Q&A with Natalie McCluskey of Search Consultancy

BLOG: Contact centre recruitment is a competitive and challenging marketplace. We speak to recruitment specialist, Natalie McCluskey of Search Consultancy, about the highs and lows of matching the right people with the right role.

What exactly does your business do?

Search provides recruitment solutions to a range of clients on a national basis with specialist divisions covering more than 25 sector disciplines. Within the call and contact centre division, we recruit purely into call centres and for any telephony based roles at all levels, whether it be permanent, temporary or interim.

How has the contact centre sector changed in the last year? What have been the main influencers?

We’ve seen the continued rise in the popularity of social media – things can go viral so quickly and it’s often now the preferred method of communication for our client’s customers.

There are now multi-channel opportunities and it’s changing the required skill set of candidates. They need to be computer literate and able to communicate effectively online as opposed to just over the telephone.

Secondly, the market is now so buoyant there are now more jobs than there are candidates. We have to look for different competencies and widen the net to bring in more of the right people.

What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

Definitely evolving and innovating to meet the needs of our clients. In our division, we are frequently presented with new challenges and the team will work to come up with new ideas and solutions.

I enjoy the consultative side as it allows us to develop our service offering while assisting the client. The partnership element is second to none – I love helping clients to achieve what they need.

What is the most unusual role your team has filled?

We have recently seen a big increase in demand for bilingual candidates, which our clients are seeking our help with. We currently have a number of requirements for Korean and Japanese speaking agents working nightshifts. These are certainly some of the more challenging roles to recruit for but we do love a challenge!

What do you think is going to be the most interesting aspect regarding contact centres and the jobs market for the next 12 to 18 months and why?

Currently we are all faced with the challenge of reducing attrition and increasing attraction, plus we need to really change the perception of working in a call centre. It can be a really worthwhile and high-flying career. It will be really interesting to be part of tackling this over the next year or so. I’d like to see how quickly the industry can adapt and how interview and selection processes might change.

I’m looking forward to building stronger relationships with our clients as we work one-on-one to improve staff turnover rates and bring on board talented individuals.

What are your top five predictions for contact centre recruitment for the next 12 to 18 months?

  1. Review sites will have an even greater impact on consumer choice – not just based on the product or service on offer, but the after service received.
  2. Social media is still growing in its influence within the industry – more and more call centres will become multi-channel and the growing convenience of webchat will become ever more popular. There are still many call and contact centres which don’t have a webchat presence – I’m confident this will change. The need to recruit individuals who are technologically savvy will be more important than ever, and what better way to attract them than through the social media platforms themselves.
  3. Call centres will be looking at improving staff retention even further. As the market picks up pace, the need to recruit high calibre candidates will become increasingly difficult as the competition increases. Salary and benefits package will inevitably become more attractive as a result. And employer brand and reputation will also be a factor to consider.
  4. We’ve seen a dramatic shift in the experience our clients are looking for in candidates. They are now looking at different backgrounds with transferable skills and doing more competency based recruitment as opposed to experienced based recruitment. The other big change will be introducing more part-time or reduced hour shifts to attract candidates who are looking for reduced hours as a lifestyle choice. In turn, this will create more flexibility for the shifts offered to full time candidates.
  5. More automation. Whilst nothing can replace the satisfaction we get from a conversation, convenience is still a key factor for consumers and efficiency is critical to call and contact centres. There will be the introduction of more automated processes or self-service style options. This will call for staff to become multi-skilled and able to fulfil a number of functions rather than just traditional customer service.

What are your top five overall recruitment tips?

For candidates:

  1. Be select with your job applications. Good candidates are in short supply these days and you no longer need to apply for hundreds of jobs to be successful for one. If you are going through an agency, ensure you take the time to build a relationship with your consultant – the advice and guidance they can provide can be invaluable
  2. Make your mind up and stick to it – it is very easy for others to create grey areas and muddy the water when looking for a new role. Follow your instincts and take the time to ensure the role you are going for ticks your boxes, not anyone else’s!

For employers:

  1. Move quickly. Good candidates are very much in the driving seat at present and other employers will no doubt be chomping at the bit to give them an offer. Many people view drawn out interview processes as unappealing. And once the candidate is in front of you, make sure you let them do the talking, then sell your business based on the information they have provided – but only if you both match up!
  2. Keep your ear to the ground and learn from your findings. Savvy employers are constantly asking us for up-to-date salary, benefits, working hours and working environment information to ensure they stay ahead of the game.
  3. Do not underestimate the importance of having a strong relationship with your recruiter. Recruiters have access to more information and market place changes than anyone; it’s what we do day in, day out.

What are the biggest issues and challenges facing the sector and how is it dealing with them?

Social media is probably the biggest challenge facing the sector at the moment. As a medium for complaints, Twitter often acts more as an outlet for frustration rather than a means to call for a solution, meaning it can be really difficult for companies to manage.

To avoid putting a negative impression out there, many businesses have invested heavily in training or bringing in staff with specialist skills in this area. It would be interesting to see a forum open up between clients and their customers – as a way to communicate instantly before people think about tweeting!

How do you describe your job to your friends?

I love it – it challenges my mind and no two days are the same.

If you weren’t working at Search Consultancy, what would you be doing?

I always say if I could live life again I would be a cosmetic dentist – I don’t know why it’s just something I’ve always wanted to do.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Having a request or a situation come my way that’s completely new to me and the client. I love working with my team to come up with the ideal solution and seeing it work.

If you could pick a celebrity to join your staff who would it be and why?

Micky Flanagan – I already have an amateur stand-up comedian on the team and I would love to see him give Micky a run for his money. I think he’s hilarious, and one of the main things that makes our team so successful is that we have fun while working.

If you could change one thing in the contact centre industry what would it be?

Being on hold for too long and the automated choices! I think they may need to recruit more staff… Call Search Consultancy to help you out!

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