at InfoCision there are living examples of the many career opportunities offered, showing our new employees there is room to grow.  This results in happier employees who are willing to invest their careers in the company long-term, resulting in strong staff retention.

Growing with the company

We do have to admit, the opportunity for career advancement isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when a potential employee thinks of the teleservice industry, but we are breaking that perception. Our Career Path Progression Program is a huge success, and we can really see the results as we have one of the lowest turnover rates in the industry.

Clearly, employees want to work not only for a growing company, but also for a company they can grow with.  I frequently share examples of the innovative technology and proprietary solutions we offer at InfoCision.  It is truly the people who work with us though, who make all the difference.  Our clients certainly benefit from our dedicated and loyal team of experts!

InfoCision: The Healthy Call Center

Last week, InfoCision’s Chair of the Board, Karen Taylor shared an interesting article with us about the benefits of periodically standing up at work instead of sitting down all day.  It really got me thinking about how important it is to stay focused on healthy activities, especially when working in a role that may require being seated for long periods of time. I found a similar article in the New York Times advocating getting up and moving around throughout the workday in a number of creative capacities.

Here at InfoCision, we try to do everything we can to help our employees live a healthier lifestyle, and when we see articles like this, we feel obligated to pass the information along.  For the same reasons, we have established annual health fairs, which take place at all our call center locations throughout the months of August and September. We believe that a healthier,

Members of our Employee Benefits team working a booth at our Health Fair at our corporate headquarters in Akron, OH

engaged workforce begins with employees that are encouraged and given the tools to make good health a priority. These health fairs provide team members with access to 30 or more vendors who offer free health screenings including blood pressure, body fat, BMI, cholesterol and glucose checks; and information on health issues, health insurance and other valuable employee benefits.  The health fair we just concluded at our Akron headquarters drew more than 500 individuals in one afternoon looking to find ways to improve their health and their lives!

Does the cost pay off?

At times, when I mention the amenities that we offer our employees, I am asked “Isn’t that expensive?” The answer is yes, there is a cost, but it’s well worth it and ultimately we receive a measurable ROI from our overall wellness programs.  By providing employees with convenient and affordable access to health information and resources, we have seen our workforce respond by becoming healthier, which has kept insurance rates from rising for both the company and our employees themselves.

And beyond the business reasons, it’s really just the right thing to do for all our staff. A healthier employee is a happier employee and it is well worth the cost to make sure our employees are taken care of so they can provide the best service possible to our clients. It’s a winning formula for everyone!

The True Importance of Work Place Diversity in Direct Marketing

There is no doubt that diversity in the workplace benefits everyone from employees to clients, and the challenge is to continue to embrace that culture; here at InfoCision, we have done, and continue to do, just that. I was able to sit down with our director of human resources, Carla Grasso and had a conversation all about how we celebrate diversity here at InfoCision and the difference it makes in our call centers.

Direct Marketing Diversity Programs

Diversity programs are about creating and maintaining an inclusive environment no matter what an employee brings to the table. When you embrace everyone’s strengths, the organization as a whole is more productive; and it also helps managers to better lead their teams because they have a better grasp on whom their employees are and where they come from.

Diversity programs must be undertaken slowly to ensure they are done the right way, because they must include everyone regardless of ethnicity, religious beliefs, political views, etc.  In addition, changes that are made in the workplace too rapidly without proper planning run the risk of being resisted by employees.

For the program to be successful, it must fit in with the company’s current corporate culture, not attempt to change it. So starting slowly is key to getting employees to buy in to the program.

How to Get Started

Starting diversity programs may seem like a daunting task for companies that don’t have an expert in the subject matter, and especially for smaller companies without a great deal of resources.

For employers that want to start a diversity initiative but don’t have a lot of time or resources to invest, here are some easy and low-cost tips:

  1. Spotlighting diverse employees in a company newsletter or calendar
  2. Offer brown-bag lunch lectures on a diversity topic – many groups will speak for free
  3. Create affinity groups to support a specific segment of the workforce (such as women, Asian-Americans, workers with Military experience, etc.)
  4. Have a potluck where workers bring in foods and recipes from their ethnic heritage
  5. Announce local events that support diversity on your bulletin board or intranet

There are even community resources available to help companies of all sizes that want to harness the power of embracing diversity.

Diversify Your Call Centers

By expanding your pool of applicants to include everyone, regardless of sex, ethnicity, religious views or anything else, you are giving your organization an advantage over the competition, because they might not be finding the same quality of applicants.

And beyond employee and productivity issues, embracing diversity can have other benefits for your company. InfoCision has several clients that are embracing diversity, and appreciate the fact that we have chosen to do so as well.

How do you feel about diversity in the work place? Any tips to getting started I missed? Get the conversation started below!

Carla Grasso is director of human resources at InfoCision Management Corporation. Reach her at carla.grasso@infocision.com.

A little appreciation goes a long way

Food, games, music and prizes might make you think of a party or festival. But here at InfoCision, it was just another day at work.Employees at our various locations celebrate with fun, food and games

Throughout the month of June, we’ve held an employee appreciation day celebration at all of our locations with a day of fun, designed to make

employees know how much the company values their hard work and dedication.  I’ve been lucky enough to be able to attend all of these events at every one of our locations and it truly has opened my eyes to how far a little appreciation can go.

Why we tell our employees that we appreciate them

Our employees are the best in the industry, and the reason we are so successful. We want to make sure they know that the company truly appreciates all the time and effort they give.  These “fun days” are a great way for us to do that, as well as build camaraderie by allowing employees to interact in a fun, laid back setting.

I can’t explain how much I love going to events like these because I really get to show every employees at each and every one of our call centers how much their hard work is valued. Our employees work extremely hard, and it’s important to let them know we appreciate it. I’ve said it more times than I can remember, but it’s only because it’s the truth: employees that feel appreciated and valued are going to work harder and at InfoCision we try to make sure that happens!

But don’t just take my word for it; according to a case study by Kim Harrison of Cutting Edge PR, “the cost of extremely negative or ‘actively disengaged’ workers comprises about 10% of the US Gross Domestic Product annually.”  And according to Harrison, Sears recently found that “for every 5% increase in employee attitude scores, they saw a 1-3% increase in customer satisfaction and a 0.5% increase in revenue.”

These numbers can have a big impact on your bottom line, especially when the mood of your employees comes across clearly to the people on the other end of the phone.  So make a point to let your employees know that their work is appreciated, and you’ll find that some small gestures can go a long way.

 

InfoCision: A top place to work in Northeast Ohio; and how your company can become one too

As I travel around to our 13 locations to celebrate our annual Employee Appreciation Days with our wonderful staff, it is an interesting coincidence that I just learned that The Plain Dealer has named InfoCision one of 25 Top Workplaces in Northeast Ohio for the third consecutive year, among large employers.

We want to be THE employer of choice in every community where we operate and our Employee Appreciation Days are just one of the many things we do to create a positive working environment for our employees. We also have programs like on-site fitness centers, on-site wellness clinics, on-site or subsidized child care, tuition reimbursement, a well-defined career progression path and a host of other employee programs. But you don’t need to spend a lot of money on expensive programs to make your employees feel appreciated. Here are several inexpensive programs anyone can take advantage of:

  • EAP Program
  • Paid maternity leave
  • Dependent day care savings plan
  • Discounted classes through local universities
  • Time off to volunteer
  • Healthy food choices in vending machines
  • Health fairs
  • Open door policy
  • Suggestion boxes
  • Employee forums

Making it onto a list like this is wonderful validation for us, because it is compiled based on surveys of employees by an independent vendor. It shows that employees really do appreciate it when the company goes above and beyond to help them succeed – not just at work, but also in their personal lives.

What workplace programs do you have that your employees really appreciate?  By sharing ideas, we can all create an environment of happy, healthy employees. And check back next week, when I blog about all the fun I’ve had at our Employee Appreciation Days and the statistics that provide the ammo for why these programs work.