5 Ways to Overcome the 2020 Customer Service Agent Shortage

Hiring top talent has been so difficult for so long now. Thanks to the U.S. labor shortage, hiring managers – in nearly every industry – are struggling to fill open positions.

In 2020, it’s likely to get worse, not better. Sure, the stakes are high for every business owner. But if you’re running a company that depends on inbound customer care and delivering superior customer experience, I think it’s fair for me to say that you’re feeling more hiring heat than just about anyone. Talented customer care agents are scarce and when they’re available, they’re snapped up fast by companies who know how to compete and win the best candidates.

So, what can you do to gain a competitive edge on this fierce battlefield? Here are my top 5 suggestions for 2020:

  1. Up Your Recruiting Game

When is the last time you took a long, hard look at your end-to-end recruiting process? I mean expanding (or switching up) your talent pools, taking a critical eye to the way you’re writing your job descriptions, comparing the ease and speed of your automated application system to those of your competition, the quality of your response emails, your interviews, follow-ups, and offers. And every other little thing in between. Candidates don’t apply like they used to. They don’t perceive themselves as at your mercy and they dismiss employers who treat them dismissively. Competing today means investing in serious HR and recruiting talent who are on top of today’s trends and today’s candidate needs, preferences, and expectations.

  1. Search and Hire for Trainability

Do you want experienced customer care agents? I understand. But when really great, experienced reps are hard to come by, one of the worst compromises you can make is to pick the agent with more experience, knows your systems, but brings a lackluster track record and a blah interview. Lean instead toward the enthusiastic go-getter who is bright, trainable, and eager to join your team. Does that mean you’ll need to invest a little more in some preliminary testing and a lot more in onboarding and training? Yes it does. But that’s the kind of investment required in today’s job market.

  1. Be Everywhere and Cast the Widest Net: Hire Agents to Work from Home

Let’s face it: for most organizations, it will be nearly impossible to source and secure highly qualified candidates within small geographic areas. When a competitor is offering a job that pays as well (or even a little less) but eliminates the commute time, parking hassles, whims of the weather, you’re not going to land those top candidates, even if they all do, somehow, live nearby. Today, the most in-demand customer care representatives are commuting down the hall, from their kitchen table to their home office. That’s not just better for your employees, it’s a huge benefit for you. When you experience unanticipated call surges, it is far easier to call someone back to their home desk for a few hours than it is to have them drive in.

  1. Build a Great Culture and They Will Come

One of the greatest misconceptions out there about telecommuting is that, when your employees work from home, your company culture is less important. In fact, the opposite is true. When you need every single voice on every single call to represent your brand with care, accuracy, efficiency, and again, care, you need every human being on your team to know they’re part of your team – and love being part of your team. Building a welcoming culture that makes all team members feel valued and appreciated isn’t easy. A culture like that doesn’t just pop up in one day. But with focus and a highly talented group of ace supervisors who are empowered to lead remote teams, it’s possible. That means defining your organizational vision and values and then making sure you’re walking the talk. It means checking in with groups and individuals, asking good questions, listening to opinions, ideas, even grievances, and showing that you care. Doing all of this with remote, often far-flung teams, takes top down commitment – and substantial financial investments in technology – but it pays off.

  1. Coach, Collaborate, and Celebrate

It’s easier to foster a sense of belonging when you build partnerships across teams. One of the most natural – but often overlooked – opportunities for collaboration is between your sales, marketing, and customer care teams. Who in your organization has more access to first-person feedback on your products and services than your agents on the phones? Ask your agents to tell you what they’re hearing and show them that you respect and value their input.

None of these suggestions are one-and-done steps. They take time, deep commitment and serious financial investment. But, especially in today’s fierce hiring environment, they’re what it takes. At Skybridge Americas, we ensure superior customer experience by creating high performing teams of highly talented customer care agents. If you’d like to know more about how we can help you achieve your goals, please reach out. We would love to talk!

-Bobby Matthews

Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
Skybridge Americas


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