ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Inside Outsourced: You Stole My Man!

As this episode begins, we find out that one of the agents has quit. (Don’t worry, it was one of the background characters and not one of the agents we all know and love.) Though Rajiv has the idea of splitting the agent’s salary between him and Todd and making the other agents pick up the slack, Todd plans on hiring someone new.

When word gets out about the job opening, everyone has an idea. In addition to people from outside, Madhuri suggests Todd hire her narcoleptic grandmother, while Manmeet nominates some attractive woman he met on the bus. And Gupta disguises himself in glasses and a hat and tries to interview for the job as Alok, his identical cousin.

When called out by Todd, Gupta explains that he only puts in a half day of work, so, if he were hired as his cousin, he would put in a full day and get two paychecks, but corporate wouldn’t have to know about it. Todd rightfully declines Gupta’s suggestions. Still, Gupta asks Todd if he can borrow some money. When Todd says no, Gupta asks if he would let Alok borrow some. Of course, Todd declines this as well.

Just when he’s about to give up on finding someone, a guy named Kamik comes in and is perfect. He’s well spoken, smart, and mature. So Todd snatches him up and hires him. Later on, Todd brags to Tonya and Charlie about his wonderful new employee. Tonya then warns that his new guy might get poached by another call center, but Todd isn’t too worried about that.

Back at the center, Todd tells Rajiv what a great job Kamik is doing, and scares Rajiv by saying that he might become manager one day. This results in Rajiv calling Kamik and trying to set him up. He pretends to be an employee of an orphanage and asks Kamik to donate some products for the children. Well, Kamik was as professional as can be, and tells the caller that he’ll have to check with his supervisor, Rajiv. We then see a rather humorous scene, with Rajiv talking to himself so as not to let Kamik know what he was up to.

The next day, Todd comes into work only to learn that Kamik is no longer there. When he goes to Tonya’s center to meet her for lunch, he is shocked to find Kamik working the phones there. Later on, he discusses the situation with Charlie. Charlie tells him not to take it personally, since this kind of thing happens all the time with call centers. Still, Todd can’t get over it and vows to get Kamik back. So, that night, he and Charlie sneak into Tonya’s office to find out how much she’s paying him. It turns out she’s paying him twice as much as what Todd did, so there’s no way he’ll be able to pay Kamik enough to come back to Mid America Novelties. Instead, he gets Kamik a job at a different center; if he couldn’t have him, he didn’t want Tonya to have him either.

Despite all that drama, Todd is still short an agent. So, what does he do? He ends up hiring Gupta’s alter-ego, Alok. However, Gupta will only be working double duty until Todd finds someone new.

Here again to lend their expert insight this week are ICMI's Rose Polchin and Laura Grimes.

Q. Todd got pretty frustrated when interviewing potential agents, which is understandable given the pool of candidates he saw. But what are some qualities call center managers should look for when hiring new agents?

Rose:  Hiring new agents is one of many times when working with your HR partner is a good thing. While there are certain core competencies that “fit” most call center representative positions, I would also recommend that you work with your HR department and take a moment to:

  • Review the position you are hiring and the existing job description to determine if/what may have changed since you last hired. Example: Do you now require sales as well as service skills because you’ve started cross-selling/up-selling or perhaps you are handling other channels besides phone that may require writing skills and so on.
  • Also consider your organization’s mission, vision, values and culture. These are critical components of a “right fit” that go beyond basic customer service skills and need to be considered.
  • Finally, once you’ve determined the competencies the position requires I would suggest you work with HR to decide which ones are “musts” (the skills, knowledge, abilities the candidate already has) and which ones are “nice to haves” (perhaps you can train or coach someone on).

Here are some suggestions for competencies. Again, there may be others and some may be “musts” on your list, others you may determine you are willing to train on.

  • Communication skills (verbal and written)
  • Listening skills
  • Problem solving and analysis
  • Customer Service focus
  • Detail orientation
  • Adaptability
  • Judgment
  • Self-starter/initiative
  • Flexibility
  • Team player
  • Resilience/stress tolerance

Q. Charlie tried to calm Todd’s disappointment with losing Kamik by telling him that poaching is common in the call center industry. Is it really that common? And what effect can it have on operations at the call center?

Laura:  It is entirely too common in overly saturated call center markets. Lazy, unimaginative executive management teams have created the problem. Instead of conducting due diligence in selecting a location, many executives decide to follow other call centers. The thought is that the other company conducted in-depth studies to determine where to locate a contact center, why not piggyback on their investment? If a company were a small Italian fast-food café, the strategy might work to locate near a McDonalds. The strategy totally falls apart when you are directly competing for labor. The fallacy with the strategy is that the community analysis included current employers but can’t really anticipate potential future employers.

In one location where we expanded, my client was the third call center in the area. Within two years of that announcement – there were 29 call centers in the community. Literally, we had professionally trainees: an agent who would spend several weeks being trained, sit in the nesting area and then leave for another call center’s new hire training class. Wages spiraled upward to the point that some centers began leaving town. When the dust settled, there are around 15 centers in town.

Want to avoid that problem? Find a great site selector to help in the process. Be careful not to just hire a real estate agent that has call center experience – he will show you available buildings. You want an available community! Make sure that you carefully identify what you need from the labor market and the community. If you are looking for sales-oriented agents that will lead you to a different community than one that offers technical agents so be specific about what the organization needs the contact center to accomplish.

Did you miss this episode of Outsourced? You can watch it online right here. As always, check back soon for our recap and analysis of each new episode!