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3 Obstacles to Overcome When Growing Your Customer Service Team

Every call center manager knows that growing your customer service team can be a serious challenge. But, where obstacles arise, so also do opportunities. You can succumb to difficulties and give up, or you can leap over those hurdles and become a call center superhero. So, grab your cape and write this down!

Pick great people, and treat them great.

No, it is not quite that simple. But if you focus on those two goals, many of your obstacles will resolve themselves. Here are some typical “people” challenges that call centers face, along with some ideas that, if implemented properly, can help to not only transform these challenges into opportunities for your call center team to shine, but lead to growing your team, too.

Access to Quality Candidates

With today’s extremely low national unemployment rate (3.8%), it can be difficult to find quality candidates for your call center. And growing your business requires finding a lot of them!

Agents need to learn and understand detailed product knowledge to assist and advise customers, and they must have the rare ability to remain calm and friendly in the face of even the nastiest customer. So, where do you find high quality agents who will stick around and master the skills of customer service?

Many of the most talented customer service agents are likely already employed. You will be actively searching for agents who are not necessarily seeking a new job, but have the specific skill set you are looking for. This requires time, outreach, and nurturing a relationship with your targeted candidate. And be prepared to offer something that they aren’t currently receiving, either higher wage, better benefits, improved work environment, etc.

And it’s not as simple any more as running a “Help Wanted” ad. You will need job posting boards, career sites, job fairs, employee referrals, partnerships with local colleges or organizations to be an employer of choice.  And a strong, online social media presence (Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and Twitter) is a must.

Note: Once your recruiting is humming along, do you have the infrastructure to support the process?  Online application software, the ability to automate the selection process of quality apps, scheduling interviews, having an interview team that knows how to select the best people, etc. are all additional pieces of a growing H.R. operation to support the growth of the Customer Support team.  At some point, if it all becomes too much to deal with, you might decide to try outsourcing. After all, even superheroes need help sometimes.

Agent Turnover

Hiring great people is a leap in the right direction, but you have to keep them, too. If you do not hire skilled agents who stay for the long haul, it will be difficult to grow. This is where the “treat them great” solution comes into play:

  • Train, train, train. Yes, you want new hires to get busy as soon as possible, but even those with call center experience need to learn how to be the most productive member of your customer service team — your products, services, policies, etc. And training is one of the cheapest investments you can make. But do not stop training once your agents hit a stride. Keep your agents up-to-date about your systems, products, and procedures. Knowledge gives the power of confidence. Confident agents can do a great job, and they feel great about themselves in the process.
  • Coach instead of criticizing. We all make mistakes — yes, even you — so focus on how to do better next time. Recorded calls make superior training tools.
  • Ask for their opinion. Agents are the ones who interact with customers, so they have some insight that you may not.
  • Reward good work. Especially in a high-stress job, people need to know when things are going right. Say, "Thank you." Offer incentives (and competitive pay!). Surprise your high-achievers with pizza, for instance.

If you care about your team, they will care about you and the customers they serve.

Technology Limitations

If you are going to grow your call center, you need technology that can scale with your needs. After all, customers are no longer just picking up the phone and calling customer service, they are using every channel (i.e. voice, text, SMS, email) at their disposal to contact you. If you miss their call, you may have missed a sale and maybe even a customer for life. Ouch!

In addition to ensuring your network can scale and be multi-channeled, what about 21st century tools?  Trying to manage a bunch of new agents with manual QA can be a formula for poor customer service. A quality speech analytics package, with proper call center management will turn that around in a heartbeat.  Once you get speech analytics in the game, time to take a look at process automation tools, chatbots, voicebots, and all sorts of other game changers.

If you want to avoid the expense (both in terms of dollars and time) of keeping up with technology, then this might be another reason to address outsourcing your call center .  

The Bottom Line?

You need to successfully recruit great people in a tight job market, but if you have more people walking out the back door than you have coming in the front door, your team is never going to scale to the size you need. When you hire the right people, treat them well, and support them with the right technology, you can grow and transform your team to deliver fantastic customer experiences. And isn’t that your ultimate goal?

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