What’s the most difficult part of running a call center?
Given all of the teams we’ve talked to, we’d argue it’s not:
- finding the best SOPs and processes for your call center
- determining which channels to use for your customer communications
- or even maintaining quality service levels
In fact, the biggest challenge starts long before any of those challenges, and continues long after those have been decided—one of the biggest challenges we consistently see is staffing your call center effectively.
Staffing a call center requires a lot, not limited to:
- recruiting and vetting potential agents and employees
- figuring out the right number of staff, and scheduling them appropriately
- managing onboarding and training for call center agents
- supporting performance and ensuring quality standards
and all of this must be done concurrently alongside all of the other call center tasks—and repeatedly, as agent turnover and attrition is infamously high in call centers.
Our team of experts with over 40 years of experience in the customer success industry is here to help you identify some of the most common call center staffing problems—and show you how to overcome them or avoid them in the first place.
Identifying Common Call Center Staffing Problems
So, what are some of the most common call center staffing problems? While there are many, these five are the most common:
High attrition rates. Call center turnover is extremely common, and higher than many other industries. While there are often many contributing factors, demanding workloads, fast-paced and repetitive work, and dealing with frustrated customers top the list. The higher the attrition rates, the more expensive and time-consuming staffing a call center becomes, which is just one reason why focusing on agent retention is a must for effective call centers.
Understaffing and overstaffing. An extremely common problem, but one that is essential to fix. If your call center is understaffed, you’ll have problems with customer satisfaction, as service levels will decline, as well as employee attrition. If your call center is overstaffed, however, you’ll be limiting your cost-effectiveness.
Inadequate training. Staffing problems don’t end with the hiring phase—a common problem involves not providing enough training for agents, either upfront during the onboarding process or throughout their tenure at your call center. Inadequate training not only leads to poor customer service and results, but it can also diminish employee satisfaction and retention.
Low employee morale and burnout. With understaffing and inadequate training often comes burnout and low employee morale. This leads to high attrition rates, contributing to understaffing, and/or poor service levels and low job satisfaction. Gathering feedback from employees regularly can help you keep a pulse on employee morale and workload levels to identify and avoid this problem.
Lack of career advancement opportunities. Working in a call center, at one time, was seen as a dead-end job. Now, however, it’s possible to have a full career working in customer experience and customer service—if your call center provides opportunities for it. Call centers who provide opportunities to advance into management and leadership roles will have less trouble staffing and retaining core team members than those who do not, especially since career growth and professional development are core values to younger employees and job seekers.
Proactive Solutions to Call Center Staffing Issues
Finding solutions to the issues above isn’t just about solving current problems—though that should certainly be your first step—it’s also about creating solutions to avoid future problems.
These five strategies are what we use effectively with our teams to proactively prevent call center staffing issues.
Implement effective recruitment and retention strategies.
Your hiring strategies should be tailored to your needs. Sounds obvious? Maybe. But all too often, contact centers don’t create effective recruitment strategies, which leads to poor employee fit and high attrition. Creating effective and detailed job descriptions, doing language prescreening, matching candidate profiles with open positions, and other recruitment techniques can make your hiring more effective.
Adopt more efficient workforce management solutions.
Workforce management solutions help solve the problem of under- or overstaffing before it even begins. By implementing WFM tools, you can use historical data and predictive analytics to ensure staffing is adequate and cost-effective. Not only does this create a better experience for both your customers and your agents—ensuring proper service quality without overworking agents—it also helps you assess demand and needs proactively.
Enhance training and development programs.
62% of agents say more skills-based training would help improve performance—which indicates that the majority of call centers aren’t providing agents with enough training to do their jobs well. Enhanced and ongoing training programs benefit your customers with better service and also proactively reduces agent turnover and improves job satisfaction.
At ROI CX Solutions, we provide both onboarding and ongoing training for our agents, monitoring both skills-based training and offering specialized skills training beyond customer service, such as product knowledge and back-office operations.
Promote work-life balance and employee well-being.
Investing in your employees not only allows them to feel more supported and satisfied in their work—it also creates better service levels and performance. Of course, it also fights low morale and burnout, thus reducing attrition rates. Giving employees regular feedback, improving training programs, engaging employees in business decisions and day-to-day operations and collecting—and actioning—feedback from your employees are all ways to ensure employees are supported.
At our call centers, we also provide ample space for breaks, ensuring that break rooms are stocked with healthy food options, TVs, games and other ways for employees to connect and unwind. We also provide secure transportation and competitive benefits that ensure employees are supported both in and outside of the workplace.
Create clear career pathways.
A massive 87% of millennials say that “professional or career growth and development opportunities” are very important to them in a job—and a lack of career growth options are therefore a major reason for turnover. With millennials now occupying the majority of today’s workforce, focusing on clear pathways to growth and career development is especially important. Not only does it lessen turnover, but it creates more experienced, valuable staff members that will stick with your team longer and provide you—and your customers—with better support.
Technology’s Role in Addressing Call Center Staffing Issues
Is technology a holy grail for fixing staffing issues?
However, the right technology, backed by the right people and the right processes, can help alleviate many of the call center staffing issues you may be experiencing—or help proactively prevent them. In our call centers, we make use of three primary technology-based strategies to support staffing challenges: automation, data analytics, and data-driven performance management.
Automation and AI.
Not only can automation and AI tools help with early stages of recruiting and hiring—solving challenges like sorting through stacks of resumes and matching them with best-fit roles, pre-screening candidates, or providing guidance to new hires through automated onboarding and training processes—automation can help provide stronger and more efficient data and feedback throughout the entirety of your staffing process.
For example, at ROI CX Solutions, we’ve been able to use automated processes or AI tools to help with performance management, more easily monitoring and analyzing agent performance and then providing agents with targeted feedback to meet service level goals. In addition, adding automation into your workforce management systems can make it easier to accurately estimate and schedule agents needed based on your predictive analytics.
Speaking of analytics, good data analytics can help address many call center issues, especially those related to understaffing and overstaffing. Predictive analytics and call forecasting offer more accurate predictions for staffing needs, allowing you to understand how many agents you need at every time. In addition, WFM data analytics and AI tools can analyze the strength and expertise of each agent to create schedules that take into account time off, seniority, agent shifts, call volume needs and more to schedule the right agents at the right times.
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Data-driven performance management.
Finally, we use data-driven technology to improve our training and development programs for agents, as well as for performance management. AI-assisted QA processes and call tracking allow our teams to more easily analyze which agents are performing well and which are struggling, as well as provide targeted practice and training for those who aren’t. In addition, having integrated software for recruitment, training and our knowledge bases help provide support for all of our agents on an ongoing basis.
Preparing for Future Staffing Challenges
Of course, while staffing issues and challenges today may look one way, tomorrow’s staffing challenges may look very different. Part of having a proactive plan to alleviate staffing challenges involves anticipating future challenges and preparing for them in advance. Here are three we’re proactively alleviating on our teams.
As remote work continues to be a growing trend, call centers should incorporate this into their staffing models—both figuring out how to mitigate the risks and challenges of remote work while finding ways to use this trend to their advantage. At ROI CX Solutions, we’ve integrated remote work positions into our call centers wherever possible to take advantage of benefits like:
- time zone flexibility
- hybrid / blended call centers for more client flexibility and affordability
- hiring the best agents, regardless of location
- reducing overhead costs
- improving employee and agent benefits, and more.
Changing customer expectations.
Enormous eCommerce businesses or tech giants like Amazon and Apple have greatly changed—and will continue to change—customer expectations for what’s possible. From two-day shipping, video streaming on-demand, one-year return policies and more, many of these customer-centric policies have only existed in the past 10 years or so—and yet, they’ve already become the standard to meet. As customer expectations for service changes, staffing policies will need to keep up. Whether that’s prioritizing 24/7 service, creating more time for self-service and chatbot integrations or revamping your training materials, proactive preparation to meet changing customer expectations will help alleviate staffing challenges in the future.
Industry trends and regulations.
Alongside changing customer expectations, call centers need to stay on top of changing industry trends and regulations. While this varies by industry, it can certainly complicate staffing—from ensuring your hire staff in compliant locations to including compliance training in your onboarding to determining what your industry needs to deliver in terms of customer experiences. Staying ahead of these curves will make the difference between customer service that delivers on every call and curveballs that warp your staffing plans.
What Does This Look Like? A Real-Life Example
At ROI CX Solutions, we’ve helped many teams solve staffing issues through outsourced solutions, direct training programs, quality management and more.
So what do these proactive solutions look like in practice?
One of our clients, a technology company, had a growing business that involved providing individual, in-person quotes to potential customers. As their demand grew, their need for a scalable business model did too. They needed a team that could improve sales support while also staying productive and providing quality service.
Our team implemented a direct training program as well as a quality management program to train and manage up to 40 agents. Through this 1-2 approach of an initial training period (two weeks) and then ongoing quality management and development, agents were up and running quickly, while maintaining and developing exceptional service as our partnership continued.
We got our team hired and ready within less than six weeks—under the client’s target window—and have helped our client expand their scope and reach to a national-level business. We continue to improve the training curriculum and pay attention to our workplace environments for agents to provide the best working experience possible for agents while also delivering world-class results for clients.
What went into all of these results?
- a direct training program that gets new agents up and running quickly, eliminating poor quality from undertraining or poor onboarding
- a quality management program to aid agent development, ensuring quality and improving morale and job satisfaction
- ongoing training and development, providing agents with career growth and engaging work
- engaging workplaces that help agents feel supported both on and off the clock
- scalable business models that prevent over- or understaffing
Need Support Staffing Your Call Center?
There’s no easy way to staff your call center and avoid all of the challenges and pitfalls outlined in this article.
But if there is something close, it’s outsourcing.
When you outsource to a trusted provider, you can offload most—or all—of the work that comes with staffing a call center, as your provider will take care of:
- building your team
- recruiting and hiring the right agents
- managing agent salaries and benefits
- training and onboarding new agents
- managing agent schedules
In addition, outsourcing typically enables teams to hire faster, making it easier to scale your call center team and speed up ramp-up periods. And with ROI CX Solutions, we take care of all of it for you, allowing you to be as involved as you want without burdening you with any of the process. Our effective, proactive and modern hiring and recruitment strategies ensure you get the best team available, quickly and at an affordable price.
Want to see how outsourcing can help alleviate your staffing challenges? Connect with an expert from ROI CX Solutions today.