Recruitment a specialised area

Tuesday, 30 March, 1999 - 22:00
THE rapid growth in the call centre industry over the past few years has put much greater demands on those involved in the recruitment of call centre ‘agents’ — those people at the other end of your call.

Today, the sophistication of the recruitment and screening process rivals that used for senior management recruitment assignments of just a few years ago.

The wide variation of roles within a call centre creates a further need for detailed briefs and tailored recruitment processes for each assignment.

For example, a call centre agent of today may be required to match another product or service from their employer’s portfolio to the callers existing product or service and ‘cross-sell’ or ‘up-sell’ the caller — all in the space of a few minutes.

Others may find themselves on the receiving end of an irate or abusive call which needs to be handled with tact and diplomacy with the ultimate objective of ‘winning back’ the caller.

These situations and hundreds of others in which agents can find themselves require individual responses which in turn demand individualised recruitment programs.

An added dimension is that many call centres are now demanding that their recruitment agencies not only measure quantifiable skills such as speed and accuracy, but also conduct psychometric testing to determine if candidates match the personality profile of their ‘ideal’ agent.

There is still much debate about the validity and reliability of this type of testing but it can often uncover important aspects of a candidate’s personality such as agreeableness, openness and conscientiousness, all of which are relevant to the role.

Apart from the profiling of candidates, another important aspect of call centre staffing revolves around the need to implement KPIs (key performance indicators) which can help to maintain the stability and integrity of a team and thereby minimise the need to constantly recruit new members.

Understanding the specific requirements of an agent’s role is also crucial as some candidates will excel at up-selling and cross-selling during in-bound calls but may suffer from ‘call-reluctance’ in an outbound ‘cold-calling’ situation.

In my own experience, I have always found that some of the most valuable lessons about a client organisation and the assignment specifications can be gleaned from the simple process of ‘buddying’ — actually sitting alongside agents in real life call centre situations and listening, observing and learning. Those agents are, after all, working the coalface — and that is where the true agent profile will be found.

• Judy Anderson is a director of Bell Personnel and manager of its permanent services division. She is also membership co-ordinator of the Australian Tele-marketing and Call Centre Association Inc. (WA chapter).