Why your Applicant Intake Process Matters
Why Your Applicant Intake Process Matters
The first article in a five-part series on protecting and conserving your workforce
Eric Berg, Founder All-Calls; Founder Midwest Contact Center Association
We have a strong economy, which in turn causes healthy competition for top employees. Greater turnover is a side effect of health economies and employment numbers. This five-part series on limiting attrition will reveal five critical moments in your employee-employer relationship and explain how managing those moments can curb the high costs of uncontrolled attrition.
Your Applicant Intake Process: Do you know what’s working?
Recently, I was asked to consult with a contact center experiencing nearly 300% attrition annually. In my meeting with the leadership team I asked, “What is the personality profile of your most successful agent?”
That was the moment I learned why their attrition rate was so high.
The Contact Center leadership had no clue about personalities or behaviors of their top performers. They could tell me what their best agents’ metrics were and how often they hit their goals, but they had no idea why they were successful.
Then I asked them about their current applicant intake process. Their answer? A Typing test. Seriously? The contact center leadership had no idea what made a successful agent. And, worse yet, they were choosing applicants based on a skill that had nothing to do with success in a contact center environment.
These mistakes are common to contact center as well as other organizations. By assessing applicants based on inexpensive and easy to acquire skills and paying no attention to their inherent and often intractable personalities and behaviors, companies end up with WPM instead of ROI.
The Costs of a Bad Hire
As the US Economy continues to improve, it’s getting harder to attract and retain agents. In an effort to put “butts in seats” some companies hire talent who are just not as talented as they need to be in order to protect the company’s brand.
According to CareerBuilder, the average cost of a bad hire can range from $25,000 to well over $50,000. And, the cost to hire and train a new contact center agent is $9,400 according to Response Design. This means a contact center with 100 seats experiencing 300% attrition has an estimated loss of $2,820,000. OUCH!
It’s easy to see than an applicant intake process that reduces attrition will quickly show a good return on investment, even if your turnover rate isn’t at the 300% mark.
Hidden Costs to your training program.
When agents leave there is a tangible and measurable cost to replace them. What cannot be measured easily is the effect of turnover on your brand, your other employees, and morale. It’s hard to quantify, but real.
The typical learning curve for a contact center agent is three to six months. If you contact center is experiencing high turnover, a large percentage of your agent may simply be too new to provide the level of service your customers expect, and the result could be customer attrition. Furthermore, a constant flow of new employees monopolizes your training team., deferring ongoing or enhance ed training for your experienced staff.
Stress on your high performers
Your core agents may also feel the strain. They must continue to meet their goals, but may also help train the new colleagues, answering the many questions a new-hire has in his or her first weeks on the job. They may also feel pressured to pick up the slack that results from a bevy of new staff not performing to full capacity.
High attrition can rattle your core staff, who start to absorb the stress in the environment and wonder “is it worth it?” Should the turmoil cause the loss of some or all of your top performers, your problems will grow exponentially.
Your Hiring Process: Are you Hiring or Selecting?
The Ritz-Carlton hotel organization is known for their world-class service – and their notoriously slow and multilayered hiring and interview process. Many staff members meet the candidate and get involved in the process, and the focus is heavily on the applicant’s personality, strengths and raw talent, valued above skills and training. At the Ritz-Carlton, they use the word “selection” instead of “hiring”.
In the Book, The New Gold Standard” 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlson Hotel Company, Herve Humler, president of international operations for the Ritz-Carlton says, “Hiring can be nothing more than finding anyone to fill the job. But Selection? That is choosing the best person to provide exemplary service”.
Changing Your Applicant Intake Process
According to Purdue University study on decreasing attrition in a contact center environment, it’s possible to reduce your overall attrition by up to 21% with the right applicant intake process. Any applicant intake process that is in alignment with industry best practices will include the following:
· Statistically Validated Assessments (skills and personalities/behaviors)
· Realistic Job Preview
· Behavioral Interview
Before we begin your new process, ask yourself two critical questions:
1. What are my Goals?
2. What personalities and behaviors do my agents need to meet those goals?
What are My Goals?
What is the desired outcome of a customer contact in your contact centers? Is it:
· First call resolution
· Customer experience
· Closing a sale
· Collecting a payment
· Training an order
· Solving a technical issue
· Satisfying a customer
· Retaining a customer
In addition to your primary goals, do you also have a purpose> Perhaps your contact center is dedicated to “excellent customer experience” or “World Class Service” or “Error Free processes”. Find a worthy purpose and hang it on the wall. It will remind your team that they have more than daily goals and tasks – they have a path to greatness. And it will remind you – as you select new staff – to look for people who naturally want to excel and be part of something exceptional.
What Personalities and Behaviors Do My Agents Need to Meet Those Goals?
Once you have determined your goals, you can start thinking about which types of personalities are best suited to meet those goals.
For example, if you have a highly controlled process that requires agents to follow a script verbatim (such as complicated legal and financial communication), then you are looking for detail-oriented personalities. Agents who can listen to a situation and access a knowledge base to determine the best solution for a customer - need judgement effectiveness and reasoning. If sales are your goal, then confidence and persuasiveness – the ability to close the deal, overcome objections, or discuss features versus benefits – are probably the most important personality traits in a candidate.
Finding the Right Assessment Tools
Look for well-regarded personality assessment tools that identify traits your business needs, whether assertiveness, leadership, persistence, judgment, effectiveness, reasoning, attention to detail or others. Some versions of broadly accepted personality tests include:
1. Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
2. Personality and Preference Industry (PAPI)
3. Predictive Index (PI)
4. IBM Kenexa
You may want to try out a test by having your top performers take it. A good assessment toll will reveal the desired qualities that they share so that you can identify them in a future applicant. Their results then become your profile for success.
Side note, I have used Predictive Index and Kenexa for the past 7 years and experience significantly below average attrition.
Realistic Job Preview
This is soul searching time. Are new hires promised more than they receive> By week three, do they have a perpetually surprised look on their faces? By week four, are they interviewing somewhere else?
Again, the solution is to turn to your core agents and top performers. Request a candid assessment of the job, including work environment, opportunities for advancement, incentives and daily tasks and expectations. What surprises did they encounter in their first weeks? Does your way of sharing performance statistics motivate some agents but discourage others?
Use their input to refine and redevelop your job description realistically and eliminate unpleasant surprises for new-hires.
You’re probably already asking “behavioral” type questions when you interview. These can reveal how a person will perform when faced with a situation on the job. Some examples are:
Tell an example of a goal you reached and how you achieved it.
Describe a stressful situation at work and how you managed it
How have you handled a difficult coworker or customer?
The more specific you can be, and the more relevant to your goals, the more likely you will get an honest, unrehearsed answer that accurately forecasts how an applicant will react and whether or not they will meet your goals and needs.
Look at You! You’ve determined which personalities are critical to your operation, and you have assessments to reveal which applicant fits best. You’ve defined a shared purpose for your team and implemented a hiring process with more realistic job previews and guidelines for behavioral preferences. Your newest agents feel right at home with the rest of your carefully selected staff. And you are getting even more out of your top agents - by asking them for valuable input and having them serve as templates for your future staff. They like the attention and fell valued.
Yo0u are well on your way to reducing attrition in your center. In fact, you’ve found the key to every long-lasting and successful process ever designed – you’ve identifies what works and have made it replicable. Congratulations