Overcoming Hiring Challenges in NZ Contact Centres

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In our recent benchmark report on the New Zealand Contact Centre industry, we found that one of the key trends in the sector is positivity around growth, with 11% of Contact Centres expecting to open a new site within the next 12 months – more than double the results of last year. Yet at the same time, our survey indicated that there are also some challenges being faced by local Centres. One of the core issues was in hiring and attrition, where over two-thirds of respondents said that a lack of quality candidates was chief among their difficulties.

To share some of our report’s findings and discuss what Contact Centre leaders can do to improve their long-term recruitment outlook, we spoke with our specialist consultant, Louise Cunningham.

Hiring Challenges in the Contact Centre Industry

Of the 10 different hiring challenges outlined in our 2019 Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, four of the top ones are intertwined. A lack of applicants, cited by 17% of respondents as a major hiring challenge, is feeding into three other areas of issue, including a lack of quality candidates, a lack of candidates being able to work the required shifts, and a lack of candidate eligibility to work in New Zealand.

Louise explains that this is putting a level of pressure on Contact Centre leaders, as they’re forced to come up with new strategies to hire in the tight market. While some organisations have started to lift their salary bands in the past six months as a means to attract applicants, this on its own may not be the most effective (or affordable) approach.

Why aren’t people applying?

One reason that there are fewer candidates in the talent pool could be because there are simply other entry-level jobs out there that are more appealing. Contact Centres used to be the perfect entry to the corporate world, but now there’s a much wider range of options available.

Louise points out that another issue, and perhaps a far more pressing one, is that people are being discouraged by traditional perceptions of the role. There is a stigma around working in Contact Centres – workers glued to their chairs, tough KPIs and constant monitoring – which may be impacting people’s interest in these jobs.

This is perhaps especially true for Contact Centres that offer non-standard working hours, such as rotating shifts. In our report findings, we noticed a distinct correlation between atypical working hours and difficulty hiring. The more non-standard the roster (i.e. businesses operating 24/7) the harder finding talent to work those shifts became – likely because people with these work arrangements find it difficult to manage their personal lives and achieve work/life balance.

Outlook for the Future

What was perhaps most alarming from the report, and this is something many Contact Centres will know all too well, is that the challenges are not resolving themselves. The hiring difficulties of 2018 were largely similar to 2019, except more Contact Centres were facing them – lack of quality candidates was cited by 11% more respondents this year than last.

Louise emphasises the need for big changes in order to address hiring difficulties in the coming years. Leaders need new solutions, and there are no quick wins. But by looking at the entire Contact Centre – rostering, work/life balance, attracting quality talent – they can begin to change their image, and the desirability of their organisations.

So, what can be done? Louise has some advice.

Advice for Contact Centre Leaders

1. Rosters

Some Contact Centres have no choice – they need to operate during atypical hours. This doesn’t have to be a problem. Louise advises organisational leaders to invest in the workforce planning infrastructure that will allow them to offer set shifts and do away with rotating rosters.

She says that if a candidate can come into the office, look at the early starts, the late starts, and everything in between, they will pick the hours that work for them. People can choose stability and plan their lives accordingly.

2. Culture

Contact Centres need a facelift. Louise recommends that organisational leaders focus on improving their employee experience and overall culture to make their companies more desirable to work for.

Whenever anyone goes to apply, they look at jobs and say, “OK, what are the perks?” Flexible working and working from home are two such perks that are slowly becoming more widespread among Contact Centres (having increased from 2018 in our survey).

Both options could potentially open up the talent pool for recruiters, as those who choose not to apply due to their life situation – dependents they have to look after, disabilities that restrict their ability to commute regularly, and so on – will have the opportunity to enter the Contact Centre workforce. However, the adoption may be slow due to the infrastructure required to enable it.

3. Selling the dream

While there may be a stigma around Contact Centres, the industry has come a long way in recent years. However, the general public isn’t fully aware of the shifts in the industry.

Contact Centre leaders, according to both Louise, need to sell their business to candidates from the moment they post a job advertisement through to offering the role. If the application process feels scripted and prescribed, it may turn some candidates away from accepting an offer (something Louise has seen happen repeatedly).

When talking with hiring managers, she advises them to analyse their job ads and look at how they are enticing people. How does the ad stand out amongst the others? Does it talk about perks and career development? Career development is a particularly important focus for today’s jobseekers, so it’s essential that employers showcase a clear path for progression.

Ads should be as enticing as possible. Contact Centres could make videos showing a glimpse of working life at their business. The recruitment process itself could be made more flexible – people often appreciate the chance to interview via video, for example, rather than having to make time in their busy lives to commute for an in-person interview.

Making the process easier and more exciting for candidates could go a long way to battling the negative stigma and encouraging more applicants to send in their CV.


While Contact Centres are facing a raft of hiring challenges, they aren’t insurmountable. By focusing on improving workplace culture, offering employees greater work-life balance (and control of their own schedules), and then showing this off to candidates via an exciting recruitment process, many of the biggest hiring difficulties can be overcome.

To receive your copy of the full Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, get in touch with Louise at cunningham@chandlermacleod.co.nz.

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