1 Human Resource Research Paper Human Resource Management in a Call Center Instructor: Kathryn Taft Advanced Human Resources Management BADM 382 March 16 th, 2005 Raymond Chow
2 Executive Summary One of the growing yet toughest industries for human resource to manage is the call center. The call center industry has one of the highest turnover rates compared to other jobs due to its high level of stress and dullness. Retention starts with hiring the right person for the job. Human resource recruiters should look for applicants with these characteristics: self motivated, high tolerance for stress, positive attitude, good listening skills, good communication skills, ability to work as an individual and in a group, good problem solving skills, and enjoy helping customers. A good way to test out the applicants is to pre-screen telephone interviews to test out their phone skills. One of the most useful techniques that call centers use is the employee referral program. This program allows employees to recommend a friend, relative, or family member to the job and receive a cash prize if they pass the probation period. This technique tends to provide the new recruit with more realistic expectations and can provide a better cultural fit. Training and orientation is also important in human resource management in a call center. Training should include lots of role-play so employees can get comfortable talking to customers over the phone, learn to turn negative thoughts into positive ones, and understand the company s goals, mission, and corporate culture. Another interesting technique used by companies such as Bodog.com, is having all new employees in the organization take part of the training and orientation of the call center to learn about the company and make them realize that the call center plays a big role in having a successful organization. Lastly, retention reduces turnover costs, improves customer service productivity and satisfies customers, and increases employee morale and profits. There is no one tool that can help retention, therefore common techniques that can be used together include good benefits and compensation, reward and recognition, ongoing training, job enlargement/rotation/enrichment, and ongoing performance appraisals. It is also evident that rewards and recognition help motivate call center employees over money because if the work is stressful, money doesn t really matter. Introduction Today, with the growth in the call center industry, turnover is one of the biggest issues they are facing. Always tied to a phone, call center workers often cope with abusive callers, dreary work environments and computers that monitor their every move. A nationwide report states a 33 percent turnover rate, almost 10 times the average of all other types of jobs. I chose to research the topic of Call Center Recruitment and Retention because I have worked with two call centers before, Club Intrawest and Bodog.com. While working, I have noticed a high turnover rate within 90 days of their probation period. I believe this topic will deepen my knowledge and help me understand the issue with my career goal of being a human resource employee at Bodog.com. As a part of my research, I have interviewed a human resource recruitment director, Raj Dhillon, from the
3 call center of Bodog.com. In this paper, we will be discussing the human resource management methods (recruitment, training and retention) in a call center. Raj Dhillon Bodog.com is an online sports book and casino that has a call center for sales and customer service in Vancouver, and a wager center in San Jose. Raj Dhillon started with Bodog.com as a customer service agent. After several months as a customer service representative, her skills and ability to learn quickly allowed the managers to see that she was able to train new employees. Because the call center was expanding quite fast, after her role as a trainer, she was promoted to Human Resource Recruiter for the call center. After a few months, she was promoted to Corporate Human Resource Recruiter because she was doing such a great job hiring and maintaining employees in the call center. Selection and Recruitment When hiring an employee for the call center, it is important to find the right person because this will reduce turnover rates and save time and money in the long run. Being an agent in a call center is much more complicated compared to a regular customer service representative or a sales representative because you are unable to see the person and are relying on their tone of voice to distinguish the mood they are in. Because working in a call center is different then working as a customer service representative or sales person at a retail store, at Bodog.com they look for specific skills and characteristics in the applicant before they qualify for an interview. These include: Self motivated individuals High tolerance for stress Positive attitude Good listening skills Good communication skills Ability to work as an individual and in a group Good problem solving skills Enjoy helping customers These skills and characteristics are highly important because working in a call center is extremely stressful and routine. In addition, you are on the frontline representing the company yet you are unable to see the customer. You must keep a positive attitude and for that reason, your presentation over the phone is vital.
4 Since the job is based on communication through the phone, a good recruitment practice in the call center would include pre-screening telephone interviews to test out the applicants phone skills. Once a group of applicants are selected, they are scheduled for an interview with two call center managers or supervisors and Raj, the Human Resource Recruiter. During the first interview process, they are asked about their interests and career goals to get a general idea if they are fit for the job. During the second interview, questions are more in-depth regarding experience, what they can contribute to the company, and their skills. The third and final interview tests their problem-solving skills by giving them scenario questions regarding their job and their ability to share the same corporate culture with other staff members. In addition, a lot of call centers also use behavioural based tests and interviews that match skills and interests to the unique mix of products and services provided by the company. Another effective selection and recruitment method they use is the Employee Referral Program. The Employee Referral program offers a costeffective means of attracting applicants, avoiding the need for advertising or agency fees. Also, new recruits who have been recommended by existing employees often come to the company with more realistic expectations and can provide a better cultural fit. At Bodog.com, under an employee referral program, existing staff are offered a cash incentive ($1000) to recommend friends or former colleagues for vacancies within the company. The bonus payments are only made if the recommended candidate is successful in his or her application. The payments are also typically dependent on a number of other conditions being met. There is a three month probation period which new recruits must complete satisfactorily before the employees who recommended them are paid a bonus. However, there are a number of potential drawbacks. One of the greatest concerns tends to be that relying too heavily on employee referrals could limit diversity in the workplace, with new staff recruited in the likeness of existing employees. But, provided that there is already a diverse workforce in place this ceases to be such an issue. It is a good idea to keep track your hiring methods to see if they are actually working in hiring the right person. If methods start to become ineffective, you can test out some new recruiting methods that may work for your call center. Training Methods Knowing that this job can get stressful and dull, it is usually on the first two days when the employee decides to stay or leave. Therefore, on the first day of
5 orientation and training, it is very important that the employee feels like they are very welcome in joining the company. Managers and supervisors should constantly monitor call center employees performance and give ongoing training for new techniques. Training sets the foundation for future performance. Whether it is call center representative or management training, it provides the initial and ongoing role of providing methods and procedures for employees to conduct business. Effective training is an ongoing process with multiple purposes. Effective call center representative training not only provides the basic operational information, it should also include complete information about the company's mission, culture, and industry. It should include information that can have a life-changing effect on your employees. Teaching employees how to take negative thoughts and turn them into positive ones or how to improve their self-esteem will give them more confidence in their job and the personal life. This will result in a decrease in absenteeism and turnover, and results will improve. When employees feel good about themselves, are able to effectively handle problems, and have a sense of value, their performance will exceed their maximum potential. At Bodog.com, our Senior Managers and Marketing Department goes through the customer service training and orientation for the first week before they start their jobs to get a feel of what they company is about. When initial call center representative training includes other departments of company culture, and top company officers attend training classes to share the company vision with the new employees, positive results will be the reward. Having employees from different departments of the company complete the call center representative training sends a strong message to all employees. The message is that the call center representative position is essential to the company. Having experienced the work of a call center representative allows all employees to understand the needs of the company, and, hopefully, helps to make the call center representative position as enjoyable and productive as possible. During training, the call center representatives should receive a significant amount of role-playing so they have a high comfort level prior to taking or making live calls. Including this in the training program not only lowers turnover, it increases results. It also makes it much more effective for the managers to continue the training process. It is essential for your managers to understand the role of training and realize the importance of continuity from training to production. If they do not have a thorough understanding and communication lines are not open, the entire process is made more difficult. Raj says We encourage our call center staff to first write their own script, and then review it with the managers or supervisors. After their script is written, it is put to a test using role-playing. This lets our staff become more comfortable using their own words. Just as in the hiring process, a results-tracking process should be implemented. Objective criteria for what will be tracked and how it will be used
6 should be jointly decided between training and production, and then the tracking results should be monitored and discussed between the two groups on a regular basis. This open communication will make everyone aware of the problems that may be occurring. It allows for effective changes without putting departments on the defensive. The best results are arrived at when each area group understands its role and the roles of each area with which they must interact. Retention Strategies Retention has a great impact for all call centers. The benefits of improved call center retention are enormous because they can reduce turnover costs, improve customer service productivity, satisfy customers, and increase employee morale and profits. There is no one tool or technique that alone will get results. In addition to recruiting the right person in a call center, keeping them is just as important. As mentioned earlier, the call center industry faces a high turnover because employees at the call center are either unhappy with their jobs or because they do not meet the job requirement. Techniques to keep employees include, good benefits and compensation, reward and recognition, ongoing training, job enlargement/rotation/enrichment, and ongoing performance appraisals. Compensation has become a far more complicated issue than just deciding how much to pay your employees. In addition to salary, employers must consider many other components. Costly or not, building a fair and attractive compensation packages is critical for attracting and retaining employees. At Bodog.com, the starting salary for customer service representatives at the call center is $30,000, which is pretty good for an entry-level position. In addition, there are two big bonuses per year based on performance. After their three month probation, they are offered a benefit package that includes dental, vision, health plans, etc Raj states The money and benefits are just the little perks that we can offer employees, the big perk is the flexibility and recognition we give them. This is why they like their job. In addition, Bodog.com has a strong corporate culture, and have lots of staff events outside of work. This includes summer BBQ s, Christmas dinners, and bonus parties. Raj states We know our call center staff and the job is quite stressful, so they put a foosball table in the lounge for employees to play and watch TV on their breaks. Also, we ve made Thursday night a gym night, and encourage our members to come out to have fun, relieve some stress, keep fit, and at the same time promote cohesiveness for a stronger corporate culture. Sometimes salary or benefits and compensation are not a useful motivational method. Most of the time employees are satisfied and motivated
7 with rewards and recognition. For example, when I use to work at Club Intrawest, the managers would have contests such as whoever sells the most today will get a dinner gift certificate on top of their commission and will be recognized in a newsletter. A lot of the time, they would have a monthly sales contest, and whoever sells the most that month would get a free stay to any of the Club Intrawest Resorts, backpacks, jackets, or hats with the company logo on them. This prize is very rewarding to the winner and also inexpensive to the company. Also, they would often encourage team work by having games such as giving a beer and pizza party to the team that generates the most sales. This proves that even the smallest rewards provide a high return on investment. It is important that you constantly check out if the strategy is working. Another useful technique is job rotation, enrichment, and enlargement. These techniques are useful in a call center because the job can get quite dull. At Bodog.com, managers and supervisors listen to what the employees want and help them develop their careers. They are often given more tasks or rotated into a different role, such as sales or risk management department. This also gives the call center a stronger team as most employees are more rounded and flexible and can do any job in case there is a shortage in a department with the call center. Ongoing feedback and performance appraisal is a great motivating tool as it lets the employee know how they are doing. This will let them be aware of what they can develop on and allow them to work on areas they need to improve on. Conclusion Furthermore, working in a call center is not an easy job as it can become stressful as you take abusive calls from angry customers, and become bored as you take phone calls all day. As discussed earlier, retention in a call center starts with recruitment. Recruitment methods include selecting specific characteristics from applicants, pre-screening phone interviews, multiple interviews or tests (based on behaviour, skills, characteristics and scenarios), and employee referral programs. Training is quite important as it is part of the process of having your employees learn how to succeed in their jobs. Training and orientation should include making the new employees feel welcome, teaching them how to turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts, learn about company s mission, culture and industry, use of role playing so they get lots of practice and become comfortable before they go on the phones, and other employees from different departments take part of the training to let them know the call center is a critical part of the organization. Retention is another important part of human resource management in a call center. Useful retention methods include good salary, benefits and compensation, job enlargement/rotation/enrichment, ongoing performance appraisals, and most importantly rewards and recognition, which
8 most people prefer. In conclusion, although a call center faces such a bad reputation in the workforce, with these techniques, it is possible to retain employees and reduce turnover.
9 Work Cited Dhillon, Raj Personal Interview, 1 st March, ew _reducingturnover_rr.pdf+call+center+reducing+high+turnover+rates&hl=en