We investigate whether or not contact centres are finding it more difficult to recruit “good people”, focusing largely on the advisor role.
Yes Is the Short Answer
This is according to Michelle Ansell, a Recruitment Consultant at Douglas Jackson, and while low unemployment rates are no doubt a key reason for this, Michelle believes that there are many other contributing factors.
The contact centre industry is changing quickly, in terms of new roles and what is expected from advisors.
Michelle says: “The contact centre industry is changing quickly, in terms of new roles and what is expected from advisors, but the outside perceptions remain largely where they were in the past.”
These perceptions and the evolving advisor role are likely to be key factors in why finding “good contact centre people” is becoming increasingly challenging.
So, let’s dissect these reasons in greater detail and highlight what else could be creating this recruitment problem.
The Advisor Role Is Changing
With the internet, the rise in self-service and the growing focus on the customer experience, advisors are handling tougher query types and are expected to have more skills.
As Triana Atallah, a Marketing Executive at Business Systems, says: “Delivering an optimal customer experience now not only requires business acumen, technical and digital competence but also emotional intelligence.”
With this in mind, a “good” advisor at this time has many more skills than a “good” advisor from the ten years ago, making it harder to find the right people.
But not only is the advisor role changing, other positions within the contact centre are changing too, becoming more challenging and requiring a more skilled worker.
Giving the example of a Resource Planner, Michelle says: “It used to mostly involve knowledge of spreadsheets and certain maths principles. But now, someone in this role is expected to be much more communicative and have greater stakeholder engagement.”
Negative Perceptions of Contact Centres
Unfortunately, while contact centre roles are changing, old preconceptions of advisors being “tethered” to a desk and sitting in isolated cubicles are not going away.
Michelle says: “Contact centres are still struggling to overcome old stereotypes of micromanaging people, with many people still believing that being an advisor allows for little creative freedom.”
Contact centres are still struggling to overcome old stereotypes of micromanaging people, with many people still believing that being an advisor allows for little creative freedom.
“While many contact centres have made great strides to remove the issues that have led to this negative image, these preconceptions still exist.”
With many young candidates now seeking to work in an engaging working environment, these stereotypes are likely dissuading many ideal candidates.
To find out more about contact centre life, read our article: What Is Working in a Call Centre Really Like?
Conflicts With Millennial Job Priorities
Simply upping the salary will not be enough to attract many potentially good candidates to the contact centre – building the right culture is key.
While these preconceptions will likely hurt you at the start of the recruitment process, if you create a culture that “fits” millennial job priorities, contact centre recruiting will become easier.
These priorities now include things like maintaining a work–life balance, having opportunities to make a difference to the wider community and, perhaps most importantly, career progression.
Typically, with their flatter “pyramidal” structures, contact centres have struggled to offer career progression, so if your contact centre is yet to create an advisor development plan that can be showcased to candidates, recruitment will be made more difficult.
Career Competition in Certain Locations
As with any job, it is easier to find “good” candidates in certain places, mostly due to the amount of competition that exists within that area.
Michelle explains: “If you look at London and the south east, there aren’t necessarily any huge contact centres in these areas, but there are an awful lot of disruptors and technology-led businesses that are looking for the same types of talent.”
So, if your contact centre is located in an area with lots of start-ups, where there is a lot of competition for entry-level workers, recruiting advisors will be difficult.
The Changing Contact Centre Structure
Many contact centres are recruiting for positions which didn’t exist a few years ago, making it difficult to define the ideal candidate for the role.
As Michelle says: “We don’t recruit managerial and team leader roles to the extent to which we used to, as many opportunities are now taken through internal promotions, but we are seeing many new job titles.”
“These new titles include roles like data analysts, customer experience managers and digital contact directors, the duties of which will vary greatly from one organization to another.”
Due to the variation between these roles, there isn’t one generic skill set that we can look for. The person that comes into the role will likely be brought in from a very different position – making it more difficult to know whether or not we have the right person.
What Can You Do About It?
While all of the above are contributing factors to the contact centre recruitment dilemma, the following tips may help you to minimize their impact.
Adapt Your Brand’s Image
This is much easier said than done, of course, but you want potential candidates to be enthusiastic about working for you, and this is made easier when you have a clear brand identity.
Michelle says: “It’s great to build up a better perception of who you are as an organization, as many young people will be more enthusiastic about working for a brand that is known for having a great culture.”
Many people also like to work for companies with a message, which might be environmental or charitable
“Many people also like to work for companies with a message, which could be environmental or charitable. If brands can present themselves on that level, as opposed to on a more functional job level, that will likely attract more individuals to your company.”
While this will take an organization-wide effort, there are things that you can do to pass this type of positive message through to candidates during the recruitment process.
For example, does you contact centre support any charities? Try to highlight this in any job posts and share it on social media.
Highlight a Pathway for Development
If we go back to the 1980s, there were big businesses that invested an awful lot in training, but nowadays you don’t seem to get that focus on learning and development in a lot of industries.
While contact centres do not have a reputation within the mainstream culture for development, a lot of training is involved when an advisor begins their job, and many contact centres are now realizing the importance of nurturing their talent.
Contact centres can be great environments for people who haven’t fully decided on what they want to do, whether that’s when leaving school or university, as they often offer additional training to build on their existing skill set.
Michelle adds: “Contact centres can be great environments for people who haven’t fully decided on what they want to do, whether that’s when leaving school or university, as they often offer additional training to build-on their existing skill-set.”
If you actively target these candidates during recruitment, you can develop a recruitment strategy that showcases what you can offer them in terms of longer-term development.
This strategy doesn’t need to just involve working advisors up the contact centre ladder, but can instead provide training that will set advisors up for suitable roles in other parts of the organization.
Engage With Prospective Candidates Early
Some companies are still following the same traditional recruitment process that they have done for decades, despite struggling to find the right people. These organizations need to revamp their recruitment process to better engage with promising candidates.
Michelle says: “Good candidates will be active about what they are looking for, exploring lots of different things, so if they only get an automated email requesting an interview, the reality is that they might not even turn up.”
So, we need to think about our recruiting processes, trying to find ways to engage with potential advisors early on, getting them interested and not just putting them through a formal, cold interview process.
Don’t wait until the deadline for applications to come in before contacting those who have applied. When a promising CV comes through, reply quickly to the candidate, so they are fully engaged.
Improve Your Shift Patterns
Many contact centres design their shift patterns for efficiency, but if you instead consider schedule design as an opportunity for employee engagement, you can widen your potential recruitment pool.
Traditional ways of scheduling advisors, such as using rotational shifts, may not be ideal for millennial advisors, as they do not fit their lifestyles.
Young people generally view having a work–life balance as a major job priority, and traditional ways of scheduling advisors, such as using rotational shifts, may not be ideal for millennial advisors, as they do not fit their lifestyles.
Michelle adds: “We still see a lot of contact centres offering rotational shifts, mostly because many now have longer opening hours. But while it’s understandable to use these for operational reasons, very few people live ‘rotational lives’.”
So, take a step back and stop treating schedules as a game of Tetris where you look to fill in the gaps. If you can instead design shifts that suit lifestyles and recruit for these lifestyles, you can run a much more focused recruitment campaign.
Workforce Management (WFM) technology can be a great help here, while other technologies – such as self-service, chatbots and analytics – can help as well, in terms of lowering your recruitment needs.
Dan Somers, Director at Warwick Analytics, adds: “There are many ways that better technology and analytics can support better processes that make ‘being great’ easier and more standardised as well as routing digital queries to the best people. This makes it easier to find and retain the best people and take on more inexperienced staff.”
Homeworking can be a great flexibility lever, enabling contact centres to draft in advisors much more easily when falling behind. However, it also has great benefits when it comes to recruitment.
Michelle says: “Homeworking, while it is still a rare initiative in the contact centre, is gaining popularity because it widens the demographic of potential advisors that you can hire from.”
While a physical contact centre may be too far for an advisor to travel every day, if they can work a certain number of days from home, you can attract advisors from further afield.
For example, while a physical contact centre may be too far for an advisor to travel every day, if they can work a certain number of days from home, you can attract advisors from further afield.
Homeworking also enables you to bring in advisors from varied backgrounds, enabling you to possibly bring in a wider range of skill sets.
For more advice for improving your chances of recruiting “good” contact centre people, read our article: 12 Ways to Become a Contact Centre Employer of Choice
According to the experts, it is becoming more difficult to hire “good” contact centre people, but it’s a much more complicated problem than just pointing to the current low levels of unemployment.
There are many contributing factors, including the fact that the advisor role is now more challenging than ever before, which makes finding “good” candidates for an entry-level position more problematic.
Other factors include negative preconceptions of the industry, career competition and the conflict between the advisor role in many contact centres and millennial job priorities.
But many contact centres are now becoming wise to these issues and are doing more in terms of aiding the wider career progression of their advisors, fine-tuning their recruitment process and adapting their shift patterns.
So, if your contact centre has been struggling to find “good” candidates for the advisor role, thinking about these ideas may be the ideal place to start.
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