There is nothing more exciting than spending time with people who share your drive and passion, while sharing tips for success. That’s exactly what happened at this year’s 34th Contact Center Executive Forum (CCEF). More than 70 companies joined us for lunch on Thursday, June 8th to discuss the current challenges faced in contact centers, and what’s to come in the future. Companies in attendance included Sertec, Kaiser Permanente, Actec Systems, ADP, Delta Community, Fidelity, The Home Depot and Southern Company. This year’s CCEF was sponsored by First Advantage, and with more than 150 professionals in attendance; we were thrilled to have been able to foster such insightful conversation surrounding trends in contact centers.
Larry Feinstein, CEO of Hire Dynamics, led a great panel discussion and covered important topics about leadership, training, technology and retention within contact centers.
The panelists were contact center experts including Chris Shyrock, Director of First Advantage; Robert (Bob) Menhart, Executive Director of Kaiser Permanente; Scott Mitchell, Vice President and General Manager of Sertec Corporation; and Mark Wilson, President and CEO of Chime Solutions. These four panelists have been in the contact center industry for years and have shared unique insights as to how contact centers are evolving. See what our experts had to say:
What traits are most important to you when hiring for contact centers?
Sertec Corporations places a huge emphasis on interpersonal communication skills, and look to hire employees with genuine people skills. Scott Mitchell explained that for any job, employees can be taught how to use a certain device or technology. One thing they can’t easily teach employees is how to effectively and clearly communicate with customers.
A successful contact center needs strong communicators, so it is essential that employees effectively communicate and relate to customers. Mark Wilson of Chime Solutions noted that employers want to hire people “with an affinity for working and dealing with people’s issues.” It’s important for Bob Menhart of Kaiser to hire employees with a positive attitude and a deep understanding of customer needs. Authentic engagement is imperative to the success of a contact center, so hiring genuine and relatable people is a priority for companies.
How does your company keep a high retention rate?
Overall, every panelist agreed that keeping employees engaged within the company is important to a high retention rate. Chris knows that First Advantage employees “love to have ownership within their job.” Whether that means having specific duties or having training to better understand the job, knowing more about the role keeps employees invested.
A challenge that Scott and the Sertec team are working to solve is how they can keep remote employees engaged and involved. Because a large majority of Sertec’s employees work remotely, keeping employees involved outside of the office can make all of the difference for them. Maintaining an environment where employees love working is Sertec’s priority, and through these initiatives the turnover rate has dropped, while employee satisfaction continues to rise.
Developing and maintaining a strong company culture also leads to happier and more efficient employees. Chime has seen success and positive feedback from bringing employees together after work for social events that build camaraderie. They recently hosted a Friday night Talent Show to highlight the hidden talents of fellow colleagues that may not have an opportunity to shine during the workday. Creating opportunities for employees to connect on a different level with the company and co-workers promotes a more fun and productive work environment.
What technology changes are leading contact centers making?
With contact centers constantly changing, so does the technology that they use. When it comes to paid vacation and time off, schedules can get hectic and difficult to keep up with. This is exactly why Chime is in the midst of developing an app that allows employees to trade time off and swap schedules from their phones. First Advantage also puts a strong emphasis on workforce management, and implements tools so that employees keep track of their own time as well as their co-workers’.
What is your training process for new hires?
Chime Solutions handles calls in an average of 20 seconds, so it’s important that employees know how to efficiently solve a problem. Training varies among every contact center, but always focuses on problem solving and customer satisfaction. Sertec has a two-week training process, which firstly focuses on strengthening communication skills. The second week of training teaches employees how to approach and solve more client specific issues.
For Kaiser, Bob described that new hires learn the “people part” of the business first, and have monitored phone conversations to highlight personal strengths and weaknesses. Kaiser guides new employees through a transitional period, which lets them become immersed in the contact center before they begin handling real customers. This six-week training ensures that once employees “hit the floor, they are fully up to date” and comfortable with client questions that may arise. Similarly, First Advantage has very personalized training for newer employees that helps them feel prepared for their first day on the job. Chris explained that First Advantage employees are trained by a subject matter expert who “helps them identify their strengths” in order to help the employee be the strongest respondent possible.
Do you merge channels within contacts centers, or is each channel separate?
Something every panelist agreed on was that the most effective contact centers are divided by channels. According to Mark, this structure prevents agents from “inadvertently sharing information with the wrong person” or mixing up conversations. Mark also noted that because each channel is different, training is specific to the channel. Conveying emotion over e-mail is handled differently than over the phone, so employees learn how to effectively communicate through these different mediums. Along the same lines, employees are trained on how to “read into emotion in an email” and how to respond to different scenarios.
Contact centers continue to employ skilled communicators and people with a sincere passion for problem solving. Although each center is different, these panelists shared seasoned insight into the commonalities of the industry. Innovative technology, personalized training and hiring skilled representatives set contact centers up to be leaders in the communication industry.
Hire Dynamics would like to say thank you to Scott, Mark, Robert and Chris for spending their time with us and leading a great discussion. Thank you to First Advantage for sponsoring the 34th CCEF; we would not have had a record number of attendees without your support. If you were not able to attend, we would still love for you to join the conversation, and be a part of the next event. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and keep up with our latest news on LinkedIn, Facebook and on Twitter @HireDynamics.