Attacking agent attrition means throwing old management methods out the window and starting new. It means coaching better and more often. It also means changing up the way you hire agents. The revolving door of agents keeps going ‘round when the experience you’re providing agents isn’t a priority in your contact center. That experience starts when you hire and onboard agents, and it extends all the way until you’ve coached them to their peak. The peak is the point in your agents’ careers when they either turn in their headset and spend their final minutes working in a contact center, or when they get their well-deserved promotion and become a coach themselves.
We all know there’s a hefty cost that comes with agent attrition. On top of the $10,000-$15,000 in direct costs, companies generally rack up another 35 to 45% of that amount from lost productivity of the empty seat paired with the time it takes to ramp a new agent. And as if that’s not enough cause for concern, agent attrition takes a toll on your customer experience, too. In fact, 73 percent of people say friendly customer service representatives have the power to make them fall in love with a brand. Agents who are searching for new jobs, ready to spin their way through the revolving door, aren’t going to deliver the friendly experiences that make your customers fall in love with your brand.
So, how do you stop your company’s money from disappearing into the black hole that is agent attrition? And how do you make sure the agents you have on the frontline are ones who will be the friendly face of your company? YOU build a team full of empowered human beings that you love to coach and want to succeed. You hire right, instead of hiring fast.
Let’s walk through how you can hire the right agents to work in your contact center, so you can permanently seal the revolving door.
First things first: Assess your current team.
Before you bring new agents into the mix, get a good grasp of the personalities and work styles of all your agents. You can see where you need to fill skill gaps on your team when you choose your new hires. Plus, it helps you build a team with positive team chemistry. Sometimes, certain personality types just don’t mix. You don’t want to hire someone who clicks with you, but not with your team. That can quickly create a toxic, negative work environment. Be sure new hires are a great fit for the culture and pace of your workplace, too.
Filling gaps on your team will help you reshape your team and accelerate your agents’ development. Just because you can look at a resume and put tiny checkmarks next to all the job requirements (yes, we know all the joy and excitement that tiny check marks deliver), it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re picking the right person for the job. Hire for team strength, not just individual strength.
Hire people who want to grow with your company.
Customer service is often flagged as a placeholder or entry-level job. Attrition rates prove that companies aren’t taking steps to keep agents. That’s a sign that agents are viewed as replaceable. We think differently. To kick stalled CSAT scores to the curb (you know, the ones that have been sitting in the C- to C+ range for +23 years), you have to look beyond the daily tasks of an agent when you hire. Look at the person and their potential for future opportunities, too. With the right coaching, peer mentorship, and a fantastic agent experience, can you see this person hanging around to progress with your company? Those high-potential candidates are the ones you want to hire.
Hire for passion and intrinsic motivation.
Are the agents you interview simply looking for a paycheck? Or do they genuinely want to help make customers’ lives better? Those who want to help others thrive are motivated intrinsically – by passion – rather than by money or perks. Intrinsic motivators are the drivers people need for success and longevity in their jobs. A paycheck is great, but it doesn’t have staying power. Ask questions that determine WHY a person wants to work in a contact center, and cut ‘em loose after the first interview if you can’t see past dollar signs in their eyes.
Hire people who are empathetic and good communicators.
A person’s empathy and communication skills can be improved with the right coaching, sure, but they are inherent traits people have. That means you can coach someone to be more empathetic and a better communicator, but you can’t muster these traits out of thin air. Top-performing customer service agents are empathetic, phenomenal communicators. The central purpose of customer service is problem-solving to help others. It’s a service-minded, heart-driven role. The best service is provided by agents who feel the pain others have and communicate their understanding of that pain when a customer has a problem.
Top brands known for their customer service, like Apple and Warby Parker, emphasize the importance of empathy, and communicating that empathy, when working with customers. Apple even coaches about the power of empathy when they train new hires. Ask situational questions like, “talk about a time your manager or a peer criticized you on the job. What was your reaction?” or “how would you handle unexpected company changes?” See if your candidates respond with poise and understanding about the situations. If they do, you’ll know you have talented individuals who can be rockstar agents.
Hire constant learners.
Customer service should be a highly trained profession. No matter what product or service your company sells, there are always frequent changes to keep up with. That’s just what it takes to stay viable in today’s always-in-flux market. Your agents need to know the ins-and-outs of not only your product, but your company and your industry, too. To be successful in housing all that knowledge and keeping up with change, you need to hire agents who crave learning. Ask behavioral questions like, “how would you solve a problem for a customer if you didn’t know the answer,” to see if candidates would run to their manager for their answer, or if they’d seek it out the information themselves. Search for people who are curious and constantly want to do better. These are the people who want to be coached and get the knowledge and training they need to excel.
Be clear about the type of candidate you’re looking for up front. List the traits you’re seeking in the job description, list the type of experience a person needs to be successful, and set expectations about the core job responsibilities an agent will see in their daily role. But go beyond the resume and job description, too. Spend more time getting to know the personalities, job aspirations, and work styles of your candidates, and you’ll hire fantastic agents.