CSR Career Development Best Practices for Improving CX
Author: Mike Desmarais, Founder & CEO, SQM Group
The essence of an effective CSR career development program is to have a formalized plan as a way to achieve alignment between a CSR’s career aspirations and the contact center’s workforce needs. The number one motivator for CSRs to improve their call resolution and Csat performance is career advancement opportunities. SQM’s research shows that the one of the top reasons why CSRs leave an organization is lack of career advancement opportunities. Given the importance that career advancement has for motivating CSRs, it is essential that career advancement and development opportunities are based on CSR call resolution and Csat performance.
A best practice is that all CSRs are required to stay in the CSR job for a minimum of two years, preferably three, to be eligible for career development within the organization but outside the call center. SQM’s research shows that if the contact center’s annual CSR turnover is higher than 20%, it can negatively impact FCR significantly. Therefore, it is recommended to create both lateral and upward positions within the contact center to reduce turnover in the contact center. Only first and second quartile CSR call resolution performers should be eligible for any type of advancement or development opportunities. CSRs that take lateral jobs should be performing at least at the contact center call resolution average of 88%. CSRs who are fourth quartile call resolution performers are not eligible for any type of promotion or development opportunities. When career advancement is based on VoC and handled effectively, it is a positive FCR game changer.
An effective career advancement program includes a formalized CSR career path and career path counseling sessions that supervisors provide to CSRs. The focus of the career counseling session is to identify specific career advancement opportunities as well as the knowledge, skills and abilities required for a CSR promotion. Listed below are some best practices for a career advancement program that will help retain and motivate CSRs to improve or maintain their VoC performance:
- Create four to six call type positions (e.g., general inquiries, claims, technical, billing, orders and escalation)
- Hire primarily for a career path within the contact center versus a career path for the organization
- Clearly communicate the career path within the contact center to CSRs
Career Growth Opportunities
The essence of an effective CSR career growth program is to provide knowledge and skills specific to the personal development of CSRs. Most CSRs recognize that new skills or knowledge would benefit them at some point within the contact center, organization, or possibly with a new organization. Providing CSRs with knowledge block training for handling specific call types (e.g., claims, billing, technical, orders and account inquires) has proven to be a best practice.
Taking the time to provide CSRs with career growth opportunities keeps the CSRs engaged and prepares them for handling different call types and leadership roles. Listed are best practices for CSR career growth that would help retain and motivate CSRs to improve or maintain their VoC performance:
- Have supervisors assign specific projects and/or supervisory responsibilities in order to enhance CSRs’ skills
- Call type knowledge blocks are used as a way to handle calls as well as provide CSRs with incremental career growth opportunities
- CSRs become mentors to new CSRs by helping them handle calls and learn the culture
Talent CapabilitiesMany of the world class FCR performing contact centers do talent capability assessments from the CSR to the SVP level. Their general belief is that the contact center needs to develop and nurture its employees. The talent capability assessments include a VoC call resolution assessment of CSR and supervisor performance. If there are certain call types or lines of business in which CSRs are under-performing, they are identified and action plans are developed to rectify the CSR under-performance. Talent capability assessments should be designed to improve FCR and be effective at understanding the knowledge, skills and abilities from the CSR to SVP level.
Succession planning should be part of a contact center’s strategic plan and objective. A strategic plan and objective that is based on being a world class VoC FCR performer requires developing and filling positions at all levels with people who are customer-centric. Most of SQM’s clients have talent capability assessments and succession planning at the manager to the SVP levels. However, very few of them do so at the CSR and supervisor levels. At a minimum, succession planning should be at the supervisor level. There should be enough time to groom successors, as well as a realistic timeline given to employees for career advancement opportunities.
More details can be found in SQM’s book:
The purpose of this book, One Contact Resolution 2nd Edition, is to help contact center managers use best practices for improving customer experience.
2017 CX Best Practice Award Winner – CSR Career Development – VSP Vision Care
Criteria: This award recognizes the organization that has demonstrated a CX best practice which improved, or helped maintain high first call resolution (FCR) and customer experience (CX) performance.
VSP Vision Care, a VSP Global company, is the largest and only not-for-profit vision benefits provider in the U.S. It provides access to high-quality, affordable eye care and eyewear for 88 million members around the world through a network of 39,000 eye doctors. VSP reinvests profits back into the members and communities they serve so that everyone can enjoy a lifetime of good vision. It is this shared belief that everyone deserves to see their world clearly that helps inspire VSP’s customer service representatives (CSRs) to provide a World Class experience for VSP customers. This is done through high-quality service experiences, first call resolution (FCR) performance, and employee satisfaction.
VSP’s Leadership Training Development (LTD) program is a career path into leadership in our call center. LTD is a formalized program that provides an opportunity for CSRs to grow and enhance their leadership skills through a blend of practical application and academics. Over the last 14 years, this program has supported the development of 51 participants with a 92% success rate promoting into roles such as supervisor, analyst and trainer.
2016 CX Best Practice Award Winner – CSR Career Development – UPMC Health Plan
Criteria: This award recognizes an organization that has demonstrated a best practice which helped improve, maintain, or provide a positive CX.
UPMC Health Plan, the second-largest health insurer in western Pennsylvania, is owned by UPMC, an integrated global health enterprise. The integrated partner companies of the UPMC Insurance Services Division – which includes UPMC Health Plan, UPMC Work Partners, LifeSolutions (EAP), UPMC for You (Medical Assistance), and Community Care Behavioral Health – offer a full range of group health insurance, Medicare, Special Needs, CHIP, Medical Assistance, behavioral health, employee assistance, and workers’ compensation products and services to nearly 2.3 million members. Their local provider network includes UPMC as well as community providers, totaling more than 125 hospitals and more than 11,500 physicians throughout Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland.
They seek to offer the highest quality and value to their members and their community. As part of the UPMC family, they work closely with the world-class hospitals, physicians, and researchers at UPMC, and with community provider partners across their service area, to deliver award-winning health care products, programs, and services. They seek to do all this with a personal touch, helping members and their families enjoy the best possible health and quality of life.
Service Excellence is dependent upon the quality of those team members who have direct contact with our membership on a daily basis. Hiring team members who truly embrace the spirit of Service, who are kind and caring, and who have the ability to learn complex products and systems ultimately leads to our success. Our Member Services team is the voice of UPMC Health Plan. They represent the company in its entirety given that they are the first point of contact when a member reaches out to resolve an issue or to ask a question. Therefore, recruitment takes a high priority, and we carefully select our new team members.
2015 Contact Center FCR Best Practice Award Winner – Career Development Program– Sun Life Financial
Criteria: There are 15 distinct Best Practice Awards (i.e., Omni-Channel, Web Self-Service, IVR Self-Service, Chat Channel, Quality Assurance Program, Desktop Applications, CSR Recognition Program, Career Development Program, Call Handling Practice, Real-Time CSR Support Queue, Performance Management System, CSR Coaching Program, CSR Training Program, CSR Hiring Process, Standard Operating Practices).
These awards recognize the organizations that have demonstrated they have improved or helped maintain high first call resolution and customer satisfaction performance.
We’re Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada (Sun Life). We’re a leading international financial services company who has remained steadfast in our commitment to listen to our customers and provide them with financial solutions to help meet their needs. We are proud to provide the utmost in customer service in a respectful, responsive, and easy manner for our plan members. With innovative technology, a strong distribution network, and long-standing relationships with some of Canada's largest employers and associations, we strive to deliver the best customer experience at every touch point, in every region across the country. We want our customers to achieve the peace of mind that comes with a lifetime of financial security. It’s at the center of all we do.
The passion and engagement from every Customer Care Representatives’ interaction with our customers is inspiring. Employees decide to work for Sun Life with a desire to continuously learn, develop, and grow within the company. They know Sun Life Financial has deep roots in Canada that go back nearly 150 years, with a strong service culture, innovative technology, and long-standing relationships with some of the country’s largest employers and associations – helping and servicing a client base consisting of millions of people across Canada.
2014 Call Center FCR Best Practice Gold Award Winner – Career Development – Sun Life Financial
Criteria: There are 10 distinct Best Practice Awards (i.e., Quality Assurance Program, Desktop Application(s), CSR Recognition Program, Career Development, Call Handling Practice, Real-Time CSR Support Queue, Performance Management System, CSR Coaching Program, CSR Training Program, CSR Hiring Process). These awards recognize the organization that has demonstrated they have improved or helped maintain high first call resolution and customer satisfaction performance.
We’re Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada (Sun Life). We’re a leading international financial services company who has remained steadfast in our commitment to listen to our customers and provide them with financial solutions to help meet their needs. We are proud to provide the utmost in customer service in a respectful, responsive and easy manner for our plan members. With innovative technology, a strong distribution network and long-standing relationships with some of Canada’s largest employers and associations, we strive to deliver the best customer experience at every touch point, in every region across the country. We want our customers to achieve the peace of mind that comes with a lifetime of financial security. It’s at the center of all we do.
The passion and engagement from every Customer Care Representatives’ interaction with our customers is inspiring. Employees decide to work for Sun Life with a desire to continuously learn, develop and grow within the company. They know Sun Life Financial has deep roots in Canada which go back nearly 150 years, with a strong service culture, innovative technology and long-standing relationships with some of the country’s largest employers and associations – helping and servicing a client base consisting of millions of people across Canada.
2013 Best Practice Award Winner:
Criteria: There are 5 distinct Best Practice Award categories (i.e., Quality Assurance Program, Knowledge Management Tool, Recognition Program, Career Development, Call Handling Real-Time CSR Support Queue). These awards recognize the organization that has demonstrated how they have improved or helped maintain high first call resolution (FCR) and customer satisfaction (Csat) performance. Organizations submit specific practices they have used to improve or maintain high FCR and Csat performance. FCR can be determined by the customer or the organization and Csat must be determined by the customer.
In many organizations, career development can seem overwhelming. Few signposts offer associates the confidence to know that they’ve made the right choice, or assist them with the next steps in their career. At Starwood, we heard from the associates that they craved more control over their career path and wanted a simple pathway to advancement. From this feedback, we created Auto Progression. Auto Progression starts with the hiring process. The initial interview processes examines the key skills, knowledge and abilities of potential candidates to determine their compatibility for not only an entry level position in Starwood’s Contact Centers, but a multitude of specialty departments. This allows associates to see the world of untapped potential in their career.
Upon joining the Starwood Contact Centers, associates begin their journey in a new hire training program. During this month long immersion, associates discover the key fundamentals about the way we do business. They learn about the culture, the values and the behaviors that will make them a star in this organization. During this period, we also discuss with them the abundance of career opportunities they can achieve. Once associates have achieved their first progression, they will return to the training environment to learn more about a new set of skills and tasks. During this time, they receive all the skills and knowledge they need to serve customers who are part of the award winning loyalty program, Starwood Preferred Guest. As the process continues, and associates master new set of skills, they will auto advance to another tier and once again receive training for the new set of skills. Once again, we will outline for the associate a number of key performance indicators. This cycle repeats one last time until they reach the highest level in the Auto Progression flow before branching out to specialization.
Once this last progression level is mastered, associates are now ready to branch into a variety of different specialization pathways, including leadership roles. Whichever pathway the associates chooses, they will receive the proper training and coaching support to guide them into the respective specialization. At each step in the process, the associates receive compensation increases that match their new skill set, allowing them to actualize their progress. By creating a consistent set of criteria that determine the success at each step of the process, associates have the ability to reach their maximum potential in a transparent, seamless and simplified way. This freedom in the structure allows them to be themselves and ensures they have complete control in how far they progress, which has had a positive impact on associate longevity and commitment. As Starwood is a global company, their career possibilities are endless.