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The Contact Center – Company Farm Team?

Nate Brown | Dec 23, 2016 116 views No Comments

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Most of us can agree that losing top talent outside the organization is something we should work to prevent.  However, something leaders don’t talk about as often is the very real phenomenon of agents leaving the contact center to pursue roles in other areas of the business.   I will warn you right away….this is not a subject for which I have all the answers.  That being said, it’s a very important topic with a huge impact and it should be discussed.  This dialog was a sidebar theme in one of our recent ICMI chats, and many expressed interest in taking it to the next level.  My hope is to generate a conversation and help all of us become more aware when it comes to positive internal turnover.

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It’s no wonder contact center employees are a hot commodity for other hiring managers within the business.  Where else do you learn the products, services and the customers more intimately than the front lines of customer service?  As Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) stated, “Everyone has to be able to work in a call center.”  There is no better training ground, and it stands to reason that contact centers have become somewhat of a “farm team” for many companies. 

While positive internal turnover can be a very good thing both for the analysts and the larger organization, is it possible to go too far?

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Customer service is critical to the customer experience and the business.  Should we not have top talent in the contact center?  Should they not stay there long enough to make a significant impact and lay a foundation for more analysts like themselves?  According to the QATC, the average turnover rate (internal and external) is 26 percent annually.  Most leaders would agree it’s very difficult to build a high functioning, sustainable team when 1 in 4 people are gone in twelve months.  No one wants customer service to be thought of as a revolving door.  When the contact center is not a priority for the business, how can the customer be a priority for the business?

The challenge is finding balance between the “farm team” mentality and being a talent hoarder.  This requires a partnership between customer service leadership and the rest of the organization.  One possible solution?  Perhaps there is a two year expectation (minimum) for any contact center employees prior to transition.  The first year is about learning process, technologies, customers, etc.  Year two is about getting more strategically involved in the business, lending a hand in the training and development of newer representatives, and participating in cross-functional projects.  

This gives a sustainable platform on which to continually rebuild the contact center, while also providing great talent to the rest of the organization.

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Another thing to consider is the expectation a new analyst brings to the table when they are first hired.  I’ve interviewed a large number of professionals for customer service roles in my time as a contact center manager.  In addition to attitude – aptitude – fit, I’ve got one big question on my mind.  Is this person serious about a customer service role, or are they just looking for a quick stepping stone into the business?  At the end of the day it’s irrelevant…. the “stepping stone” job seeker is not disqualified for honesty or for ambition.  We should all be looking to grow and progress in our careers.  However, there are two very different perspectives toward a potential future transition.  On the one hand, you have someone who will dive into a customer service role and earn the right for an internal promotion over the course of time.  Inversely, there are those individuals who simply survive in the contact center doing the bare minimum and feel entitled to move forward after twelve months or less.  Naturally, it’s hard to build a strong team around the second type of analyst.  I’m very happy to bring a perceived “stepping stone” analyst into the team, as a long as I also perceive someone that will handle the transition with patience and maturity.

I’d love to hear from you!  Does your organization have a formal policy in place when it comes to internal transfers and promotions?  Do you look for committed customer service professionals or individuals with expanding talent?  Is there anything you are doing to add to the overall company value while maintaining a strong customer service base?

As originally posted on http://www.customercentricsupport.com, December 20th 2016

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