Find Call Center Agents Before You Have Openings

While you might be happy with a call center agent answering your phone, statistics say he’ll be giving his notice soon enough.

And without an effective recruiting strategy in place, your customers will be the ones on hold.

According to the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), 62% of call centers experience an annual agent-turnover rate of about 25%. But a 2007 survey from ICMI and Talentkeepers also found that 13% experienced a more than 50% turnover rate.

If you think about your next hire when your agent gives his notice, it’s too late. The preferred approach is to use a mix of the five simple strategies below as part of a proactive strategy:

1. Go online to find your jobseekers: More than half of all job hunters now use the Internet to find job information. But you need to go beyond the general career board sites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com since they may not attract your jobseeker, the hourly worker, in a targeted way. Niche sites tend to produce better results – companies report 40% of applicants from a niche site are “above average” vs. 18% from a general job board, according to a 2006 Booz Allen Hamilton Recruiting Trends Survey.

2. Tap your existing workforce for referrals: Your current employees may have friends on the job hunt, and if you ask, they can – and will – encourage qualified people to apply. A 2007 ICMI survey found that 84% of call centers relied on employee referrals as a common recruiting method. It helps to offer incentives, like cash bonuses, gift certificates or extra days off for referrals that get hired.

3. Take out a classified ad: Yes, the newspaper industry is seeing declining circulation figures, but you should still consider classified ads in local community or weekly papers. These papers typically charge less for a classified ad than your city’s major daily, making traditional advertising more affordable than you might think. Plus, you’ll reach jobseekers living in your community who want to work nearby.

4. Determine your ideal employee: Manning the phones for any customer-service company is tough work. Call-center agents who don’t survive frequently cite repetitive work or inconvenient schedules as their reasons for leaving, according to ICMI data. But you can learn from those who do succeed at your company. What personality traits do they possess? What helpful skills do they bring? Use this information to help determine your model employee, and recruit that type of person. Use online assessment tests to weed out potential applicants who aren’t a match.

5. Don’t stop recruiting: Don’t think of recruiting as a one-time effort. As your own industry points out, the fact is some call center agents will not be on the job for long, and you’ll need to replace them.

Shawn Boyer is CEO of SnagAJob.com, which helps employers spanning the service, retail, restaurant and hospitality and service industries find qualified candidates.

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