In September of 2008, I was the director of sales for a staffing company in the Philadelphia area. Our areas of focus were broad but generally revolved around administrative staffing. And, like many others experienced at the time, job orders came to a screeching halt as our clients scrambled to try to make sense of the financial crisis situation and come up with a game plan. 

We realized that a quick and decisive pivot was essential to the survival of our staffing company. 

A portion of the staffing that we were involved in prior to the financial crisis was call center staffing. And, after meeting to formulate our game plan, we agreed that we should plan for a spike in staffing needs in this areaIncreased unemployment filings, turmoil in the banking industry, and a pending spike in financial collections activity would all lead to the need for more call center personnel to handle the fallout. 

What to do when job orders fall off a cliff. 

We had an amazing staff at the time that worked together to plan for an aggressive launch into call center staffing. With very few new job orders rolling in, our outbound call volume increased by 300% during our two-month ramp up. Everyone in the company had a very specific focus – get as many leads as possible while building the largest pipeline of call center talent we ever had available. 

When our recruiters spoke with candidates they tried to learn as much as possible about the companies that they had worked for in the past.  

  • How many people were in the call center? 
  • How did they get hired? 
  • Who did they interview with? 
  • Who did they report to? 

Thriving in the 2009 recession 

We weren’t just building a bench of talent. We were doing extensive market research that would end up allowing us to thrive in the 2009 recession. While our prediction of an increased need for call center staffing rang true, we narrowed our focus a bit more to specialize in collections call center staffing. We quickly dominated the Philadelphia market because we spent 2 months building a pipeline of talent from hourly call center personnel through senior management. By June of 2009, we expanded to Delaware and moved into Maryland not long after.  

What would I have done differently if I were the CEO of the staffing company? 

Reflecting on this 11 years later, I do have one regret. I do not believe that we maximized our potential in the niche area of call center staffingWe developed a very simple yet effective plan to expand into new markets. We built a pipeline of candidates while learning everything we could about the market. Once we had a pipeline, we took the old school approaches of cold calling and networking to schedule meetings and get job orders. 

I truly believe that if we took a more strategic approach that involved developing thought leadership content on call center workforce management and more sophisticated marketing that helped to refine and amplify our message, we would have become a global leader in this area of staffing. 

Today, many companies are in a similar situation and are also uniquely positioned to come roaring out of this recessionHowever, there will also be many of your competitors that rest on their laurels because a PPP loan or projections from current clients have given them faith in a quick return of lost business. These companies are unlikely to be around a year from now. 

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