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Hire and Coach for Success

Learning Objectives

After completing this module, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain how to hire the right service agents.
  • Explain how to motivate, train, and boost agent morale.
  • List what to look for when assessing agent performance and how to give effective feedback.

Turn Customer Service Agents into Agents of Change

Turnover statistics at most call centers reveal a truly scary picture, with plenty of effort and training dollars wasted, as experienced agents jump ship for better opportunities. Want to figure out how to stop wasting time and money? Here’s a step-by-step guide to implement a strong digital contact center hiring and onboarding program.

Step One: Hire the Right Agents

Service agent talks to customer on the phone

If you want to offer exceptional customer service, start by transforming your hiring process. Improving the hiring process boosts the overall performance of your operation and customer service, while cutting the cost of providing that service. So now you’re ready to hire stellar agents. Let’s examine the most important qualities to look for in every new hire, as outlined by Kevin Hegebarth, an expert in customer service and hiring excellent candidates.

  • Technical knowledge: They have a solid understanding for the industry and basic resolution skills.
  • Ability to multitask: They must thrive in a hectic environment and be able to jump from one issue to another quickly.
  • Pleasant phone etiquette: Candidates must have the ability to engage with customers in a pleasant manner and be able to hold a fluid conversation.
  • Ability to stay calm, cool, and collected: They’re able to remain calm and resourceful in any situation, regardless of the circumstances.
  • Ability to focus: They have the ability to stay present and focused on delivering the best possible service to each and every customer.
  • Solution-oriented thinkers: They display a high level of confidence and a propensity to search for a resolution themselves or direct their customers to the appropriate personnel who can provide an answer.
  • Ability to listen and put the customer first: They can use empathy and patience to ensure customers feel catered to and confident that the support representative is hearing their issue and is knowledgeable in the subject matter.

Step Two: Build a Winning Agent Team

As more people are doing business online, your customer service team is increasingly becoming the center of business growth. Kevin Hegebarth suggests four strategies you can use to build your winning agent workforce.

Four Key Strategies for Hiring Success


Decorative image of a birdThe Early Bird Gets the Worm

The competition for qualified agent labor is fierce. Make a decision quickly for the best chance to snag the best talent in your market. Applicants are more likely to accept job offers that are made quickly. And that timely hiring decision tends to have a positive effect on the prospective employee’s performance once on the job.

Decorative image of a notification bell icon Let Candidates Know

According to a 2013 national survey by CareerBuilder, over 75% of applicants never hear anything from a hiring company. Zero. Zilch. Nothing. Yet, 82% of them expect some kind of response, even a simple “thanks, but no thanks.” Don’t let your hiring process become a black hole. Responding to each application helps bolster your brand perception on company review sites and leads to more promising candidates.

Decorative image of hands interlockedGet Everyone Involved

Record applicant interviews and share the most promising candidates with key colleagues to ensure correct hiring decisions are made. It also helps calibrate the recruiting team—in much the same way as your quality assurance teams are calibrated—so that each candidate is evaluated consistently.

Decorative image of crystal ballUse Your Crystal Ball (Sort Of)

It takes a lot of time and money hiring each new agent, which is wasted if the new hire doesn’t work out. Big data and predictive analytics can help identify stellar candidates and minimize the risk of a bad hire. Predictive analytics compares the tenure and performance of successful agents with data collected about them during their hiring process. This comparison gives you a data-driven model that can help you evaluate new applicants. If candidates fit the model, they generally perform well against the key metrics of the organization. Move them to the top of your list for hiring consideration.

Step Three: Keep Your Agents Motivated

Customer service agent works at her desk.

So you’ve found the right talent, and built your team. Now you’ve arrived at one of the most important steps of all: Invest in your employees. Rewarding agents when they go beyond their job description helps retain top talent.

Remember, happy agents = happy customers. To keep your agents happy, you’ve got to equip them with tools to succeed in their job. Agents who feel supported are more invested in their jobs, and they’re more proactive, productive, and most importantly, more pleasant to customers.

So where to start? According to David Bethers, “fun incentive programs are an easy way to motivate and build team collaboration, while making employees feel rewarded for a job well done. But you also need a plan. These five ways can help agents make a successful career out of customer service.”

  1. New skills: Offer training in digital, social media, and mobile apps and emerging channels.
  2. New motivations: Empower agents to make decisions, highlight agent diversity hiring practices.
  3. New work rules: Give high-performing agents more autonomy that can lead to future positions, offer schedule flexibility, and encourage collaboration within the team.
  4. New metrics: Take another look at agent retention, offer role extensions and paths to promotions.
  5. New career paths: Introduce opportunities for agents to migrate to another department in your organization, such as Marketing, Digital Content, Social Media, or Sales.

Step Four: Deliver Constructive Feedback on Agent Performance

There are lots of factors that can affect an agent’s performance. As we all know, the contact center can be a stressful place. Agent stress can trigger customer stress, and customer stress can trigger agent stress. If you see an issue escalating on the floor, be sure to talk to your agents to help them recognize and diffuse their stress triggers.

Next, be sure to design the performance conversations in advance and communicate with your agents about how they are assessed. Create an open dialogue established to understand what tools and continued training your agents require to perform at their best.

Finally, deliver constructive and consistent feedback designed to improve agent performance and be clear about how you can support them and their growth aspirations. These steps can go far to ensure that agents earn your respect and trust and that they’re set up for continued success within your organization.

The Agent Performance Feedback Conversation
A flow chart showing the stages previously outlined in the content: State your purpose, describe observations, describe consequences, give them a chance to respond, offer suggestions, and summarize your support.

Resources:

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