• Written by Daniel Harding

Over-50s have a tough time of it in today’s labour market but giving them a start in your contact centre could be good for them and for business, writes Daniel Harding, Director – Australia Operations, MaxContact


Found it challenging to recruit and retain a top team of agents to work the phones and web chats in your company’s contact centre?


You and scores of other Australian business owners and leaders. The attrition rate in local contact centres was running at 45 per cent in 2019, with the average agent sticking around for just 22 months. It’s hardly an extended tenure even if it is significantly better than the 140 per cent churn rate many offshore facilities enjoy.


Superlative service can mean the difference between sinking and swimming, particularly during challenging economic times, but it’s difficult to deliver it when your contact centre is continually farewelling staff.


Recruiting, training and replacing a revolving door workforce is disruptive and expensive, and we’ve seen companies enact an array of initiatives to try to convince their people to stick around for longer.


Being open to experience


Hiring candidates with a few decades of work and life experience under their belts can be one way of slowing the exodus.


That the odds are stacked against older workers is hard to argue against. One in three organisations indicated there was an age over which they were reluctant to recruit, according to a recent survey carried out by the Human Rights Commission and the Australian HR Institute – and the majority of hirers nominated 50 as that age.


Older Australians’ experience looking for work bears this out. It can take them twice as long as younger people to find a job, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.


The challenges they face are likely to be exacerbated, post-COVID. In the next couple of years, we can expect to see scores of 50 and 60-somethings who’ve been made redundant and who are not in a position to access their superannuation or the pension, scanning the Situations Vacant. They’ll be vying with their younger counterparts for opportunities and openings, in an intensively competitive employment market.


Many of these folk in the last quarter of their working lives are ready, willing and able to learn the skills they need to deliver great customer service for you and your business.


The age advantage


We’ve seen some local customers take on large numbers of older agents and they couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Some of their hires are former professionals who don’t feel physically up to taking on manual labour, or a job on the shop floor. They are, however, happy to settle for a less physical office based role.


Given the gig, they’re likely to stay the course for longer than their younger counterparts, particularly if they’re offered flexible working conditions, or the opportunity to work part-time.


Having been round the block multiple times can mean they’re better equipped than their 20 and 30-something colleagues to deal with stressful situations and difficult customers – both of which are in ready supply in the contact centre space!


While complex software platforms may have been a stumbling block for some older workers in the past, ICT skills deficit is unlikely to be an impediment if your company uses a modern, cloud based contact centre solution. Today’s platforms are intuitive and user friendly, and can be easily mastered by individuals whose skills are rudimentary. So much so that we’ve seen rookie agents who’ve never used a computer get busy on the phones after just a few hours training.


And lastly, if you’re running an outbound contact centre, don’t under-estimate the appeal of a call from someone who brings a bit of Nan and Pop charm to the role!


Positioning your business for success


A well run contact centre is a powerful asset that can improve customer experience and assist your business to recover from last year’s COVID knock. Opening the door to an older cohort of agents may help you contain costs and deliver more consistent service.



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