Call Centres: a job or career?

In an age when call-centre activity constitutes such a large component of many organisation’s revenue generation or provision of customer service, it is frightening that so many call centres have employee turnover rates of as high as 50-100% per year. This situation poses a significant risk to business continuity and success.

This reality is primarily testament to low levels of investment and commitment by organizations to their call-centre staff strategy. This alarming situation can be easily curbed through having a people strategy that will better position employees to perform effectively in their current roles and assist them in progressing through the organizational chart to higher-graded positions over a period of time. It is simple: if employees can see a future and career path by staying with an organization, they will be more likely stay.

To be effective, a call-centre people strategy must have the primary objectives of significantly reducing staff turnover rates and increasing employee satisfaction. It will also change the perception of employees with respect to call-centre roles. No more will employees perceive their job as simply a means to an end, easy to get or just part of natural progression on leaving university. Instead, they will see it as a long-term career that is rewarding both financially and emotionally.

A people strategy needs to be supported by an effective recruitment process which is cyclical, experiential and conducted over the long term. It shouldn’t just involve and initial induction training, intermittent coaching sessions delivered by an immediate supervisor or biannual appraisals. The strategy needs to be comprehensive and tailored to include:

*Skill-based role accreditation. There should be a training programme that encompasses all of the fundamental skill sets for each role in the call centre. As an example, for a team leader, the training programme needs to include modules comprising coaching techniques, campaign management, recruitment methodologies, appraisal deliver and financial analysis.

*Behavioral-based role accreditation. This training complements skill-based role accreditation, so that employees execute tasks and skills that they have been trained to do, using the behaviors and approaches that are accepted and endorsed by the organization. This training can encompass aspects such as conflict management, problem solving and decision making. Like the skilled based role accreditation, there should be one training programme for each role in the call center.

*Assessment by demonstration in the workplace. At the completion of each training module, the employee needs to demonstrate that they are able to effectively apply what they have learned in practice prior to proceeding to the next module of training.

*Succession planning. A pre-determined percentage of the best-trained employees, who are also performing at levels above the expectations of the organization in their current role, can be nominated to talent pools from which the organization can source candidates for promotion into higher roles. Each employee in a talent pool would have a detailed succession plan incorporation development areas.

*Next role practical execution. All employees in a talent pool having a succession plan need to be given the opportunity to dedicate a small percentage of time to perform in the future. This will prepare them and place them more favorably to perform effectively if they eventually attain the higher-graded position.

The question that an organisation needs to ask itself is whether it can afford not to have an effective people strategy in place. A cost-benefit analysis which takes into account an organisation’s current recruitment costs to back fill resignations (including human resources, training and other support functions) and more importantly, the cost of production down-time by not having to call centre fully occupied, may put into perspective just how economical it is for the organization to invest in a people strategy that will make employees more satisfied with their work and work environment, encourage continuous development and ultimately cause them to stay for much longer periods of time.

By: Mark Manolas

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