Feed the Fire
As the economy improves, labor markets no doubt will begin to open up in some regions, and turnover may become an issue in some catalogers’ contact centers.
“Many customer service reps feel they’re undercompensated for the value of the job they do, that is, in relation to the energy they exert on the job and the stress they encounter in dealing with customers all day,” recounts Liz Kislik, president of Liz Kislik Associates, a management consultancy based in Rockville Centre, N.Y. “If they think they can get slightly higher compensation elsewhere, and they have a family to support, they’re almost obligated to leave.”
The question is, how do you keep the good customer service representatives (CSRs)?
The first task, says Kislik, is ensure you’re paying a living wage. “Otherwise, employees will begin to ask themselves, ‘How can it be that I’m a good, hard-working, honest person, and I can’t afford to fill my gas tank?’” This is especially pertinent since the recent corporate scandals in which executives pulled down millions from their failing companies, says Kislik. “Employees say, ‘Companies pay for all kinds of things. Why can’t they pay me what I’m worth to them?’”
To determine a living wage, do a survey of average salaries and benefits in your region. At Tipton, Pa.-based New Pig catalog, a business-to-business merchant of industrial supplies, HR Manager Adam Ross surveys other companies in his area to see what they’re paying comparable staff-level positions. “It turns out we’re not the highest payer nor the lowest payer,” says Ross. “But we also don’t hire and lay off people. We offer career paths, training and longevity.” At New Pig, corporate-wide staff turnover averaged only about 5 percent in 2004.
To determine appropriate compensation plans for his 65-seat call center, Tim Taggart, contact center manager at Sundance catalog in Salt Lake City periodically calls other area employers, checks out newspaper employment ads and discusses payment issues with an informal share group of 17 catalog contact center managers.