Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Finding People Who 'Fit' Your Call Center: A Q&A with the DeGarmo Group

March 19, 2008

Not many professions have turnover rates as high as those found in call centers. It's a high pressure job, let's face it. People get overwhelmed, burned out or just plain bored. Unfortunately, turnover in the call center is costly. A constant hunt to find, recruit, interview, hire and train a call center workforce, only to find you are not stemming the outflow at all, is frustrating. For this reason, many call centers have turned to pre-employment testing to help them increase the odds they will find employees who are a good fit with the call center.

With many types of pre-employment testing, you can throw likely scenarios at your prospective employees to see how they will handle them. But what about the more unusual and complicated scenarios? You can't plan for those. All you can do is hope that you've hired the right sort of person who can use his or her own skills, experience and instincts to get through the problem in the best manner possible. How do you find those people? With some very in-depth pre-employment testing that departs from the ordinary.

The Bloomington, Illinois-based DeGarmo Group offers solutions based on psychological science in human resource and employment assessment, selection and development. I recently got a chance to catch up with Anthony Adorno, Vice President of Operations for The DeGarmo Group.

TS: How can up-front pre-employment testing positively affect the call center?

AA: Well constructed pre-employment assessments enable employers to make better informed and more cost-effective hiring decisions by offering more objectivity, accuracy and reliability. They also help to standardize the hiring process, and ensure that applicants are evaluated against a common set of criteria that are tied to critical performance metrics. An important consideration regarding employment assessments is whether they are designed to predict “will do” versus “can do” aspects related to work.

Specifically, DeGarmo Group’s line of Fit Index tests (for Customer Service, TeleSales and Collections jobs) is designed to predict an applicant’s turnover likelihood by profiling their levels of work tolerance (“will do” aspects). Many organizations fail to realize that employees quit because they don’t enjoy their jobs, and not because they lack the skills to perform them. The Fit Index System – a 2007 Customer Interaction Solutions CRM Excellence Award winner – is a series of Web-administered tests that provides employers with a “turnover risk rating” for every job applicant. This enables employers to screen out “high turnover risk” applicants, and focus more time and attention on those applicants likely to remain on the job.

With the Fit Index System we’re focusing on those aspects of applicants that are not trainable. You can train people to type faster and more accurately, but you cannot train someone to enjoy being yelled at by another person on the phone, or to work under time pressure. Some people are better equipped to tolerate those demands more effectively than others, and it’s those people who we want to target for hire.

For those marginal and low turnover risk applicants, we recommend following up with Call Center Simulation — a skill-based (or “can do”) assessment — to determine who is best qualified and likely to exceed performance expectations once on the job. Call Center Simulation allows applicant to test drive the agent job by responding to mock customer calls while navigating through account history, and product and service interfaces to determine how to effectively resolve customer issues.

By using assessments such the Fit Index System and Call Center Simulation, recruiters and managers can help to automate the hiring process and reserve their valuable interview time only for those applicants who are likely to stay on the job and perform well.

TS: Where does the ROI for such solutions come in?

AA: Employers make a significant investment in every applicant they hire. From interview time, drug screens and background checks, to orientation and training, the cost of bringing on a new employee can easily exceed $10,000 before they even speak to a single customer. DeGarmo Group’s solutions provide employers with some guidance on where it’s best to make that $10,000 investment, and more importantly, where that investment isn’t recommended.

By utilizing tools like the Fit Index System and Call Center Simulation, employers may add $15 to $40 to the process, but quickly return that investment through reduced turnover rates and higher performance levels. Typically a break-even point on an investment in DeGarmo Group’s solutions is about a one percent reduction in turnover. Put simply, if we correctly screen out only one high turnover risk applicant that the organization normally would have hired, the $10,000 they saved can cover the testing costs for between 250 to 600 additional applicants! Therefore, it’s a very easy investment to justify.

Our clients have reduced turnover by up to 60 percent in one year, saving millions of dollars annually.

TS: What sort of organizations is your FIT Index ideally suited for?

AA: In the contact center market we focus on providing assessments for Customer Service, TeleSales and Collections jobs – those front-line positions where the most turnover typically occurs. We also work outside of contact centers and assess applicants for Teller and Retail Sales positions, for example.

The solutions work well for both small and large operations. We have some clients who test 20 applicants per year; we have others who test over 50,000. A feature of our technology that many clients appreciate is the ability to test applicants remotely. This helps them avoid bringing people on-site until after their turnover risk status is determined. It makes their process much more time- and cost-effective.

TS: How customizable are your solutions?

AA: Fit Index System tests can be quickly customized for clients if it’s desirable or necessary to do so. Through DeGarmo Group’s research in the development of the Fit Index System tests, typical work tolerance profiles for agent jobs were determined. Part of our implementation process is a “job match” analysis that helps us determine how well our standardized solutions are aligned with the core demands faced by agents.

If it is possible to make refinements based on the job match analysis, we inform the client and can have a custom solution within a few days. DeGarmo Group also offers the job match analysis at no cost to potential clients so they can explore how well our systems align with their agents’ job demands in advance of making an investment decision.

Clients also have the ability to brand the assessment with their logo to create more continuity in the hiring process for job applicants. We are interested in ensuring that applicants have a favorable experience when completing DeGarmo Group’s assessments, and that they reflect and represent our client organizations well.

TS: Can you explain a little about what your "Fit Interview" process entails?

AA: Fit Interviews work like traditional employment interviews, but focus on different areas. Just like our Web-based Fit Index tests, our Fit Interviews are designed to help employers identify applicants who are likely to be high turnover risks, so they can be screened out of the application process.

Through a special questioning style, we’re able to gather information about applicants’ turnover likelihood. Administering the interview requires some training to do properly, but the results we’ve seen to date demonstrate its value.

We’ve found that organizations using the Fit Interview System can improve hiring accuracy by 20 percent over using a Fit Index System test alone. They are designed to work together to enhance decision making. Specifically, the interview can be used to further diagnose areas of potential frustration or incompatibility that have been identified through a Fit Index System test. This helps to streamline the interview process by making it more focused on areas of concern.

We’ve also built in a Web-based application for storing interview data for clients, so that they have point-and-click access to the essentials at any time in the future.

Taken together, it’s this innovative and effective interview approach that provided the basis for our 2007 Product of the Year Award from Customer Interaction Solutions magazine.

For more information about DeGarmo Group, view a presentation at http://degarmogroup.com/DeGarmo%20Flash%20Experience/FlashExperience.html or visit www.degarmogroup.com.

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