How Much Do You Pay Your Entry-Level Staff?
It’s Time to Take a Counterintuitive Look at Hourly Pay
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
The biggest expense for telephone answering service is payroll. You know that. You strive to hold down payroll costs to control expenses and stay in business, hopefully to turn a profit. Scheduling too many people to answer phone calls drives payroll costs up. Paying too much per hour also drives payroll costs up. This is bad. Left unchecked, runaway payroll costs is the quickest way for an answering service to fail.
Or is it? What if we challenge conventional wisdom and dare to consider paying new hires a higher hourly rate?
Will Higher Pay Increase Retention? I’ve never met anyone at an answering service who felt they earned too much. Most employees, especially entry-level operators, complain they’re not being paid enough. I get this—from both the employee and the employer standpoint.
Employees leave an answering service for various reasons. Sometimes they quit and exit the workforce, but usually they leave for a new position—often one with better pay. And often it’s the best employees—the most employable ones—who leave first. Will paying a bit more encourage them to stay a bit longer?
Will Higher Pay Reduce Other Costs? Assuming that by paying telephone operators a bit more will increase your retention rates, consider the ramifications of this. If employees stay longer, that means you need to hire fewer replacements. This means hiring costs will go down. Even more significantly, training costs will decrease. You won’t have to pay as many new hires for their training; you’ll also save on the cost of the trainer.
Will Higher Pay Improve Customer Service? When you pay an entry-level rate, you get entry-level work. This reflects the level of service your staff provides to your clients. New employees are also the ones who make the most errors. If you pay new employees more, will you get a higher level of work from them? Maybe. Keep reading.
Will Higher Pay Reduce Management Hassles? Is there a correlation between level of pay and job commitment? People who arrive late, quit without notice, cause conflicts with coworkers, and trigger a myriad of other issues take up management bandwidth to deal with. If paying staff a bit more will reduce a bit of these headaches, is it worth it?
Will Higher Pay Result in a Higher Caliber Employee? The fundamental question is, will a higher pay rate result in higher caliber employees? That’s largely up to you. Seriously. If you offer to pay more but don’t change your hiring process or expect more from new hires, you won’t realize much benefit by paying a higher hourly rate.
However, if you tighten your screening procedures, raise your hiring requirements, and increase your employee standards along with the hourly rate, you can expect to get a higher caliber employee. When you do this, you’ll be able to shift money from your hiring and training budget into your operations payroll budget. This could even have a net positive effect on your bottom line.
Increasing your starting pay to realize these benefits is a high-risk, high-reward proposition and shouldn’t be entered into without careful thought and preparation. However, when done wisely, the result could positively impact every aspect of your answering service.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. Check out his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.
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The Overlooked Management Tool: Staff Meetings Matter More Than You Might Think
By Kate Zabriskie
How do you turn a halted or ho-hum approach to staff meetings into a high-functioning management tool? Here are six tips to rejuvenate your staff meetings.
1. Connect Daily Work with Your Organization’s Purpose: In addition to distributing information, staff meetings present an opportunity to connect your team’s daily work to your organization’s purpose. If you’re thinking, “My people know how their work fits into our overall goal,” you would be wrong. In fact, if you ask your group what your organization’s purpose or your department’s purpose is, don’t be surprised when you get as many answers as there are people in the room.
And you thought you had nothing to talk about in a staff meeting! A discussion about purpose is a good one to have. Purpose is why you do what you do. You connect the work to it by explaining how what people did aligns with the greater goal.
No matter what they do, employees usually enjoy their jobs more when their organization’s leaders talk about the importance of their work. They also tend to make better choices if they receive frequent reminders about purpose and what types of activities support it.
2. Highlight Relevant Metrics: Connecting work to purpose usually happens best when a team focuses on both anecdotal and analytical information. If you don’t currently track statistics, start. Whatever you decide should clearly connect to the larger goal. With regular attention placed on the right metrics, the team is far more likely to make good choices as to where it should focus its efforts.
3. Follow a Formula and Rotate Responsibility: Successful staff meetings usually follow a pattern, such as looking at weekly metrics, sharing information from the top, highlighting success, a team-building activity, and so forth. By creating and sticking with an agenda, managers help their employees know what to expect. Once employees know the pattern of the meeting, many are capable of running it because they’ve learned by watching. Managers then have a natural opportunity to rotate the responsibility of the meeting to different people. By delegating, the manager is able to free up his or her time and provide employees with a chance to develop their skills.
4. Celebrate Successes: In many organizations, there is a huge appreciation shortage. Staff meetings provide managers and employees with regular intervals to practice gratitude. A steady drip of sincere gratitude can drive engagement. Note the word sincere. Most people have an amazing capacity to identify a false compliment. Real praise is specific. Well-delivered praise also ties the action to the outcome. A praise segment in your staff meetings ensures you routinely take the time to recognize efforts.
5. Focus on Lessons Learned and Continuous Improvement: Staff meetings that include an opportunity to share lessons learned help drive continuous improvement. At first, people may be reluctant to share shortcomings. However, if you follow step four, you should begin to develop better communication and a sense of trust with your team. Modeling the process is a good place to start. The more you practice this exercise, the greater the gains you should experience.
6. Develop a Schedule and Stick with It: To get the most out of staff meetings hold them consistently. Publish a meeting schedule, and stick with it. Make it a priority.
Conclusion: Good staff meetings aren’t perfunctory activities that add little value. When used to their full capacity, they are a dynamic management tool. Now what are you going to do about yours?
Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.
Telephone Answering Service News
Contact Center Software Market to Surpass USD 40 Billion By 2024: The global contact center software market is set to grow from its current market value of more than 14 billion dollars to over 40 billion dollars by 2024, according to a new research report by Global Market Insights, Inc. The contact center software market growth is attributed to the increasing adoption of social media platform by customers, with active social media users in 2018 being approximately 3.1 billion. The incorporation of social media with contact center software allows businesses to communicate in an improved way with their current and prospective customers, providing improved sales opportunity, increased customer awareness, and high-quality customer service.
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Quotes for the Month
The past is to be respected and acknowledged, but not to be worshipped. It is our future in which we will find our greatness. -Pierre Trudeau
“All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.” -Alexandre Dumas
“Local Area Network in Australia: The LAN down under.” -unknown