For as long as there have been call centers (more than 35 years now), there has been a need for outside help hiring agents. There are many variables that impact the number of agents you need over a period of time -- things like attrition, varying skillsets, expansion and downsizing. So many variables, in fact, that human resource managers of call centers have long turned to staffing agencies for hiring assistance.
Whether the agents are temporary or hired full time, staffing services have been the solution to the snowballing problems many human resource (HR) managers experience.
Many agencies, like KellyConnect, Mentor 4, Staff Management and ManPower, assist HR managers by walking them through the processes. Though these agencies follow different guidelines in many of their practices -- from the assessments they carry out to the nature of their relationship with the agents they hire -- many of the agencies and clients agree, the relationship that functions best is one developed over time.
Nancy Harbutte, Director of Marketing for Staff Management, (Chicago, IL 312-397-3459) says the contract duration of their partnership with call centers is typically three years with a 98% client retention rate.
One company that uses a service provider to staff their call centers is Cabela's, a Nebraska-based outdoor clothing and equipment retailer. Cabela's Senior HR Manager, Nancy Conway, did not always use a staffing agency, but like many HR managers, she found that, with the growth of Cabela's and their need to constantly fill positions during the holiday season, using the expertise of ManPower (Milwaukee, WI, 414-961-1000) to wade through the downpour of resumes just made more sense.
Conway, who manages the HR departments of four call centers for Cabela's, all located in Nebraska, says, in the past, she's contacted ManPower to "ramp up" during their busy seasons in the fall, but that they would like to cooperate with ManPower more in preparation for these periods of explosive growth. Now she's meeting with ManPower representatives as early as February to plan ahead.
"We started using the services of ManPower staffing agency two years ago. They have provided temporary staff from their company, so far," says Conway.
Rich DeMarco, Head of Client Services for Allianz Life Insurance says that in 2004, due to explosive growth, his company came to rely on the services of Mentor 4 to find temporary and seasonal agents.
"We are part of the interview process and continuously share feedback about what is working, what is not working and what can be improved," says DeMarco.
Though many call centers have depended on an agency for assistance seasonally, or during a charted peak time, the formula that works is one where the two entities are in communication year round.
Kimberly Keaton Williams, Senior Product Manager for KellyConnect (www.kellyconnect.com), Kelly's contact center staffing Solutions, says, "Even when we place our employees, we continue that communication and refine our processes to meet our customer's needs."
FINDING THE PERFECT MATCH
Staffing solution programs vary from agency to agency. Some offer recruiting and training, assessment and placement and let the call center company manage the agent after hire. Others offer no training, but assess candidates and place them in the position that is a best fit for both the candidate and the company.
Andrew Hilger of Mentor 4 Staffing Solutions (866-873-3273), a division of Aerotek -- a staffing and recruiting agency, says his company has a program that does not include training for applicants, but does focus on the process from recruiting to hiring, including rigorous recruiting actions and in-depth assessment testing.
"Direct hire applicants [recruited by us] are placed where they are best suited. We don't provide training or skill-building, but we'll help them to get to a place where they can start working," Hilger said.
Some agencies, like Staff Management, offer fully hands-on staffing solutions. Clients of Staff Management can expect the agency to handle all of the responsibilities of the call center's staffing from applicant recruiting and evaluating to managing the agents, hired by the client, throughout the time they are working in the call center.
Staff Management's Harbutte feels an onsite relationship works best. "We mirror the operations of our client and closely monitor the staffing program. [This] ensures a smooth implementation and more effectively results in achievement of operational and profitability goals."
They incorporate a computer software solution as an interactive multimedia call center training course. This program uses audio, graphics, text and true-to-life situations to teach reps how to achieve more success with cross-selling and upselling, and improving their CRM practices.
KellyConnect's Keaton Williams says that they conduct a ‘needs assessment' to understand their customer's environment.
We consider what training and skills are required for the job and what the duties are and if additional training is required [for the prospective candidate]," she says.
Beyond this, Kelly Services -- which KellyConnect is a service line of -- also provides multimedia training courses for employees who wish to improve their skills through Kelly's Online Learning Center. "Once the person's been hired, we also do a customized orientation that may include conducting a site tour to make sure that the person we place is the right fit," Keaton Williams adds.