Hiring support agents is never an easy task. There is a misconception that working a support job, like a call center representative role, is easy and something that anyone could do.
When in reality, being the front line of the customer service organization is a stressful, complicated job that requires charisma, patience, intelligence, deductive reasoning, and creative problem solving, just to name a few crucial characteristics. You want the first person that your customers interact with to be well-spoken, well-mannered, and well-educated on the goals of your company.
While hiring for any job can be difficult, hiring agents who not only align with your organizational goals but also perform their daily job duties in a successful manner can be especially hard. For best results, take a step back and start from the beginning.
Identify your goals
It is impossible to hire people who align with your goals if you have not identified them. Take the time to sit down, think about what you really want your company’s mission to be, and write them down. But don’t stop there. Revisit them. Always be evaluating and adapting your goals, or else your hiring practices will always be a step behind them.
Take the key questions you should be asking yourself in order to create your goals.
Bring in your current talent
If you have agents on your team that you know perform well and meet your expectations, it’s likely that they have a deep understanding of your company’s goals, and have been successful in finding ways to work that prioritize them. Get them involved in the hiring process. Having candidates interview with you is important to ensure that you can work well with them, but it is equally as important to have candidates interact with their potential teammates before hiring.
Tell your employees what to be looking for, and connect with them afterward to get their opinions on how the candidate meshes with the team.
Evaluate your own management style
The employee/manager relationship is important and is as much your responsibility as it is your agent’s. Their success relies both on their own hard work and your support. When hiring, consider your management style and what you can offer to your new hires. If you cannot provide the kind of support that they need to succeed, you are going to do them a disservice by hiring them.
Tell your candidates exactly what you would expect from them if they are hired. Be sure the job description you provide is detailed and well-edited by yourself and your team. When the candidate comes in, be sure to educate them on your goals to evaluate their ability to meet them, and explain their role in building customer relationships.
Get them into it
Whether it’s through role-playing exercises, a short training, or brief assessment, don’t be afraid to put your candidate into the seat they might fill. If they can’t interact with you and your team in a desirable way, they won’t work well with your organization. If they don’t understand the education you provide or the questions you are asking, they will not be successful.
An important thing to remember when it comes to employee success is that if you put an agent into a position in which they cannot be successful, you have contributed to their failure in perhaps a more meaningful way than their shortcomings.
Take your time
Don’t rush the hiring process. Be sure about your decision and make it in your own time. Candidates will always be eager, and you shouldn’t keep them waiting any longer than necessary just to see how they react under pressure. But don’t let them rush you.
Train on the issues you face
Training is always a plus at any company. Good employees are eager to learn and improve so that they can advance their careers. When you first bring in an agent, be sure to train them on the kinds of systems your company uses and the kinds of issues your customers face. Different companies provide different goods and services, which means your customers face unique challenges. A new job at a new company will inherently require training time on basics.
Have an escalation model
If there is no escalation model present, agents will not know how to resolve problems that are beyond their abilities. This may seem like common sense, but if there is not a system in place, issues will end up on the wrong people's desks, including your own. Do your team a favor and clearly outline escalation for a variety of problems and situation severities. Having this in place will empower your agents to feel in control of their calls while providing them with a comfortable process for dealing with difficult problems.
Never stop training
Retaining agents will require investment. One factor that can really help candidates make a job decision is upward mobility. If there is no room to grow, your agents will get bored, and bored employees don’t perform the way that you want them to.
Offer training both as a perk and an incentive. Certain trainings, free ones in particular, and internal ones, are always a perk for those looking to grow as professionals. External trainings, like seminars and workshops, which often cost money, should be an enjoyable incentive for good performance.
Partner them with a veteran
On-the-job training is important, and who better to teach your new hires than your long-time employees? They know your customers, they know the issues they face, they know your goals, and they know your expectations. They are certified experts on your company. Mandate one-on-one trainings, team meetings, and development checkins to make sure that knowledge is being trickled down appropriately.
What are the commonalities between the agents who have been with your company the longest? What kind of people like working for you and are successful in your organization? These are the kinds of people you should be looking for, and these are the kinds of people you will have fewer issues retaining.
Don’t ignore the obvious drivers
It’s clear that anyone seeking a job is looking for competitive pay and benefits. You may not always be able to top the competition’s offers, but you can certainly make sure you stay in the running by offering realistic compensation packages. Your initial offers need to be good enough to convince talent to join your company, and your promotion and raise structure needs to be realistic financially but motivating for your agents. Take the time to analyze your finances and what you can afford to pay to make sure that you aren’t breaking the bank, but you aren’t skimping on the comp either.
Burnout is a very real issue in the workplace, especially in call centers and customer service organizations in general. Encourage good work-life balance with your agents. If they can perform their job remotely, allow some work from home time when possible. Make sure that you offer fair vacation, holiday, and sick time. Many candidates will consider this part of their “benefits,” which means they will weigh it heavily when deciding whether or not to take your offer, and it will govern their happiness at your organization going forward.
Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity
Even if you implement all of these tips, you may still find yourself unable to hire quality agents. Sometimes, it can simply be a matter of the candidate pool in your area at a given time! There’s nothing that you can do to counter that, except to keep looking. Don’t settle for the candidate that doesn’t quite qualify for the role just to fill a seat. This will cause problems down the road and ultimately slow your business, and the customer service department. Find the best matches, even if it takes time.
Good employees make for a good workplace. The energy of your company must be positive and productive. People talk, and your employees will surely be asked how they like their job by dozens of their family members, friends, and colleagues. In an ideal world, they’ll have nothing but good things to say about your leadership and goals. Anyone who only complains about these things is a toxic component of your work environment, and will only serve to create a negative image for your company.
As much as you want your agents to be productive and succeed, you also have to want them to be happy, and you have to give them things that will make them happy. No one WANTS to show up to a job that they don’t like every day, whether they dislike it because they feel they are failing or because they feel they are not being appropriately compensated for their work.
Employee happiness is a delicate balance of standard setting and reward. Hire the best candidates you can find, give them the tools of success, and keep them as happy as possible, and you will retain agents who will help you reach your goals, and probably then some!