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In 2022, the customer service industry is set to see a rise in expectations from consumers ready to put the global pandemic, and its effects, far behind them. Paired together with the struggle to find enough employees to meet job vacancies and growth, the industry should be preparing for a rocky year. For companies willing to adapt, and quickly, this could be a pivotal year. In our series on the 2022 state of customer service, we focus on four key elements driving customer care: The industry, our people, work-from-home, and technology. Today, we focus on our people.

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2022 State of Customer Service – The People

By Joel Sylvester, Chief Marketing Officer, Five Star Call Centers

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Retaining quality call center agents is hard. We’ve accepted this statement as fact in our industry.

I challenge our industry to think about this accuracy of this statement. Is retaining agents hard or does it take work? At Five Star Call Centers we recognized that when we put in the work with our agents, we reaped the reward of quality agents staying with our team.

Today, I’ll dive into the agent experience with insight into building, and retaining, a quality agent workforce.

The Agent Experience

In year’s past, our industry has preached the importance of customer experience. Today, the agent experience is equally important. From hiring to training to leadership interactions, your agents’ journey is important to map. Use this map to prepare a better experience at your company. Then get agent feedback on regular, planned intervals to ensure the plan is working and make modifications when needed.

Get Your Leaders Involved

Regular interactions with your leadership team and your agents are key in retention. Your agents’ supervisors are the gateway to helping with retention. But that gateway requires the right tools. Set-up standards for:

  1. Regular stay interviews.
  2. Map growth opportunities with agents interested in growing with your company.
  3. Empower your agents with the tools to help customers.

If you’re looking for more retention strategies, check out our Top 10 Call Center Agent Retention Strategies.

The Changing Location of Call Centers

Location, location, location. Real estate said it right. Today’s employee market can’t be addressed without a discussion on the numerous location opportunities call centers have to staff their workforce.

Work-From-Home and Onsite Staffing

Work-from-home is the new king of the agent workforce. And that king is in demand. Agents are willing to walk away from a job they may otherwise love if work-from-home is not on the table.

The opportunities to work-from-home not only benefit the agent, but also their employers. Agents that can work-from-home are more likely to pick-up extra shifts or hop on the phone if additional support is needed for a few hours. 

Even if work-from-home is king let’s not discount onsite call centers. They still have a place in workforce demand. We’ve found that some employees want to be in a physical office. They crave the in-person interactions and collaboration you receive when surround by your work peers.

For some new employees, it’s essential to be onsite for training and access to physical resources that support their work. For example, hands-on access to business product troubleshooting is a must for some agents.

There are pros and cons for both work-from-home and onsite call centers. The key is to look at the needs of your business and your workforce, and determine what works best, whether it be a full onsite team, a full work-from-home team, or a hybrid of the two.

The Growing Trend of Nearshore

Even with great employee mapping and retention, U.S. call centers are finding it difficult to fill their open agent positions to meet their, or their clients’ demand. The current employment market is making it almost impossible to not offer nearshore agent positions. Nearshore call centers are filling the gaps U.S. agent hirers are not able to fill. For the foreseeable future, nearshore is a must in call center operations.

Interviewing to Get the Right Customer Service Agent

Here’s a hidden gem of hiring at Five Star Call Centers. We get to know job candidates. Okay, so it may not be groundbreaking, but it’s a key differentiator that can easily be missed in the hiring process.

While experience and work history are important, when interviewing potential agents, it’s important to dig deeper. Will they be a good match for the work done in your call center? If you work with multiple verticals or clients, where would they be a good fit?

Get to know the candidates you’re interviewing and aligning them with the positions that will best align with their skills and interests. It’s keep in the long-term retention of agents.

Training and Retention Plannings – Keys to Keeping Agents

Call Center Agent Training

You’ve hired the right agent. You’ve sold them on your call center and the opportunities they have when they commit to your business. You’ve passed the first hurdle and made an agent hirer you feel is a good fit for your business.

Hurdle two? Training. It’s more than providing manuals and a presentation. Today, training must be engaging and interactive. Agents need real-world examples of the work they’ll be doing so they go into their first day ready and able to do the job.

When setting up a training program, take the time to do it right. Look at past training programs and interview agents that have experience with the same training, or similar training, to see where improvements can be made.

Training is about more than sitting and listening. Use gamification and side-by-sides so agents in training get a good feel for the job they will be doing. Check-in with agents during and at the end of training to ensure they have a solid gripe on the content and offering opportunities for additional training in areas where they are not comfortable.

When it comes down to it, the agent experience within your businesses is equally important as the customer experience. Spend the time to map both and ensure your review and updating the plan often.

Part 3 of our State of Customer Service dives into lessons learned from work-from-home. Sign-up below for our newsletter to receive the article directly to your email. 

About Five Star Call Centers

Five Star Calls Centers has been an industry leader in the contact center outsourcing industry for nearly 40 years. They deliver voice, email, chat, social media, IVR, and consulting services across the U.S. and are dedicated to learning and implementing state-of-the-art technology and leading-edge practices. Services are offered onshore, nearshore and offshore. 

About the Author - Joel Sylvester

Joel’s career spans hundreds of companies and helping each enhance their customer experience. He has recruited, trained, and coached award-winning customer services teams across the globe in industries spanning retail, finance, product support, healthcare, hospitality and more. Today, Joel serves as partner and chief client officer for Five Star Call Centers, an outsourcing call center offer onshore, nearshore and offshore services. 

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