There is nothing like getting more than 100 contact center leaders from 55 companies in one room to hone in on the leading issues and best practices serving contact centers today. This year’s Contact Center Executive Forum (CCEF), presented in part by Noble Systems, was the 33rd of its kind and had three principle objectives:
- to provide a source for knowledge among contact center leaders in the Atlanta area and beyond,
- to stimulate community awareness on the industry, and
- to build a positive perception in the marketplace for contact centers and careers in the field.
Hire Dynamics founder and Executive Chairman, Dan Campbell, moderated a panel of contact center experts including Greg Dunavant, Director of Customer Care at Gas South; Casey Kostecka, Chief Business Development Officer at Convergent Outsourcing; Olga Martinez, Director of Customer Care at Benevis; and Eric Sharpe, VP Operations at ADP Resource. Here is a summary of the major themes discussed and ideas shared.
What changes have contact centers leaders seen in the industry over the past year?
At Benevis, Olga Martinez has seen the growing popularity of affinity clubs among employees, which was a concept she learned about during last year’s CCEF and implemented. These clubs have given her employees new ways to connect with each other and have had a clear and positive impact on company culture and employee engagement. Greg Dunavant noted Gas South’s move to new office space made a huge difference for the company this year and has led to an unexpected spike in recruitment. Eric Sharpe of ADP Resource said he has heard more over the past year about Net Promoter Score related to contact centers.
Convergent’s Casey Kostecka brought up an interesting point that the rise of Uber and its employment practices is teaching workers that one of the most persuasive aspects of a new job is the potential to define your work hours. Uber drivers clock in and out when they please, and as a result, unemployment has plummeted. Arguably more difficult to replicate in contact centers, it’s worth considering how to adopt a similar policy where reps work flexible shifts, even from home, as a way to address employment voids in the future.
What keeps you up at night in terms of industry challenges?
There was consensus here: attrition. Retaining talent is a concern across the board; Greg talked about how much he has invested in finding and training the right people through Hire Dynamics, and how he continues to invest in workers through employee engagement programs. Olga shared, “Hiring is tough at all levels, particularly in call centers. It’s a matter of selling the job better.” Casey said the tightening labor force is one large pain point, but the two biggest areas are: 1) frontline agents are becoming tougher to retain, and 2) technology is so prevalent now that contact centers need more IT folks with completely different skillsets and there aren’t enough people graduating with those skills.
What recruitment strategies have you implemented to attract talent?
Eric noted that his company’s brand recognition is a selling point for ADP and gets people to the door. Benevis established a work-from-home program that accommodated their temporary lack of work space; Olga said that about 50% of employees have taken advantage of that program this year, saving the company time and money. Work-from-home programs are particularly beneficial when employees cannot commute to an office due to adverse weather or injuries, and help retain valuable representatives who have to relocate for one reason or another.
What are some best practices in regards to training and development?
After sharing an experience his daughter had at a contact center going through the training process, Casey said he reviewed the training process at Convergent and found a direct correlation between the length of training and attrition. “The best thing you can do is get people out on the floor, answering phones next to a mentor, as soon as possible. The training process will naturally improve if they have some knowledge of what it’s like working in the field.”
The key to an effective training program is balance between learning in a classroom and getting firsthand experience with a senior employee. Olga said, “All the sales training in the world will do no one any good unless the supervisors are monitoring it.” Greg added that Gas South “balances training and development between the employee’s current job and their next one.”
How are contact center leaders engaging their employees?
ADP launched a new program called “Know it in 90” where an employee who sees a training issue makes a 90-second video explaining the process better for new and current employees. Eric said it’s been a great way for employees to spend time away from the phone and still contribute to the needs of the business. Convergent implemented sports-themed gamification programs in their contact centers, and Casey lauded the results of the platform sharing he saw impressive ROI while attrition “bottomed out.” He recommends investing in technology that “shows targets and goals and how they relate to overall company goals.”
What takeaway from today’s conversation would you like to leave with the audience?
Olga said to “Focus on leaders. Keep track of how they are performing and recognize them for good work.” Greg echoed the sentiment saying, “Make sure employees understand why what they do is important to the goals of the company. Don’t ever take your eye off your supervisors and keep training them.” Eric said that at ADP they believe “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Contact centers need to be clear on how to retain employees and invest in those programs. Sharing those opinions as well, Casey also added an operational point: “Contact centers need to get creative about how we are employing people. Technology is changing the work environment rapidly and it will drastically impact how we operate our call centers. If you are running a traditional call center, you’re not going to be able to retain employees for long.”
Hire Dynamics is grateful to Greg, Casey, Olga and Eric for their insight and candor, and thank Noble Systems for their part in making this the most successful event yet. The CCEF (#2017CCEF for those on Twitter) will be back in June 2017. Meanwhile, several contact center round tables are forming. We would love to have you join the conversation and discuss ways your contact centers are succeeding. If you are interested in joining a round table discussion, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter @HireDynamics for updates on contact center staffing strategies.