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How to Hire and Retain All-Star Agents

High agent attrition has an enormous impact on contact centers across the globe. With attrition averaging 30% in 2017, turnover is still a leading source of exasperation for most contact center leaders.

Contact centers can have a reputation for being a difficult place to work. Dealing with frustrated customers, inflexible work schedules, and high expectations create huge amounts of stress among agents—and that stress translates to high turnover. So how does a contact center leader find and keep star agents in this fast-paced industry? Here are a few steps to get started.

All-star contact center agents

Optimize your recruiting playbook

Reducing agent attrition begins with hiring the right customer service agents. However, this is easier said than done as customer service leaders have a lot of seats to fill. This puts pressure on the hiring managers to find new agents quickly. As a result, some companies lower their standards or rush the process—ultimately hiring unfit agents. In order to recruit and hire agents capable of reaching MVP status, contact center leaders need to optimize their recruiting and hiring strategies.

Start by setting the right job expectations. Instead of posting an outdated or generic job description all over the internet, take the time to revamp it so that it truly reflects the role. Consider evaluating the traits of top performers to discern important qualities and characteristics that should be listed for new candidates. Each applicant should receive a clearly defined job description with common responsibilities and tasks, as well as the expected level of performance. This transparency will decrease the likelihood of frequent resignations caused by agent expectations that did not match the reality of the job.

Even though contact center leaders go through resume reviews, phone screens, and first-round interviews, they may still be left with a handful of seemingly great candidates. Before extending any offers, consider using a customer service skills test. This exercise features two or three assignments that evaluate the applicant’s skill set. Include a realistic scenario with a frustrated customer who is looking to fix a problem. Then, ask the candidate to draft a response of how they would reply. Answers to this type of question may shed light on how the applicant handles conflict and if they embody the key soft skills needed to be a high-performing agent.

Cultivate an avid learning environment

Now that the new agent is through the door, it’s time to provide them with the knowledge they need to become a high-performing team member. Inadequate training can leave agents lacking confidence and questioning their capability to perform. That’s why agents need a training program that equips them with critical knowledge and skills; helps them become familiar with the company’s values; and cultivates relationships with their teammates.

Personalized training, based on competence, is a great way to address the specific needs of each agent. If a new hire has previous experience and proven success at a contact center, it’s likely they won’t need the same type of training as a rookie. Of course, every agent should receive key training on company-specific products, services, and performance metrics. Then develop custom learning paths for each agent based on their current skill set. This will maximize training time and put every agent on the most efficient path to productivity.

Behind every winning player is a great coach. When contact center leaders invest deeply in the development of their agents, they’ll deliver amazing results. Instead of providing one-and-done onboarding, create an ongoing training and coaching plan that develops the skills of every agent—even if they’re already a high-performer. All-star agents are a valuable asset to help create and provide training to other agents since they already know the skills and best practices that every team member needs. Letting your star employees mentor and train a teammate has two-fold benefits. One study found that agents who help others feel more capable, confident, and useful. Meanwhile, their peers gain access to knowledge that helps them become a high-performer.

Develop a long-term game plan

Now that agents have been hired and trained, it’s essential that they’re engaged and motivated enough to stick around and make a lasting impact. Workers between ages 25 and 43 stay on the job for an average of only 2.7 years, so it’s important to develop an engaging career path that tracks performance and offers agents career progression.

While contact centers always need entry-level agents, it’s important to implement programs that allow them to grow. Great contact center leaders create a series of small steps, like certifications and compensation programs, towards career advancement and promotion opportunities. Agents want to be assured that if they work hard, there will be room for professional growth. These milestones are a great way to encourage growth and motivate employees to stay longer and work harder.

In addition to offering advancement opportunities, it’s important for contact center leaders to celebrate high-performing agents. For many companies, that means giving raises or bonuses, but it’s important to go beyond compensation. Create a regular cadence that shows agents their work is valued, time and time again. Recognition goes a long way in making an agent feel that they are appreciated and not just another employee.

Hiring and retaining the best contact center agents is critical to building a winning customer service team. It also defrays the significant cost of regularly training and retraining employees. High-performing agents usually enjoy their work, increase customer satisfaction, and contribute to the company’s larger goals. Contact center leaders who focus on recruiting, developing, and keeping their all-star agents will guarantee customer service success—season after season.

Is retention a top challenge for your team? Lessonly can help. Be sure to visit their booth at ICMI Contact Center Expo.