CSR Selection Best Practices for Improving CX
Author: Mike Desmarais, Founder & CEO, SQM Group
It is no secret that one of the most difficult aspects of operating a contact center is for management to select and retain the right type of CSRs. SQM’s research shows that the average contact center in North America has 24% turnover annually. Of that 24% annual turnover, 73% of CSRs leave the contact center in their first year of employment. CSR annual turnover ranges from 5% on the low side to 200% on the high side.
Most contact centers look at turnover as a necessary cost of having to hire and train new CSRs. The cost to hire and train a new CSR is $8,100 and takes three to six months for a new CSR to perform at the same VoC metrics level as a CSR who has worked in the contact center for at least one year. However, the real cost is hidden and is related to FCR. Call volume increases can be directly related to decreases in FCR performance. SQM has seen contact centers’ FCR performance go down by 5% to 20% as a result of high CSR turnover. For example, if a contact center handles one million calls annually and, as a result of 100% annual CSR turnover (which is not uncommon), call volume would increase by 10% resulting in 100,000 additional calls and FCR performance would decrease by 10% or less. With an average cost per call of $7.54 for a typical contact center, 100,000 additional calls computes to $754,000 in additional operating costs.
The CSR Selection Process
Identifying candidates who are a good fit for the CSR job and have the ability to execute on the Call Resolution Delivery Model (i.e., Understand Me, Help Me, Care About Me and Resolve Me) can be a very big undertaking. By using the CSR selection steps to screen and select CSRs, the chances of hiring CSRs that will deliver world class call resolution performance can be increased. (The Call Resolution Delivery Model is covered in the Best Practice descriptions of CSR Training and Call Handling)
SQM considers it a best practice to develop a world class call resolution performer profile to help identify CSRs who have consistently provided world class call resolution performance, based on their survey results. Once world class CSRs have been identified, work with a personality test vendor to develop a profile that is based on the Call Resolution Delivery Model standards and world class call resolution performing CSRs. After the CSR ‘world class call resolution’ profile has been developed, each candidate can be evaluated against that profile. Again, the intent behind using a personality test is to find out if the candidate is a good fit in terms of being call resolution customer-centric. Personality testing or some psychometric testing can be more accurate and unbiased than some interviewers’ practices such as, “I don’t hire anyone who does not make any eye contact with me.” Psychometric tests do not have those built-in biases, and are blind to age, race and gender. These personality tests can also be more reliable for determining if a candidate is customer-centric than most traditional interview techniques. Once again, when personality tests are used, it is important that the information is used as part of the selection process and not the primary method for selecting a CSR.
Job SimulationIf the CSR passes the personality test, you should proceed with the job simulation test. Using job simulations as part of the CSR selection process is a win for the candidate as well as the organization, as such simulations not only allow candidates to understand the realities of working in a contact center, but also allow the organization to evaluate candidates in a simulated contact center environment. This simulation is the next best thing to a day on the job. When a CSR candidate has not previously worked in a contact center their understanding of the CSR job may not be realistic. The main goals of a job simulation test are to help the candidate to decide whether or not they want to become a CSR to work in a contact center and provide management with an overall predictor score of whether the candidate is a good fit for the CSR job.
By the time the candidate arrives at the face-to-face interview stage, the interviewer should not have to think about whether they think the candidate is qualified for the job. The previous three steps should provide these types of insight; instead, the interviewer should validate that the CSR candidate is customer-centric and the CSR wants to work in a contact center.
The most effective in-person interview questions are behavioral based. There is a basic psychological principle that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Behavioral designed questions can help provide insights into the CSR candidate’s past behavior.
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.