The call center industry has not only survived the challenges of recent years, it’s grown tremendously as many organizations took strides to redesign their purpose and benefit. Traditional call centers have evolved into contact centers—providing more value, brand equity, and experience-oriented customer care. Today, almost all big businesses avail call center solutions, and the revenue generated by the industry is at an all-time high.
Trends for the traditional call center have gradually developed over the past decades and the recent pandemic has only increased the speed of these emerging trends. Personalization has become a huge part of the call center experience (and the customer experience). Personalization (sometimes referred to as “the experience economy”) is required at all levels of experience through the customer journey. So, the hyper-personalization of product or service interactions must also be considered during customer support events.
The evolution of a call center to contact center to experience center requires investments in new technology, processes and mindsets. But true success starts with hiring the right talent.
Technology impact on hiring for call centers
As with most industries, as technology improvements become more prevalent in the call center space, the industry can adapt or change drastically. With the onset of AI (artificial intelligence) and automated technology, some companies are scared that call center agents could disappear forever.
“It would make sense that as customers use more digital channels to communicate with companies, there would be less need for voice interactions and call center operators. But the reality of this correlation isn’t quite so simple. In many cases, there is a human being behind a digital transaction—be it an email message, live chat, videoconference or social media post. As such, the demand for a customer service representative is not eliminated; the nature of its work simply changes” (Franca, 2018)
How will technology impact hiring?
As call centers’ purposes, identities, and impact on their clients’ business continue to evolve, so will hiring for the right customer experience and the right humans to deliver it. As call centers rapidly grew, the single most important agent skill was language. That is no longer the case. To keep turnover relatively low and improve the customer experience, you will have to include other skill markers in the evaluation of talent. Recruiters must have better processes and evaluation tools to capture the qualities and skills needed for a successful evolution of identity and purpose.
The COVID-19 impact on hiring for call centers
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating on human life, psychology, business operations, and the global supply chain. While there is hope ahead, we still have much to learn from the experience. For business, the pandemic has greatly increased trends that were already set in motion—one of which is the flexible and work-from-home employee work models.
Before the pandemic, 53% of call centers had some form of work-from-home option or plan. Post pandemic, that number is expected to be over 80%.
Is the rapid development of flexible working conditions for call centers necessarily bad?
Studies would tell us, as we develop our call centers into stronger brand advocacy centers, working from home could benefit that goal. “Home-based call center agents tend to be more highly educated and experienced, have less stress and are focused on meeting callers’ needs.” (Rowan, 2010)
Additional benefits can also include:
- Lower call center costs – Organizations can experience bottom-line savings from reduced call center operation costs, lower starting wages, less need from brick-and-mortar space, flexible scheduling options, and more.
- Improved customer service – Experts report that customer experience is related directly to agency satisfaction. At-home agents have been shown to create a better customer experience, resulting in increased customer loyalty.
- Improved employee retention – Replacing representatives is a major cost consideration for call centers. Recruiting and training are traditionally large budget items eating away at profits. Retention rates for at-home agents is nearly 80%, while that number is 25% for traditional in-house agents. The savings are enormous.
But what does all this have to do with hiring?
You have to tailor your hiring to the opportunity presented by the pandemic and the stay-home work model. Changing your approach, messaging, and your value proposition will attract new and never-before-interested talent. You can capture a new market of affordable representatives that may never have considered a career in call centers before. Instead of hiring call center agents, you can now hire a remote agent.
Global competition for talent
Much like outsourcing in the 1980s grew by leaps and bounds, so does the availability of call centers anywhere in the globe. Outsourcing the call center used to be limited in key countries with a prevalence of English as a second language. But now, English is being taught in many corners of the world, opening up new markets like Latin America, The Caribbean, and Africa. Consumers don’t mind so much where they are routed, as long as they experience the right level of understanding and compassion from your representatives.
Companies are also deploying automation systems and self-service options and technologies to work alongside service operators. With the advancement of technology combined with the budding markets hiring and sourcing, talent will have to change.
Why do global call center markets impact hiring?
Competitive markets will always seek the most efficient and effective business models. If sourcing your call center can be greatly improved by changing markets, you must be aware of the trend. A huge competitive advantage can open up by establishing customer service agent(s) or operations in more profitable areas of the world. Your company can gain a strategic advantage through new and more profitable market opportunities. Offering higher costs because you’re slow to adapt your hiring practices and locations can be fatal for contact centers worldwide.
Optimize for success
Business continuity through the years (and especially through pandemic years) will require agile practices, remote agent(s), real-time analytics, and a unified communication plan. Recent years have taught us, if nothing else, all aspects, all business groups, must adapt for success.
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