Selecting and Onboarding Your First Agent Team

 In Chat Center Startup

Throughout steps one and three of the launch of our live chat business, we focussed on acquiring a pilot group of customers. Once you are convinced this hurdle is past, it is time to allow some time to recruit and onboard your agent team.

Your initial team size

Since your shifts add up to 250 hours a month, you will need, provided each agent works two shifts of four hours a week, to hire roughly 10 agents.

Hiring

Where do you start when looking for prospective employees? Be sure to ask yourself: At what point on the spectrum from college student to sector professionals do I want to start my search? Who are you really looking for?

College students have a lot going for them. As Millennials, they naturally possess multi-tasking skills that are crucial to handle simultaneous chats, and their typing and good conversational skills are an advantage. But, most students lack commercial skills. Yet, this can be quickly remedied with solid guidance and training.

Your agents will be working in shifts of three to five hours, which is perfect because most students prefer short, flexible schedules. The fact that this work can be done anywhere, anytime is appealing to them. In fact, some might say this is the ideal student job; beats flipping burgers, right? And finally, we’ve found that once you’ve found a few good hires, peer-to-peer recruiting from their network is a breeze.

On the other hand, hiring sector professionals makes sense for many reasons. They’ll be ready to go from day one, but their hourly rates will be higher. They will bring in industry expertise, but it may be a problem that you can’t offer a full-time job, specifically when you are scaling up; the work is quite demanding, so long hours are not an option.

The good thing is, no matter which group you go after, targeting via Facebook will bring in more applicants than you can handle.

Payroll

Employment contracts and payroll considerations will differ from country to country, depending on your local and national tax and employment regulations.

Typically you want to be exceedingly flexible in your pilot phase. Outsourcing payroll was what we did in the beginning. No hassle – just pay the monthly invoice. Everything else is taken care by someone else. Yes, there is a price to pay, but being able to focus on the primary process of acquiring pilot customers and delivering chats is paramount.

As we grew, the cost of outsourcing just didn’t make sense for our specific situation, so we brought payroll in-house, although we take different approaches in varying geographical markets.

Onboarding new hires

The key to onboarding is having a process in place. Currently, on average, we handle 50 applicants a month. We can’t just wing it. So we learned early on that you must plan ahead.

What do your new hires need to know?

  1. How to interact with the chat software.
  2. What makes a good conversation.
  3. Your clients’ business goals and company info.

This is where Chatshipper technology and business support steps in. We set up an e-learning program to teach your agents ChatShippers’ features and hacks. Through this we’ve developed the 5C-model for excellence in conversation. The beauty of this system is that it provides you and your team a common ground to evaluate performance and collect all relevant customer data while acting as a knowledge-base for agents throughout chats.

Finding, training and retaining talent may sound daunting at first, but when you follow the process above and focus on quality over quantity, you’re setting yourself up for success. If you have any questions or concerns about selecting and onboarding your first agent team, please don’t hesitate to ask. And as always, your feedback is greatly appreciated.

To keep the entrepreneurial momentum going, don’t forget to check out our other posts, including Starting Your Own Chat Contact Center in Three Months’ Time.