We hear a lot about “big data” - - but what has it done for you? For many, the answer is “not much”…yet. However, recently concluded research results indicate big data may help you hire better in the very near future.

 A starting point for discussing this is your “old-fashioned” agent attributes study. I put “old fashioned” in quotes because, even though the methodology for agent attributes screening has been around for years, few centers actually use it effectively. It involves administering a long survey to all of your agents (including questions which seem to have little relationship to call center functions), then rating those agents for their performance. This is coupled with a statistical analysis to determine which attributes correlate most highly with agents who are top performers, middling performers, etc. Using statistical analysis, a profile emerges of the ideal candidates - - or more accurately, the information that your best agents have in common. The results can then be used to screen new applicants, based on their responses to the survey.

Whether your center uses this agent attributes methodology or not, it may be time to leapfrog ahead with the help of big data research that is hot out of the oven. It is the agent attributes study on social media steroids! The big data approach does not limit itself to a single survey (heck, that wouldn’t be big enough!). It gathers data about current agents from the Internet and social media, as well as in-house information such as recorded calls, caller satisfaction reports, etc. - - sorting through tons of information about each individual, using advanced workforce analytics. Again, the data is correlated with agent performance information.

Once this part is complete, candidates are subjected to a similar big data process, to determine if they meet profiles associated with top performing agents for your center. Keep in mind that, if you have different functions at your center, e.g. inbound customer service, inbound sales, and technical support, separate profiles can be developed for each function. Naturally, this is only part of the screening and hiring process. Resumes, tests and interviews are not going to be eliminated by big data recruiting tools. However, these tools may become increasingly weighted in the hiring process over time 

While some are concerned that the “big data big brother” is becoming too, well, “big”, in our lives, it looks like it is here to stay. To the extent it can help pair candidates with the employers with whom they have the greatest chances for success, it represents a win-win for everyone - - including the customers.

The field of “workforce science” is still in its infancy, but some entrepreneurs are already targeting the contact center industry, where turnover is notoriously high. Expect more refinements and perhaps some healthy controversy on this topic. Big data has met recruiting, and they appear headed for a long-term partnership.

For comments on this article (which was refreshed from one first published in 2013), or to discuss recruiting, screening and hiring of agents, Bruce may be contacted at

Topics: Big Data, Contact Center Economics 101, Contact Center Articles, Recruiting