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One Call at a Time: How the Education at Work Contact Center is Equipping Millennials for Career Success

Do you think millennials only use their phones for selfies, texts and SnapChat posts? Is so, you’re not alone, but you’re probably wrong. According to 2015 research, 37% of millennials make five or more phone calls per day (8% more than their 45+ counterparts). And when it comes to customer service, millennials prefer phone over social media—66% revealing they’d rather use phone to reach a a business.

One Cincinati based company is giving millennials the opportunity to work on the other side of the phone, all while earning money to pay for college.  Education at Work is a provider of contact center and staffing services with a mission to help college students graduate with little to no debt and the skills they need to secure careers post-graduation. To date, they’ve awarded more than $12 million in combined wages and tuition assistance.

Education at Work employs approximately 400 student teammates at two locations in Cincinnati (their headquarters) and  Mount St. Joseph University. By the end of 2016, they expect to have an additional 400 student teammates working at a campus contact center at Arizona State University.

Education at Work Contact Center

Part of what’s made the Education at Work model such a success is their unique approach to hiring, training, and equipping their students for future success in the workplace. I recently had the chance to spend some time with Megan Bowling, Education at Work’s Associate Director of Marketing, and she shared some of their secrets.   

ICMI: What’s the typical tenure for an Education at Work agent?

EAW: Our average tenure for EAW student teammates who work on-campus is 12.58 months. Since our first on-campus center was launched in the fall of 2014, we look forward to seeing this statistic increase over time!

ICMI: How does Education at Work approach agent hiring and training?

EAW: We strive to ensure that recruiting, hiring, and training are the most useful experiences they can be for students. We have an Educational Outreach team at each location that recruits and builds relationships with the Student Affairs, Greek life, athletic, and academic departments at our partner universities. By growing these relationships, the Educational Outreach teams are able to integrate into the partner universities and find top student talent.

Once a student is hired, our WFM team sits down with him/her and starts looking at scheduling. All our agents work part-time in semester blocks and around their class schedules, so this is a critical part of ensuring that we schedule them for their academic needs, as well as for our clients’ customer service needs.

Because college students are already inclined to learn, and are good with technology, we are able to reduce training hours without sacrificing quality – we skip what they already know so we can focus on the program processes and metrics. We also approach training creatively by utilizing role playing, quizzes, and group discussion. Plus, we provide financial literacy courses as part of training so our teammates can understand how to plan for their financial futures.

ICMI: Millennials have gotten a bad rap when it comes to work ethic—do you think this in unfair?

EAW: This is such a fascinating topic for us! While employers do say that there are skills that college graduates need to improve, today’s college students (who are both Millennials and members of Generation Z) have incredible traits that they bring to the workplace. They are high achievers who are motivated and energetic; they are very fast-learning and are adept with technology, which means that in our training and coaching sessions, we do not need to spend time on tech skills. In addition, they are creative and bring innovative solutions to the table, and they are results-driven which leads to high customer satisfaction and increased productivity.

ICMI: Aside from help with student debt, what’s the biggest benefit of working at Education at Work?

EAW: What we hear from our teammates and alumni is that the skillset they gain while working at EAW is the second biggest benefit from the position. Our teammates learn verbal communication skills, problem solving skills, and how to handle both satisfied and dissatisfied customers. Our intern on our sales team is a sophomore from Northern Kentucky University, and credits his time as an agent with giving him the confidence and skillset to be able to set sales appointments over the phone with business executives.

ICMI: What does a typical shift look like? How are agents able to balance school and work?

EAW: Our WFM structure is very unique, and since our founding in 2012 we have worked hard at perfecting it – and we have improved and continue to we are still learning! A typical shift is anywhere from two to six hours, dependent on the student’s academic schedule.

ICMI: What do your customers have to say about working with you?

EAW: Our clients have been able to benefit from our part-time model, which allows them to utilize the workforce to fill peak hours. In the first year we served our major retail client, we saved them just under $3M this way.

In addition, here is a statement made by the VP of Global Client Services of a world-class technology provider client: “Education at Work is a part of our company’s customer care fabric and we are invested in our mutual success. Our decision to partner with Education at Work was based on a business case that provided for increased agent utilization across our program and savings through the scheduling of part-time college students working during our peak volume hours. The anticipated productivity gains are being realized and as a result we are now expanding the Education at Work model to multiple programs.”

Want to learn more about how other contact centers approach their day-to-day? Join us at Contact Center Demo and Conference and sign up for a contact center site tour!