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Tips for hiring (and retaining)
the right customer service  agents

By Dan Vanrenen | March 2021

Customer service is nothing without people.

A harmonious marriage between sophisticated technology and well-trained, attentive human agents, best of breed customer service can only be achieved with the right employees in place.

One of the greatest challenges associated with customer care is finding and keeping hold of such people.
There is no hiding from the fact that this is a field that traditionally suffers from a high turnover of staff. The average employee turnover rate for businesses in the UK is around 15%, a figure which rises to 26% for contact centers.

This can be for various reasons, including poor initial recruitment, insufficient and/or substandard training and implementation of feedback loops, and a feeling of apathy.

Whatever the contributing factors, it is a costly reality facing many businesses. Hiring new staff is expensive, not only in terms of raw salary, national insurance and pension contributions, but also the time spent by human resources who may also have to commission recruitment firms for candidate referrals and spend additional funds posting job advertisements.

According to well-known jobs and employee review website Glassdoor, the average cost of onboarding a new recruit in the UK is somewhere in the region of £3,000. In the customer service sphere, this can rise to as much as £6,000 and even up to £9,000 for senior positions.

Customer service is nothing without people.

A harmonious marriage between sophisticated technology and well-trained, attentive human agents, best of breed customer service can only be achieved with the right employees in place.

One of the greatest challenges associated with customer care is finding and keeping hold of such people. There is no hiding from the fact that this is a field that traditionally suffers from a high turnover of staff. The average employee turnover rate for businesses in the UK is around 15%, a figure which rises to 26% for contact centers.

This can be for various reasons, including poor initial recruitment, insufficient and/or substandard training and implementation of feedback loops, and a feeling of apathy.

Whatever the contributing factors, it is a costly reality facing many businesses. Hiring new staff is expensive, not only in terms of raw salary, national insurance and pension contributions, but also the time spent by human resources who may also have to commission recruitment firms for candidate referrals and spend additional funds posting job advertisements.

According to well-known jobs and employee review website Glassdoor, the average cost of onboarding a new recruit in the UK is somewhere in the region of £3,000. In the customer service sphere, this can rise to as much as £6,000 and even up to £9,000 for senior positions.

Hiring the right customer service staff

So, how can your organisation give itself the best chance of hiring the right candidate for your customer service team?

The first step, as simple as it sounds, is to know what you are looking for.
Different teams could be responsible for different elements of customer service, such as complaints or technical assistance, and this will help determine the individuals you need to fill these positions. What are the core values of your organisation that drive your customer service operation?
Having a firm grasp of these aspects will ensure your job descriptions and adverts contain the relevant requirements and information for candidates, which in turn will help to find the right people.

There are many useful tools that can help to find, narrow down and identify a shortlist of applicants to bring forward to interview.

Hiring the right customer service staff

So, how can your organisation give itself the best chance of hiring the right candidate for your customer service team?

The first step, as simple as it sounds, is to know what you are looking for.
Different teams could be responsible for different elements of customer service, such as complaints or technical assistance, and this will help determine the individuals you need to fill these positions. What are the core values of your organisation that drive your customer service operation?
Having a firm grasp of these aspects will ensure your job descriptions and adverts contain the relevant requirements and information for candidates, which in turn will help to find the right people.

There are many useful tools that can help to find, narrow down and identify a shortlist of applicants to bring forward to interview.

These include specialist recruiters who have valuable knowledge of individual job hunters, while professional networking sites such as LinkedIn can be used to post job adverts and target a particular group of people.

Universities and colleges are also a great resource – establishing partnerships with education institutions can open up direct access to a cohort of young, skilled and enthusiastic jobseekers.

If using an outsourcing option to grow your capacity, make sure their agents truly immerse themselves within your business to become a seamless extension of your existing team.

How to avoid high customer service staff turnover

Finding the right candidate is only half of the battle. Once they have started working in your customer service team, it takes equal if not more time and attention to keep them there.

Central to this is keeping them motivated, and there is no better way of doing so by showing you value their welfare and development by implementing an effective training and development programme.

Two-thirds or UK workers change jobs
because of a lack of training and development
opportunities offered by their employer

source – totaljobs.com

Two-thirds or UK workers change jobs because of a lack of training and development opportunities offered by their employer

source – totaljobs.com

This will equip your team with the skills required to make use of the latest customer service technologies and best handle customer interactions, upskilling individuals into multi-lingual agents who are fluent in both spoken and written language formats.

It will also make your employees feel valued.

Indeed, comprehensive training and development should reinforce the message that every team member is an integral part of the wider success of the business, a message which will help to keep them motivated.

There are many different and successful approaches to building a customer service training programme. But while it is wrong to prescribe a one size fits all formula, the following advice can be applied:

• Identify strengths and areas for improvement: Customer feedback surveys are a valuable source of information, and can inform priorities for training programmes.
• Empower managers and team leaders. Line and team managers are the closest source of information to your customer service personnel, and should be involved in the formulation and delivery of training.
• Involve your staff: Find out how your team best learns and engages, and use exercises that employees can get practically involved with.
• Measure the outcomes, use feedback loops: Once more, this is reliant on access to quality data. Regular and detailed analysis of customer and employee feedback will enable you to track whether improvements have been made in the areas targeted by the training.

By investing due attention and resources in hiring the right people and ensuring they feel motivated to stay with you long-term, a major hurdle will have been cleared in the journey towards building a truly standout customer service unit.

Latest Ebook

Adopting omnichannel
customer service: The
technologies and people
you need

In this e-book, we cover basic to advanced topics about
how to create a best of breed customer satisfaction
team, as well as how to evaluate opportunities within
your organization for ongoing optimization.

This e-book is essential for anyone involved in an
organization’s customer engagement team or
Center of Excellence setup.

Latest Ebook

Adopting omnichannel customer service:
The technologies and people you need

In this e-book, we cover basic to advanced topics about how to create a best of breed customer satisfaction team, as well as how to evaluate opportunities within your organization for ongoing optimization.

This e-book is essential for anyone involved in an organization’s customer engagement team or Center of Excellence setup.

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