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How To Overcome Hiring Challenges In The Customer Service Industry

Male call center employee talking on his headset

Your customer service staff members are on the front lines for your business day after day. They are often the first point of contact a customer has with your brand, and they can very well be the deciding factor on whether a customer sticks around for the long haul. 90% of Americans factor in the quality of customer service when deciding whether to do business with an organization. 

Despite the importance of a strong service department, employment numbers in the customer service industry are expected to decline by 2% by 2028. This is largely thanks to automation taking over many service-related tasks. Even in the face of declining job numbers, though, customer service hiring is expected to remain consistent. This is because of the industry’s not-so-secret dirty little secret: persistent turnover. 

Attrition in customer service is higher than in almost any other industry, with turnover rates in U.S. based call centers ranging from 30 to 45%. That is more than twice the average for all occupations. 

With so many customer service professionals vacating positions every year, the need to establish a strong talent pool and a continuous recruitment pipeline is greater than ever. 

7 Strategies For Combating Recruiting Challenges In The Customer Service Industry 

Make culture fit a top priority when screening candidates

Culture fit, the term used to describe how a person’s attitudes and beliefs align with those of the organization, is often viewed as a secondary rather than a primary qualifier when narrowing down your pool of candidates. Failing to hire for culture fit leads to multiplied problems down the road—namely, dissatisfied, unmotivated employees, and high turnover. High turnover leaves staffers who remain employed feeling wary and disillusioned. It is a vicious cycle. 

To break the cycle, consider culture fit as a top component in your screening and hiring process. Use tools like personality assessments to identify strong matches. Involve current employees who would be the candidate’s peers in the hiring process to chat with them and provide feedback. Ask questions that will help you assess how the candidate’s values line up with your own, like ‘what’s your ideal work environment?’ or ‘what characteristics do you value most in a manager?’

Related: Strategies to Build a Stronger Call Center Culture

Recruit consistently, not just when there is a need

Agencies in need of customer service reps cannot hire as quickly or as easily as they did in the past. In addition, hiring costs are increasing. Still, this competitive market is not an excuse to rush the process when you have a vacancy. 

Instead, overcome this customer service hiring challenge by recruiting on a continuous basis, not just when you are facing a staffing shortage. Work to build relationships with prospective candidates over the long-term, leading with a strong employer brand. Maintain relationships with past employees who may ‘boomerang’ back to work for you again after picking up new skills elsewhere. Do not pause your screening efforts just because a position is not available today; keeping a strong talent pool at the ready ensures you will be able to fill vacancies in a timely manner when they arise. 

Use data to your advantage

We are big advocates for the power of data in recruiting, but customer service might not be the first industry that comes to mind when you think about using hard numbers to aid in hiring. Unlike fields that depend on hard skills you can test for, like accounting or IT, customer service relies more heavily on soft skills like interpersonal communication and the ability to multitask. Still, you can use data to your advantage.

Analyze the common traits of your high performers to identify what they have in common. Are they all meticulously organized? Do they have a creative side? Are they great at collaborating? Zero in on what sets your top in-house talent apart so you can work to uncover more of those qualities in future hires. Using personality questionnaires and tracking the results of performance reviews over time can help build the body of data you have to work with. 

Meet the expectations of the modern candidate

Candidates today have different expectations than they did ten or even just five years ago. An expanding conversation about a living wage has prompted a growing number of cities and states to raise their minimum wages. More companies are extending benefits like employer-sponsored healthcare and retirement packages to part-time employees (customer service industry jobs like retail and hospitality account for the greatest proportion of minimum wage workers). 

If you want to win and keep top customer service talent, you will have to step up your benefits to meet these evolving expectations. If offering healthcare or retirement benefits to all employees is not financially feasible, consider other in-demand perks like more flex time, which ranks directly behind healthcare and retirement in popularity amongst candidates. 

Embrace non-traditional employees and work arrangements

As we touched on above, a flexible work schedule is one of the perks employees value most. The nature of customer service work, though, makes flexibility tricky to implement from a practical standpoint. There are certain times where you simply need to have a specific amount of coverage and thus, cannot offer complete flexibility. 

Still, there are ways you can go about giving your staffers more control over their schedules without leaving you shorthanded. Use the services of a contract staffing agency to ease the workload during your busiest periods. Allow full-timers to flex their 40 hours outside of the typical Monday to Friday schedule, like four ten-hour days or split shifts. Use contract workers to fill gaps when there is a high demand for time off, like around the holidays. Consider investing in infrastructure like cloud-based service platforms that enable employees to work remotely. 

More and more, the most innovative companies are realizing that the strict 40-hour, five-day workweek is becoming a thing of the past. The best companies will not only accept the shift, but find new ways to embrace it that are both good for business and attractive to candidates. 

Invest in training

Employees value training. According to a LinkedIn survey, 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development, which means allocating resources for training is a win-win. The employee benefits from resources that expand their skills and increase their ability to do their job, while the employer benefits from the fruits of those skills and in the form of a more engaged workforce. When you fold your training opportunities into your employer branding materials, the benefits will also extend to an increased ability to recruit top talent. 

Many organizations balk at the prospect of offering ongoing development opportunities because of the cost, but training does not always have to take place in a formal classroom setting or via an expensive off-site event. Make ongoing learning part of your service team’s regular workflows. For example, offer bite-sized training on new features as part of your regular staff meetings or incorporate more one-on-one coaching to fill downtime during low volume periods. 

Related: How to Improve Your Employer Brand

Motivate your top performers 

The easiest customer service hiring challenges to overcome are the ones you do not allow to become a problem in the first place. Focus on lowering vacancies by motivating more of your top performers to stick around longer. 

In customer service, it can be tricky to use title bumps as a means for motivation because of the limited paths for advancement—there is often only one way to climb the ranks and a fixed number of individuals who can hold any one title. 

Instead, use alternate means to motivate your best team members. Seek their input on organizational issues like how to improve your efficiency, then put their advice into action. Give them opportunities to get facetime with upper management, which can be valuable for networking and mentoring. Avoid micromanaging and trust top performers to make their own judgement calls without always getting a manager’s approval. When there are opportunities for advancement, actively seek out candidates to promote from within. 

Strengthen Your Customer Service Hiring with 4 Corner Resources

Build a consistent pipeline of qualified candidates with the help of the customer service headhunters at 4 Corner Resources. We will help you identify key skills, screen for culture fit, and make sure you are hiring talent with the right personality traits to communicate with customers on behalf of your brand. 

Your reputation depends on the quality of your customer service and call center reps, and that is not a fact we take lightly. We have spent 15 years refining our recruiting methodologies to deliver industry-leading placement rates at a cost that is respectful of your budget. We use relationships, resources, and the highest response rates in the business to deliver the results you need. 

4 Corner Resources is your staffing partner to hire the best call center agents, data entry specialists, inside sales reps, customer service managers, and more. Start your customer service candidate search today by getting in touch now.

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn