A key challenge call centers face is finding good agents. Then they must train those agents, which is an investment that can take several weeks. After all that, the last thing a harried call center manager wants is for their best agents to leave to seize a better opportunity.
While competitive pay, flexible hours, a nice complement of benefits, and a pleasant work environment all help to retain call center agents, establishing a career path is the best way to keep your best agents.
Consider the following as you develop an agent career path:
First, an agent career path must appear as a reasonable opportunity that makes sense to the agent if it is to serve as an incentive for him or her to stick around. Saying, “If you work hard, maybe you can someday run this place,” will not motivate many entry-level employees. This is especially true for today’s workforce who expect to advance within weeks or months, not wait years or decades. If they feel their career path is unrealistic or unattainable, they will dismiss it and look for a job elsewhere.
While becoming a call center manager or even a supervisor is a move that takes time, look for small wins that you can dole out fast. Often the first step in an agent career path is becoming a team leader. But instead of making them wait for an opening, give them baby steps. Let them job shadow a team leader, perform one aspect of that job (with supervision), and later serve as a backup. All these actions will keep the agent engaged and motivated, as well as better prepared to step in when the opportunity arises. Of course they’ll be thinking several steps in advance, so you’ll need to show them what can come next that will allow them to move forward. These could include assistant shift supervisor, shift supervisor, trainer, quality control supervisor, programmer, and so on.
Give your career path program credibility by pointing out past successes. Make sure everyone knows which staff have risen into advanced positions from the agent ranks. The more examples you can cite, the better. Then publicize each employee as he or she makes each step down the career path. Promoting these successes will encourage everyone that the agent career path is viable.
An agent career path need not be limited to the call center, but it should include any position in the organization. This provides more opportunities for advancement. Although losing a great call center employee to another part of the company is a short-term loss, it’s a long-term win that places another call center knowledgeable employee in a different department.
As warranted, provide external training to agents as they move down their career path. This can include industry opportunities, local seminars, and structured classes. Provide these learning opportunities to prove you’re serious about agent career paths and want to grow your staff from within.
Remember that bringing in someone from the outside to fill advanced positions requires a steep learning curve and carries a high failure rate. Grooming staff from the inside offers the best chance for success while keeping valued employees from leaving.
Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider and consultancy that provides custom training solutions for all levels of staff in the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-901-7706 to learn more about arranging specific training for your organization. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.