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Focus on Employee Experience to Hire and Retain Top Contact Center Talent

By Callie Nikkhah, Contact Center Practice Manager at Hire Dynamics

Over forty industry experts gathered over lunch at ControlScan in Alpharetta for Hire Dynamics’ group of people talkingquarterly Contact Center Roundtable on October 25.  At these events, participants compare notes on current trends including challenges and successful approaches to meeting them.

Thanks to record low unemployment, this is an employee market.  DD Fritch, Director of the Contact Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta summed it up by saying, “Management realizes that we need reps more than they need the job.”   As a result, recruiting and retention were hot topics.  All agreed that to be competitive in hiring and to reduce turnover, contact center managers must first understand candidates’ motivations in order to provide the right employee experience.

Recruiting for Quality

According to Sandy Landrigan, Director of Customer Success and Support at ControlScan, the secret to having quality reps lies in recruiting and training.  Yet due to the multitude of opportunities, attendees said that candidates who are scheduled for interviews often “ghost” them by not showing.  As a result, Kathy Myhand, VP of HR at ControlScan shared that they now, “Recruit 20 at Job Fairs to fill 10 openings.” Hiring quickly is important.  To process candidates faster while screening for quality, ControlScan covers their core values, conducts personal interviews to understand what is important to candidates and then has those who they are interested in stay for assessments.  Kathy stressed the importance of inviting them in for an interview within two weeks of posting a job and “making an offer within 48 hours.”  Otherwise, top candidates will be working elsewhere by the time that you call them.

First 90 Days

Some new recruits who seem fantastic during the interview turn out to be unprepared during the honeymoon phase.  Finding reps who come to work and arrive on time is a challenge.  Candace Marshall, Contact Center Supervisor at SAIA described their innovative solution saying that, “using staffing agencies exclusively allows us to cut underperformers loose.  We tell them to put their best foot forward.  If all goes well, then they can go temp to perm.  We set expectations for their first 90 days and address attendance and punctuality issues.”


Once you hire quality reps whose metrics are good, how do you keep them?  People are motivated by different things.  For some, it’s around time whether that’s PTO or flexible hours.  For others, it’s recognition by their peers or receiving a preferred parking spot.  It’s important to understand what motivates each individual and the incentives that they value.  Attendees had different approaches to obtaining this vital data.


a goup of people talking

Solomon Jordan and the HD team.

Solomon Jordan, Employee Relations Manager for Gas South has 90 agents on the phone and realizes that being a Contact Center rep can be a burnout job.  Yet in the last two years, Gas South has reduced turnover from 45% to 15% by offering agent perks.  “The ‘Why Stay?’ has to be bigger than the job,” he said.  Gas South realized that when the lives of their employees improved, the company improved.  As Solomon sees it, “Contact Center rep issues tend to be one of three things – life issues, love issues or children issues.”  To get inside reps’ heads, Solomon hosts “Agent BS Groups” in which he asks, “What sucks?”  Then he puts their concerns into three categories – Policies, Systems, and Never Going to Happen.  When agents were open about needing a competitive pay rate, he ensured they were heard by negotiating on their behalf.

DD at Children’s calls her focus groups, “Dialogue with D”, then lets her 40 reps know that she heard smiling couplethem and what is being done.  There are some things that she cannot do and always makes it a point to tell them why.  Agents say that the focus groups are their best meetings.  As the result of one, DD realized that experienced agents wanted shifts that new agents were getting so she asked all of them to submit their top three shifts.  As of January, they will have optimized their 24/7 shifts down to 18 with 98% of reps getting their top two choices.  DD has also challenged supervisors to coach and counsel differently.  Instead of just talking about an issue, supervisors now sit with the agent to model the next call and problem solve with them.  By investing time with employees, they have built stronger relationships.


Chat is popular with reps who want to be on the phone less.  Therefore, the opportunity to be promoted into a chat role is considered prestigious.  Thuressa Williams of HD Supply has nine agents and allows all of them to have chat responsibility at different times.  They vie to earn the title of “Chat King and Queen” so they can don a “crown of jewels”.


While some Contact Centers pay for employees to earn degrees or certifications, not all do.  HD Supply pays 100% for certifications.  While Children’s has a tuition reimbursement program, they do not pay for certifications.  Gas South pays 75% of tuition up to $7,500/year plus books and fees. That has opened additional career paths within the company for employees who have gone back to school.  Gas South pays for certifications if agents commit to stay a year.


This term refers to the use of dashboards like Fantasy Football with KPIs for training, engagement and retention purposes which can also affect agents’ pay for the positive. This technique has been especially useful for keeping remote agents engaged throughout their training period and improving comradery within the teams.

We look forward to seeing you at our next quarterly Contact Center Roundtable! 

welcome sign

Thank you to all our Contact Center Roundtable participants!







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