Magazine article CRM Magazine

Poking Holes in Attrition: Social Networking Has the Potential to Transform the Day-to-Day Operations of Customer Service Representatives

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Poking Holes in Attrition: Social Networking Has the Potential to Transform the Day-to-Day Operations of Customer Service Representatives

Article excerpt

In the face of a worsening economy and rising unemployment--even Internet heavyweight Google recently laid off 200 workers--jobs that may have once been deemed relatively unappealing are attracting hundreds of applicants. A school-janitor position in Ohio, for example--offering less than $16 per hour plus benefits--brought in more than 700 desperate job-seekers; a two-day job fair for 500 seasonal jobs at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium drew 7,000 people. With nationwide demand reaching historic levels--California's unemployment rate skyrocketed to 11.2 percent in March--analysts believe the un- and underemployed may find compelling opportunities in the contact center industry, particularly now that human resources departments and contact center managers seem to have discovered the power of social networking.

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Contact centers have always been plagued by rampant attrition--see our August 2008 cover story, "Calling It Quits," for more on the subject--and even a difficult economic climate doesn't cure the industry of the problem. Research by Chicago-based FurstPerson, a consultancy providing contact centers with employment-related screening software and outsourcing services, finds that the average monthly attrition rate for contact center outsourcing companies in 2008 was 8.7 percent; internal centers fared better, at 5.7 percent.

The remedy is improved hiring practices, but Paul Stockford, chief analyst for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Saddletree Research, suggests that contact centers may be missing the chance. Arizona is one of the country's contact center meccas, Stockford says, and in Phoenix alone there are between 300 and 400 contact center positions to be filled--including slots with A-list employers such as Wells Fargo. Despite the city's 7.2 percent unemployment rate in March--up from 6.7 percent the month before and 3.9 percent in March 2008--Stockford says he's not sure those jobs are filling up. "It's an interesting phenomenon," he says.

People, it turns out, may not necessarily be knocking down the doors for contact center jobs, according to findings from United Kingdom-based research firm ContactBabel. Conventional wisdom is that contact center work is repetitive--among the contact centers surveyed, 40 percent called that a "major issue," making it the number-one cause of attrition. Social networking in a customer service environment--most notably community forums--has a chance to change the way both potential and current agents see their jobs as customer service representatives (CSRs). …

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