Is Attracting Top Talent in the Call Center an Oxymoron?

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a top-talent crisis going on. For years company execs and call center management have assumed that with a little touch of call center technology just about anyone could do the job of assisting the customer, closing the sale, or working the help desk. Now that we are moving out of the recession and hiring again we are waking up to the fact that call center representatives need a job that is worth getting out of bed for. Look around and you’ll likely discover that in most call centers this isn’t the case—which may be why the people who are supposed to be sitting at their desk are pulling their bed covers snuggly over their heads, and calling in sick.
You might wonder why call center representatives are resorting to such deviant measures in a time when most will argue that employment opportunities are scarce. Moreover, if you’re managing a call center, you might want to know what to do when your best and brightest stop showing up for work in the call center. The most obvious answer is you go into call center panic mode. The more resourceful response is you get creative. Break the call center mold. Go out on the edge of the ledge. Try something else.

A Solution to Call Center Churn
Such as a break-off group: A unique team of people who work in the call center but who approach the job, and the customer, with knowledge and skills, tools and training yet relying on their own intellect, judgment, experience and expertise to complete the task rather than a slick software program. Give them the reins, in other words, and watch what happens.
I can assure you that the word will spread, along with agent motivation, energy, smiles, excitement, punctuality and productivity. As a side benefit attendance will pick up and turnover will ease up. You’ll be happier and your call center will be the place where people want to work because the job is worth getting out of bed for.
Why doesn’t this happen in the current environment? To get the answer, let’s go back to the notion that today a really good, intelligent, articulate call center representative would be considered as the company’s top-talent. Most call centers I go into consider the job of the call center representative at the bottom of the barrel.

They look down their noses. They believe the call center employs the company’s lowest of the low. Few bother to visit. Fewer decide to stay. And even less than that apply for the job. I haven’t even mentioned the pay scale or the fact that everyone knows call center representative are recorded, monitored, measured, benchmarked, scripted, factored and placed under a performance microscope that few in the organization could—or would—be able to survive. In addition, we have had about 20 years to dig the call center into a ditch of massive measurement and equally enormous turnover and high call center absenteeism.

You could say that we are facing a rather well-entrenched problem—a problem that starts at the top—and when you’re standing in the bottom of the rut the solution looks a long way off. For these reasons, and a whole lot more, you need to know how to attract top talent, how to keep top talent and how to manage top-talent if you’re leading the company’s call center.
Why not start with something as simple as job autonomy? Granted, it may not be the entire solution—but it’s one more step up out of the hole.