By David Snyder and Luke Williams
Recently, one of the authors was asked to help a major company in the insurance industry conduct a “competency benchmarking” session for customer service reps in its call centers. In this hiring and development exercise, we asked a roomful of executives, managers, and related team members across the organization to help define the traits and skills of a high-performing customer service representative.
We discovered some fascinating things:
- The company identified the customer service, or contact center associate, as one of the top three most critical roles—if not the most critical role—in the entire organization.
- When asked what the most important skill was in this job they reported “Voice Talent.” And by voice talent they meant, by various definitions: “Tone of voice, patience, calmness of tone, soothing quality, non-agitated, grace under pressure, ability to keep people calm.”
So think about this
At one of the world’s largest companies in its industry, the most important skill for anyone to have—the skill most related to customer retention, customer acquisition, and retention of market share—could be defined as “tone of voice.”
Fascinating—by any measure. Put another away, the “tone of voice” your front-line people set with customers may be the single greatest variable influencing your company’s success.
In many ways, it does indeed all boil down to an “appropriate” tone of voice. The tone should remain genuinely calm and cheerful at all times, even when faced with difficult questions. This tone is a foolproof indicator of low-level stress and resilience. We can assess this candidate’s “job readiness” by putting current or prospective call center agents through a process designed to test how these candidates will perform under stressful circumstances. If asked a difficult question will they remain cheerful or become annoyed? If the answer is the latter, you have already found out about all you need to know.
Customer Service Traits
Below are the personality traits we know to be associated with high performing call center agents and customer service reps (which our research with the aforementioned company reiterated):
- Pleasant Tone of Voice
- Organizational Skills
- Flexible attitude
- Time Management Skills
- Respect for Policies and Procedures
- Effective Communication Skills
- Energetic Personality
- Nimble Call Handling Ability
- Ability to Remain Calm Under High Pressure and effectively handle escalated situations
- Coachable, Open to Feedback
Attrition in Call Centers
To better understand the challenges surrounding hiring a high-performing call center associate, we must also examine the industry’s hiring metrics. Call centers typically run an annualized attrition rate of 100% or higher, while Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) often target a 10-12% monthly attrition rate. What does this mean? Anyone who has been at a director level in a BPO understands the value of limited attrition. It is one of the top three key performance indicator (KPI) metrics reviewed on a regular basis. Cutting attrition by a small percent equals big gains in earnings as a result of reduced training costs and other indirect labor costs.
JabaTalks Can Help
In collaboration with our business partners at JabaTalks (see www.jabatalks.com) we are continuing to explore ways to use the JabaTalks voice technology recruiting platform to identify those people who are most likely to perform better in customer service and to stick with the job. Companies utilize JabaTalks’ interviews to better assess call center applicants in a variety of situations that provide them insight into how a candidate will perform on the job. By combining a resumé review with an automated phone screen, employers are able to easily identify these traits at the earliest stage of the hiring process; allowing hiring teams to make effective hiring decisions much faster. JabaTalks helps call centers efficiently downsize their applicant pool so they only spend time interviewing candidates who demonstrate the required skills.
David Snyder is the author of two critically acclaimed books, How to Hire a Champion and How to Mind Read Your Customers. He is known as an international thought leader on competency assessment and holds a graduate degree in psychology from Harvard. Snyder Inc. is a strategic business partner of JabaTalks.
Luke Williams is an experienced Sales and Operations Professional with nearly 20 years of experience in various industries. Luke is often invited to speak at conferences and podcasts on topics related to Employee Engagement, Contact Center Management and Management Best Practices. Luke founded Grab A Cloud, LLC in 2011, a consulting firm that assists companies of all sizes with sales and operations launch, maintenance, and improvement.
JabaTalks is an automated voice interview tool. Through combining the resumé review process with an automated first round phone screen, we give hiring teams immediate insight to a candidate’s soft skills and job-related experiences at the earliest stages of the hiring process. As a result, hiring teams make their decisions on a more comprehensive view of the candidate resulting in a smaller group of candidates to review further. To date, JabaTalks has saved companies upwards of 90% of their initial screening time.
For more information please contact JabaTalks by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.