13.04.2021

Adapting Contact Center Agents Pt.1

What does the adaptation of agents and sales managers in the call center look like?

Adapting Contact Center Agents Pt.1

The aim of agent adaptation from a business perspective is to reduce expenses resulting from staff turnover and poor or inadequate management performance. Observations indicate that over 60% and 80% of new hires drop out within the first week and the first 3-5 months of employment, respectively. Thorough and accurate calculations reveal that replacing one employee costs in the region of 40,000+ rubles, with costs in Moscow significantly higher.

The adaptation process creates a balance of comfort and discomfort (this is crucial) for the manager, whereby they are able to focus on client services without losing their edge. 

An important point to note! The agent adaptation process has to have a responsible party (Owner) who is accountable for the outcomes. This person is appointed via written instruction from the director. With no one taking responsibility, the adaptation process is ineffective.

This article pertains to tools for contact center manager

When does the agent adaptation process commence

Traditionally, it’s assumed that ideally, adaptation should start on an agent’s first day on the job. But what if the newcomer sees unclear rules of the game right at the doorway? The situations like “we gave you the wrong form, please fill out another one” or “this is an old description of the motivation scheme, the new one hasn’t been done yet, but we’ll show you like this” are not uncommon. They are a clear signal: “get ready to adapt to disarray.”

In the same vein, when a company broadcasts its values ​​on social media as “hooray, it’s Friday”, it’s hard to expect to attract anyone to work but those who want to sit back until the weekend. And a person comes to an interview already having an idea of ​​what “is customary here”. When an organization shows acceptable behavior through live examples – this is an equal command to the newcomer to action.

Friendship starts with a smile, and adaptation – not even with an interview, but with the first “contact point” (applicant viewing the job vacancy, call from the HR manager).

Novice’s Questions and Fears

A good salesperson doesn’t deal with objections, they simply avoid creating them. Like an adept salesman, a competent company proactively addresses the questions and concerns of a new employee. If these concerns are not eliminated, they induce excessive stress in the newcomer. Too much stress is detrimental for the agent’s adaptation, as well as their performance, since it directly affects the efficiency of their learning, productivity and work results.

What sort of concerns could arise? Here’s a typical list:

  • How will I be treated during the interview? Will I pass it?
  • Will I be misled regarding my remuneration?
  • What will the working conditions be?
  • What will my relationship with my future manager be like?
  • How will my colleagues welcome me? What kind of people are they?
  • I’ve never done this before, what if I can’t manage? Will I manage?
  • Will I be able to earn enough?
  • Will I be able to express myself so that I get noticed and given the opportunity for growth?
  • How will my work be evaluated? Will the evaluation be fair?

If these issues are not worked out, the risk of losing a new candidate before the end of training grows (in practice, up to 2/3 of the candidates are lost). The organization spends resources on attracting staff, but the vacancies remain unfilled.

The correct company strategy towards the candidate

… is described by a very simple formula:

  • We are waiting for you
  • We value and respect you
  • We will help you

But if we say this to a candidate, they won’t believe it. Beautiful and correct words mean nothing, actions are needed. How to show respect to a person with actions? Make interaction easy and comfortable for the candidate to save their time.

Preliminary actions before the interview

 

Typical Current PracticeOptimal Improvement Strategy
During the phone interview, the applicant does not receive an answer. For example, when questioning salary:

– What is your salary?

– I invite you to an interview to discuss this and other questions.

Another problem:
— I want to work for you
— And how did you hear about us?
(the company already wants to know something from the applicant, but hasn’t given him what he wants to know about the vacancy).

This is a common mistake that spoils communication.

It is better not to use the “drag into an interview” approach and then “sell the company”. If you do not answer basic questions by phone, it is unlikely that you will be able to “sell” face-to-face – basic fears will not be removed.

– What is your salary?

Option 1:

– Correct question! On average, our managers receive 21,000 rubles a month. But there are guys who exceed the plan, they get around 40,000 “net”. [If you want, I will introduce you to them after the interview, they will tell you themselves]. How do you like this?

(Of course, the numbers should be truthful).


Option 2:
– On average, our managers receive 21,000 rubles a month. There are guys who exceed the plan, they get around 40,000 “net”. But it’s better to initially aim for 21,000, I’m telling you straight away, to avoid misinforming you. How much does this income level NOT suit you?

The question “Where did you hear about us” is asked either at the end of the phone interview (and not at the beginning) or at the end of the interview, but before the applicant’s decision is notified.

 

Before the job interview, the applicant receives an SMS in the spirit of: “You have been scheduled for an interview with “Luther” at 16:00 on 21.06.16, the address, phone number”In the morning of the day when the job interview is scheduled, the applicant receives an SMS that makes life easier:

“Job interview at “Luther”. Good morning, Alina. We look forward to seeing you today at 16:00 in our office located at …. If you have trouble finding the building, feel free to call us… we will meet you. The GPS coordinates and a hyperlink to the navigation map. HR Manager, Olga Sinytsyna”

 

The applicant has to find the officeSigns direction to the office are placed in visible spots from the bus stop directly to the assembling spot inside the office. The building has a large sign with the company’s name (not always possible, but effort is made to place it).

I have seen cases where every fifth applicant “got lost” on a 100-meter route between the bus stop and the office. The entrance to the building was not at a trivial location.

 

Uncomfortable sofas at the receptionSell the uncomfortable sofas and buy comfortable chairs (no wheels) with writing supports. If the applicant needs to fill out forms, they should be comfortable doing so. It’s common to see newcomers hunched up, filling out forms, or sitting with their backs to the entrance door.

The method of verification – the head of the contact center personally fills out 10-12 forms consecutively where the applicants would be doing this. If it is convenient, the place is suitable.

 

Overloaded application forms:

“Please indicate your passport details and previous work experiences”

Truly simplified application form:

  • First and last names
  • Contact number
  • Age
  • Citizenship,
  • Place of residence and living street
  • Permission to process personal data

NOT included in the application:

  • Desired schedule 
  • Desired income level calculated “in the hands” after tax deduction

This is discussed during negotiations with the candidate

Filling out the application should not take more than 60 seconds.

Additional information, for example, the preferable schedule, will be recorded by the recruiter on their own form. Passport details will be collected by the HR department when executing (from where the date can be found out, to congratulate them later on the holiday). Previous work experience is found out orally, it needs to be discussed.

 

There is no “Hall of Fame”, or it is not very active.The organization values people and their results are transmitted:

In the reception or in the room where the interview takes place, i.e., in direct visibility of the candidate, there must be a “Hall of Fame” – the pictures of the best employees.

But there are five subtleties:

  • Next to the photographs and names of the “heroes” should be brief lists of their achievements
  • In the captions to the photographs there should not only be achievements, but also information about awards (prize, additional paid vacation, promotion, etc.)
  • The photographs need to be professional
  • Captions to the photographs should be written in a large font: not all candidates have good vision.
  • The “Hall of Fame” should be updated at least once a month, but the candidate needs to see the dates of achievements. It should be understood that the gallery is “live”.

If all five of these requirements are not met at the same time, the gallery does not work well or does not work at all.

The gallery can be replaced with a TV screen and there, you can project a presentation dedicated to the heroes. A TV provides more flexibility for providing this information.

 

There is no information about the company at the location where the job seeker is waiting for their interview invitation.You need a “Company Book”, which includes, at least, the following sections (all of these are mandatory):

  • About the company. When it was founded, the number of branches, the location of the head office, any information that can show the firm in a positive light, for example, a list of received industry awards). Optimally, no more than 3 paragraphs, in total no more than 20 sentences (apart from the list of awards).
  • Interesting stories. In total, up to 2 pages (5-6 stories from the company’s life or real practice of managers) – the job seeker should not be bored while waiting for an interview.
  • Working condition. Organizational structure, a short list of achievements of department heads, graphic schemes and pictures of the workplace, the process of working with clients, available shift schedules.
  • Trainings. The text of an interview with an acting coach, including a brief biography of the coach. Purpose: to answer the classic question “do you have training?”. The total block size is not more than 1 page.
  • Income structure of managers and payment procedure. Possibilities to increase your income level. It is recommended to indicate additional advantages, for example, that if the payday falls on a holiday or a day off, the company pays before the weekend.

Important! Safety precautions:

Example of common practiceExample of a potential improvement
There may be instances where the flow of job applicants within the office “intersects” with employee traffic handling issues with the accounting and HR departments.Potential “intersections” of flow should be eradicated. There shouldn’t be [even potentially] a situation where a newcomer overhears or sees an interview prior to an employee’s dismissal, the stages of processing any HR documents or a current employee’s dispute with accounting (for example, if they did not receive their full pay). Upon closer examination, it is usually found that such an opportunity is almost ubiquitous, even when separate rooms are allocated for accounting and HR: some conversations still tend to “spill over into the corridors”, especially in smaller organizations. The method of verification is the “mystery applicant”. By the way, it is especially entertaining to stand next to working agents in the smoking area — you can learn a lot about the company without even entering the office. Therefore, the path of a newcomer should ideally be distant from the smoking area.

In the In the next part (agents’ adaptation), we’ll explain in detail how to conduct the interview to quickly find the professionals you need.

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