B2B companies seem to be in trouble when looking for skilled customer service (CS) personnel.
Our newest report on the state of European B2B customer service showed that European B2Bs, across industries, face difficulties recruiting skilled CS staff, especially the mid-sized companies.
Let’s be honest, recruiting qualified personnel is not only the problem of European B2Bs.
The entire world has suffered a hard blow after the Covid-19 pandemic when it comes to finding talent, caused by the “mass employee exodus” in both B2C and B2B sectors.
Global talent search in distress
Back in 2020, European companies needed 16-18 million more educated employees than were going to be available, claims McKinsey Global Institute study. We’re talking about millions of job shortages!
In Europe alone, the job vacancy rate almost doubled in June 2022, as compared to the pandemic crisis start in 2020. And the likelihood of Europeans quitting their jobs in the nearest future is 33% – that’s a lot! 😧
Source: McKinsley & Company
A similarly alarming trend is noticeable in the customer service area: there’s a growing shortage of skilled workers.
Not having enough qualified CS personnel may result in longer hold times and deliveries, growing customer dissatisfaction, lower overall service quality, bigger workload for existing employees, and – in the end – higher operating costs.
All this boils down to one conclusion: CS is crucial to your company’s survival!
Why is B2B customer service talent pool shrinking?
There may be several reasons why it’s getting more and more difficult to find skilled staff for CS jobs.
Here are a few difficulties that businesses face when recruiting personnel for their CS teams.
⚔️ Competition. It’s not easy to stand out in an increasingly competitive labor market. The really good, aka highly skilled CS professionals are spoiled for choice, as companies compete to attract them. To win the ‘crème de la crème’ talents over, B2B companies may need to offer good compensation, possibilities to grow, and rewarding benefits packages.
🤓 Skill set specifics. Specialized knowledge could be another hurdle for recruitment in CS. The people you need often need to be able to understand complex products or services, handle complex technical issues, or provide support for enterprise-level customers. It may be a serious challenge to find talent with the right expertise.
🗣️ Communication skills. Another crucial skill necessary for a good CS representative is the ability to communicate and build relationships. It’s not so easy (or natural) for people to understand the needs of others. It’s a skill that needs to be developed. That’s why finding candidates that are both great at communication, can show empathy and have solid technical expertise is a serious challenge.
🙅 High turnover. The work of a CS agent is often full of stress. They need to constantly communicate with a variety of people, some of whom are not in a great mood. This may cause burn-out and lead to high turnover rates. B2B companies need to go the extra mile to retain experienced staff, all the while losing time and money on recurrent recruitment and training.
🚀 Ability to evolve. Customers are not the same. Their needs and expectations are changing at a great speed. B2B businesses are challenged to find talents that are willing to adapt and evolve together with the demanding customers. Everything needs to be “quicker, better, more”. Recruiting personnel who can understand and meet these changing expectations can be a pickle.
The struggle to find “the one”
Another problem that deserves separate attention is the difficulty of finding a perfect CS professional.
Skilled CS personnel are expected to possess a set of qualifications, skills and even personal qualities that may not always be realistic.
First, there are obvious key characteristics: product knowledge and technical proficiency.
CS agents should have a solid understanding of the company’s products or services. This allows them to provide accurate information and offer suitable solutions. They also need to know how to work with various software, databases, or CRM tools, which enhance the agents’ efficiency.
The next set of reasonable requirements is time management and organizational skills. This skill set is essential for prioritizing tasks, handling multiple inquiries at the same time, and meeting service-level targets. Also, CS agents are expected to log in information, document interactions, and follow up on customer issues.
Sounds a bit overwhelming, doesn’t it?
But that’s not all. There are a bunch of other skills and qualities that are rather individual. 🤔
While one can learn verbal or written communication skills, a great CS agent should also be able to show empathy, be patient and stay calm in challenging situations. These are the character traits that may not be easy to “learn” or simply activate.
On top of that, a skilled CS agent should demonstrate a positive attitude, create a welcoming environment for customers, remain composed, and be polite in all interactions.
And let’s not forget about the art of listening! Active listening helps CS agents understand customer needs, concerns and emotions. Asking relevant questions and appreciating customer’s concern and point of view.
All this is a lot to ask for. But even that is not all!
What about skills in negotiation, diplomacy, and conflict resolution?
🤦 While the expectations are high, the reality may be quite different. Yet, most of these qualities can be acquired through training, time investment, and practice.
Are you ready to grow your CS professionals? Are you ready to invest your time and money? Or will you be searching for the perfect “one”?
5 tips for a more strategic approach to recruiting CS talent
To overcome these challenges, B2B companies can implement various strategies. Here are a few ideas you can pick up to improve your chances of finding and (most importantly) keeping talented CS professionals.
1. Must-have vs. nice-to-have job requirements
What you’re really looking for is the right candidate? What does “the right person for the job” mean to you? Chances are what you need is a person who has a must-have set of qualities and qualifications. And the rest can be added through training. Don’t raise your bar too high. Look for people who have solid basics and are willing to learn. Looking for ideal people will leave you with few options.
2. Training and development programs
You can’t expect people to just be perfect. To enhance the skills of your CS personnel, you need to be ready to invest in your employees’ professional development. Sufficient training, personal mentoring and all other development programs are your trusted tools for growing loyal CS professionals. There’s no way around it.
3. Optimized onboarding process
The first few weeks on the job are crucial for the new employee. These first days and weeks create a lasting impression of the company’s culture, communication vibes, commitment to quality, and future potential. Fail to create a welcoming and smooth onboarding experience, and you’ll lose an employee. That’s why you must carefully plan onboarding: from hiring routine and inductions, to workplace set-up and software program access and training.
4. Competitive compensation and benefits packages
This goes without saying, right? If you fail to adequately compensate for the work, you expect your CS agents to do, then you’re going to have difficulties keeping the talent. Companies that offer good compensation and benefits packages, as well as pay attention to employee health and well-being, can differentiate themselves from other employers in the marketplace. Such companies are more likely to
- attract high-performing candidates,
- improve staff retention,
- increase loyalty and engagement,
- get good-quality referrals,
- improve individual productivity.
5. Positive work environment and employee engagement
Nobody wants to waste their time on working in a toxic and boring environment. Employees need to see a future perspective and feel engaged in what they do. Meaningful work coupled with diversity, positive attitude and fair play make CS talents stay longer.
And even customers agree! 54% of customers want to buy from companies that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in their communities and workplaces.
According to Stein Ove Sektnan, Managing Director of SuperOffice Customer Experience Center: “CS talents need variation in tasks, new challenges to take on and opportunities to learn and grow. If these ‘ingredients’ are there, talent will stay and possibly refer others to join the company.”
The shortage of qualified personnel is a worldwide problem spread across industries and business types.
And the European workforce is not immune to this worrying trend either.
European employees are no longer willing to stay at organizations that don’t value their contributions or offer mediocre future opportunities.
Only the companies that invest in training, diversity, fair pay, and take care of their employees’ health and professional growth, can win great talent.
And when it comes to hiring CS professionals, it’s wise to optimize your recruitment process, upgrade your offering, and be ready to invest time in employee training and professional development.
Because nothing is free anymore. 🤷