Catalog call centers use a number of tactics to find seasonal staffers. A common strategy is to work through a local staffing agency to find temporary full-time or part-time staff.
This scenario, sometimes referred to as “in-sourcing,” involves using a staffing agency to recruit, screen, and hire temporary workers. These staffers are typically treated as employees of the temporary agency, but in some instances the call center may actually hire the employee.
Call center personnel handle training and supervising the staff, but in some instances, the agency actually expands its role into training and supervision of its temporary staff. The contract-staffing agency may perform the recruiting, hiring, and training activities at their site, or when there is a large staffing demand, may have dedicated agency staff actually reside at the call center site.
The call center typically pays more for a contract staffing person, since the staffing rate includes an “overhead” charge for the staffing agency, but the added cost comes with many benefits including staffing expertise, flexibility of dictating schedule demands, and a trial working arrangement.
Despite the slightly higher wage rates, many call centers choose to staff through local employment agencies. Since they have a core competency of recruiting and hiring staff, the agencies may perhaps do a better job of it than the internal call center management team might do–especially in frantic times.
These agencies are familiar with labor pools in various communities and most have links to various state or community vocational training programs. They are experts at helping the call center define job requirements, and then finding suitable candidates, doing careful screening to ensure a good match for the job.
Another benefit of agency staffing is the flexibility of procuring exactly the number and type of staff required. The call center can simply inform the contract-staffing agency of how many of each type of position it needs to fill and for how long, and the agency can fill the vacancies. This flexibility is particularly useful for catalog companies with short-term campaigns where staff will not be needed for a long period of time.
Many contract agencies have a contract with the call center where the center can hire temporary staff to be permanent company employees. This arrangement lets the call center “try before buy” in terms of adding permanent staff to the payroll.
Likewise, if there is a problem with any contract employee, the call center simply has to inform the agency and does not have to go through disciplinary and severance procedures that are likely required with company employees. There are also benefits to the workers who have an opportunity to try out the job tasks and the employer before making the commitment to take a permanent position.
One of the advantages of contract staffing is also one of the major disadvantages. Since the agents work for the staffing agency and not the company, the call center has less control over them than if they were company employees. And since most of the positions are temporary, the staff may decide to leave if they find other more permanent positions elsewhere, making staff turnover a bigger problem than with regular employees.
Penny Reynolds (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a founding partner of The Call Center School, a company dedicated to the education and development of call center professionals.