Operating a high performing contact center before the COVID-19 pandemic was hard, but now, it’s gotten even harder.
Coming out of the height of the pandemic, 68% of customer service leaders note that customer expectations have increased, yet hold times, escalations, the number of callers who did not get their issues resolved, and overall customer service satisfaction have all moved in the wrong direction.
Less than half of customer support leaders today are sure they’re meeting market expectations: and their teams are no doubt feeling the pain.
Following the need to keep up with sustained operational demands, attracting, finding, and bringing on qualified talent amidst labor shortages is a top priority for contact center leaders.
With record labor market tightness, falling labor participation rates, and stiff competition for talent from adjacent industries like retail, hospitality, and tourism, I’m not surprised contact center leaders find it difficult to meet their hiring demands.
To make things worse, 1 in 3 contact center agents report they are considering leaving their jobs within a year.
The Labor Market Has Changed and So Must You
Once upon a time, employers had the luxury of putting out a job posting and having a slew of interested candidates apply. Back then, there were more people out looking for a job than jobs available.
These days, that’s not the case.
Now, there are more jobs out there than people who are looking for them, which, when paired with a lower labor force participation rate, has resulted in companies not seeing as many candidates applying for their open roles. Over the last year, almost 7 in 10 companies noted they are getting fewer candidates applying for jobs.
Those who have traditionally been drawn to contact center type roles in the past have more options than ever before.
...most traditional forms of recruitment for contact centers are behind the curve...
Consequently, call centers that are struggling to recruit and retain employees to ensure they have the capacity to meet rising operational demands must work harder to find and keep the attention of those who might be interested to join their ranks.
Compound these macro-challenges with a broad shift to remote work, and the ramp in preference for digital communication methods like video, text, or messaging, most traditional forms of recruitment for contact centers are behind the curve: and are likely to stay there if they don’t change.
Ditch the Old to Make Way for the New
When I look at the way most companies hire these days, it’s clear why they can’t meet their hiring objective in these difficult market conditions.
Having worked with hundreds of companies over the last few years that consistently struggle with high volume hiring, one commonality stands out as to why they continue to experience challenges. Namely they are stuck in the old ways of hiring and employ processes that are set up to fail in today’s market. They are just moving too slow and find themselves flatfooted.
Being flatfooted in today’s landscape of contact center hiring looks something like this:
- Conducting phone screens and constantly chasing candidates with voicemails and follow-ups.
- Employing 1 to 1 interview scheduling which results in no-shows, wasted recruiter time, and delays the process for those who are actually interested.
- Spending hours screening resumes and filtering candidates out through keywords who might actually be a good fit for the role.
Sounds like you? Just know that the systems you have put in place are making it exponentially harder for your recruiters to do what you want them to be doing. Which is to meet people who are interested in your roles with the right skills as fast and efficiently as possible.
The most important thing I’ve come to learn working with these companies is that successful hiring for contact centers today is becoming more like a race.
With 1 in 3 companies admitting their application process takes longer than 30 minutes for high volume roles, and 1 in 2 not having a mobile-optimized application process, nobody should be surprised candidates are dropping off early in the recruitment process. Whether due to a poor experience or because they found another job quicker.
In a race, speed is everything: and most organizations aren’t wearing the right shoes.
Getting up to Speed: Where You Can Start
To begin shaking old habits, the best thing for those who hire or manage hiring processes for contact centers is to ask themselves: “How might we go about moving candidates from expression of interest to interview as fast as possible with zero friction?”
The more you think about this question, the faster you’ll start to see "how antiquated and inefficient the way we have set up our contact center hiring processes are."
It doesn’t have to be though.
From my experience, those who take the time to rethink, reassess, and question their current practices can reduce their hiring times for high volume roles by up to 5x.
It’s not easy, but it can be done.
Substitute Phone Screens for Speed Interviews
While phone screens have been for as long as I can remember, the traditional first step a recruitment team takes when evaluating a candidate, it can be one of the most difficult and time-consuming parts of the recruitment process. So much so it can drive candidates to drop out early.
At the outset of candidate evaluation, the top priority for a high-volume recruitment pipeline needs to be bringing interested candidates into the process as fast as possible and getting them set up to have a conversation with a recruiter.
This shift in philosophy carries benefits for the candidate and the recruiter. The last thing either of them want to do is spend their day going back and forth on email or telephone tag, in the hope they find a mutually agreeable time to connect.
Additionally, given the volume of roles and candidates recruiters must manage, removing this type of administrative swirl bears massive benefits.
Instead of the traditional phone screen, video is quickly becoming a preferred way to connect and speed interview platforms can be used to automatically schedule short back-to-back interviews. These allow both recruiters and candidates to quickly engage with each other, establish fit, and feel things out.
The beauty of this approach is that not only is it more human, but it is also faster. The quicker, easier, and more personally a recruiter can connect with a candidate, the more likely they will consider your roles as a competitive option.
Screen the Person, Not the Resume
These days, it’s become increasingly clear that the resume, a document first created in 1482 and formalized in 1950, is an outdated and ineffective tool for high volume contact center hiring.
For most contact center roles, using a resume alone to assess a candidate’s fit for the job makes little sense, especially since the only real way to judge a candidate’s skills for these roles is through face-to-face meetings.
...it's never been more important...to de-emphasize the focus on the resume.
These limitations can compound when you consider how applicant tracking systems (ATS) have well-documented histories of screening out quality candidates through keyword searches because their resumes don’t exactly fit the job description. What a waste!
In the contact center world, who agents are, their motivations, and how they interact with others is far more important than what they look like on paper.
That’s why it’s never been more important for those who hire for contact center roles to de-emphasize the focus on the resume. Instead, they must provide all those who are interested in and committed to roles they have open the opportunity to be evaluated.
Optimize Hiring for Remote
In my conversations with contact center leaders, I continue to be surprised by how many of them still believe that to hire the right agents, there needs to be at least some in-person element of the interview process. When one compares that thinking with that 65% of contact center agents are working remotely part of the time, and having access to remote being an important consideration for prospective employees, employers who don’t optimize recruitment efforts for remote are behind.
Organizations are moving their contact center operations to a remote setup, so a remote-first interview process that can take place anywhere quickly is the new expectation.
If you don’t meet these expectations, the folks in your pipeline will have an easy time finding a company whose recruitment and onboarding are built remote-first.
Putting It All Together
When I reflect on the challenges shaping the workforce over the last few years, I’m excited for how these forces will make us all rethink the traditional playbook of high-volume contact center recruitment.
Despite a seemingly imminent economic slowdown, it’s likely the labor shortages we face will persist and so we need to step up.
The good thing is that recruitment leaders in our space have never been better equipped to respond.
By taking a hard look at your current recruitment practices and asking tough questions of longstanding beliefs around what successful recruitment looks like, you and the industry can start making big strides towards a more streamlined, effective and candidate-centric, high-volume recruitment experience.