How to Hire the Right Call Center Agents
Attacking agent attrition in your contact center means throwing old management methods out the window and starting new. It means coaching better and more often. And it also means learning how to hire an agent that genuinely wants to work in your contact center. (Then doing what it takes to keep them.)
Until you prioritize your agent experience, the revolving door keeps spinning ‘round. Your agent experience starts when you hire and onboard agents, and it extends all the way until you’ve coached them to reach their goals.
We all know there’s a hefty cost that comes with agent attrition. On top of the $10,000-$20,000 in immediate costs to fill a seat, companies typically spend up to 3x of an employee’s annual salary on other prospective costs, like lost productivity and ramp-up time for new hires. As if that’s not enough cause for concern, agent attrition takes a toll on your customer experience, too.
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Nearly 80% of people say getting friendly and helpful service from your agents has the biggest impact on their experience. Agents who are ready to spin their way through the revolving door, already searching for new jobs, 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 will be the friendly faces of your company?
You build a team 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 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 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 checkmarks deliver), it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re picking the right person for the job. Hire for team strength, not just individual strength.
Hire agents 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 +25 years), you have to look beyond the daily tasks of an agent when you hire. Look at the person and their potential for growth. 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 customers? 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.
You can improve a person’s empathy and communication skills 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 agents 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, 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.
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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 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 or service, 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 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 upfront. 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.
We originally published this post on September 18, 2018, and we updated it on October 7, 2021.