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How to Recruit and Retain Customer-Centric Employees

In many organizations, the teams supporting customers typically recruit more often than any other department. Continually hiring can be challenging. The process of finding the right employees capable of doing the job, coupled with being customer-centric, can be daunting. If you are also looking for multilingual talent people with the flexibility to meet unique shift requirements, it can feel like you are searching for unicorns.

In this article, you will find five tips to help improve recruitment efforts searching for customer-focused superstars, combined with another five suggestions to assist with retaining them as well. Armed with these ten tips, I hope you will see greater success finding and keeping those hard-to-find customer-centric employees.

call center recruiting tips

Five Tips to Boost Your Recruitment Strategy

1. Avoid the “Post and Pray” recruiting approach

̶ Far too often organizations and talent acquisition teams rely exclusively on listing job postings online, either on their corporate careers page or elsewhere, hoping and praying that the best candidate will miraculously apply. Unfortunately, this is usually not the case. What most hiring managers are left with is choosing between the best of who has applied, not necessarily the best person for the opportunity.

̶ Embrace other methods of recruiting or sharing open roles on your team that you are looking to fill. Try leveraging videos and social media to raise awareness while highlighting your culture. Perhaps members of the support team or the leader would be willing to do a short video explaining and showing the role in action.

2. Customers have high expectations; you should too

̶ To ensure that organizations continue to elevate the customer experience, raising and maintaining high standards for what you expect and look for in employees is essential. Gone should be the days of just finding a body that fills a seat. Ask any hiring manager who has ever compromised or went against their gut reaction, adding someone they felt might not be a fit, and they will most likely tell you they regret their decision.

̶ The alternative is to hire for potential and look for superstars exclusively. If you can afford it, be picky. Don’t settle for mediocre employees. Those candidates who check some of the boxes might not have the right attitude or customer-focus needed. Be on the lookout for potential leaders who one day might be the next Team Lead or Supervisor also. Even if they ultimately don’t go down those paths, hiring people you feel demonstrate potential beyond the role you are hiring for will be hungrier to give their all when supporting customers.

Join Chris this October 28-30 at ICMI Contact Center Connections. He'll be speaking in session 303: How to Have Success With Knocking Down Walls and Silos.

3. Prioritize searching for two fundamental competencies: the ability to make it easy and continuous improvement mindset

̶ Customers want and expect an effortless service experience. Hire employees who demonstrate the ability to make the complex seem easy. Since communication is a vital part of the service experience, pay close attention to how a candidate answers questions in an interview. Can you easily follow along with the answers given by the candidate, or is it difficult to understand and comprehend? If so, how would your customers respond to this person? Always hire passionate candidates who can articulate what they did easily.

̶ At its core, continuous improvement is about incrementally getting better. Candidates who demonstrate a desire to grow continuously tend to be the most adaptable and capable. Ask candidates some of the following questions to reveal their ability to make an experience easier or whether they have a continuous improvement mindset:

o “Tell me about a project, idea, or initiative that you brought forward and implemented that improved the performance of yourself, the team, or the customer experience.”

o “Share a situation where you have made a service experience better through simplifying processes or being more efficient.”

o “Tell me about a time when you have made a customer’s experience easier?”

4. Hire your customers (or people like them)

̶ Depending on the type of service you provide, and the industry you support, strive to hire people like your customers. For example, if you are providing support to highly technical people, ensure that the team doing so is also technical. This will improve your agent’s ability to build trust and rapport increasing customer satisfaction while decreasing how long may be required for some training. If your organization sells services or products that your employees are also fans of, they will be more passionate about providing support to customers too.

5. Stick to the Airport Rule

̶ When evaluating whether you should hire a candidate, ask yourself the following question. If you were held at the airport on an 8-hour delay with this person, would you want to do that? If the answer is a no, then don’t hire them. If you couldn’t imagine yourself stuck with them, then why would you want your customer to be supported by them?

Five Tips to Enhance Your Retainment Strategy

1. Leadership support and employee experience

̶ Leaders need to ensure that they provide the right level of support, encouragement, and employee experience that individuals want and need. From providing the basics like fair wages and flexible hours to ongoing training and coaching, employees supporting customers need to feel appreciated and valued.

̶ Furthermore, leaders need to prioritize and recognize the hard work and efforts of those supporting customers consistently. Pizza parties and cupcakes don’t retain superstar customer-centric employees. A culture of unique, personalized employee experiences that catch people that are doing things right helps.

2. Develop the bench

̶ Why do professional athletes practice, despite some of them being the best in the world at what they do? They do so because they understand the value of training to help them consistently deliver results. Why then do so many organizations neglect investing in ongoing professional development and training for their customer service teams, beyond new hire training? Highly talented, customer-centric employees want to get better and improve, not only for themselves but also for the customers. Develop your people and increase the bench strength of your talent.

3. Build internal career paths

̶ In many organizations, customer service and support teams, are often viewed as the entry-level roles in the business. Many in these positions desire to get off the phones and move into other roles due to a perceived lack of career path options. If you want to retain many of your employees, offer internal career paths based on increasing one’s proficiency and understanding of supporting the customer. The possibility of having the word “Senior” added to one’s title can make a world of difference in terms of motivation. It's essential for people to feel like the organizations appreciate the added value they have brought to the business, provided they met all the criteria need for such a promotion.

4. Tie performance and pay together

̶ While this might not be possible in all organizations, tying performance and pay together, centered around customer satisfaction (CSAT) or other metrics can do wonders too. Offering a bonus plan that incentivizes everyone to provide the best possible customer experience is part retainment strategy and part addressing linking metrics with purpose. To be most successful with linking CSAT to pay, structure the bonus plan to be half tied to individual scores and half connected to a shared team score. Doing so will help create shared accountability for delivering an exceptional experience more consistently.

5. Truly represent the voice of the customer in driving continuous improvement

̶ A crucial part of motivation for employees is feeling like their work serves a greater purpose. Taking interactions for the sake of taking interactions can be draining. Leveraging and doing something with customer feedback improves the strategic value of the contact center and the roles of all employees, though. Offer project work opportunities for highly customer-centric employees to drive continuous improvement efforts using interaction data.

̶ Let employees genuinely represent the voice of the customer by asking them how to improve both products, services, and processes. As the employees connected closest to the customer, they will have the best insights to drive and be part of changing the customer experience for the better. Celebrate any improvements made, helping to improve their connection to the role, team, and customer.

Final Thoughts

Recruiting and retaining highly customer-centric employees is a lot of hard work, but when done effectively, it can be highly rewarding. Some days it may seem like you are chasing unicorns, but by implementing even a fraction of the tips provided, it will help take your customer support to the next level. With higher standards in place, coupled with an excellent retainment strategy, you might even have to recruit and train less.