By Claire West

New research shows interest in working in call centres is high, but concerns over keeping the best talent will increase as the economy improves and it is already driving an emphasis on flexible working and training.

. 55% of call centre managers say speculative job applications have increased since 2009

. 58% of agents want to develop a long-term career in the call centre industry

. 35% of workers are educated to degree level, up 10% from 2009

. 54% of call centre workers feel there is a clear career path in a call centre

UK call centres are experiencing an increase in job applications and interest from graduates in 2010, reveals new research by the recruiting expert Hays Contact Centres, in conjunction with the Top 50 Call Centres for Customer Service. The survey reveals that 55% of call centre managers received more speculative job applications in 2010 compared to 2009, and 72% have seen an increase in applications for advertised jobs.

The study, which questioned 286 call centre managers and agents, reveals an increasing interest from graduates. As many as 43% of call centre managers say they have seen more applications from graduates, adding to an already qualified workforce, where over a third (35%) are educated to degree level.

"Call centres are becoming more demanding of their staff so it isn't surprising that the profession is attracting more people with degrees, particularly when we are still faced with a challenging economy and high unemployment levels," commented Geoff Sims, Managing Director of Hays Contact Centres. "A clear career path is always a strong draw for graduates and it is increasingly being recognised that call centres offer excellent opportunities for progression," he continued.

The survey suggests call centre staff have a positive attitude towards building a career in the industry. Over half (54%) of agents agreed that call centres offer a clear opportunity to progress, compared to just 40% in 2009, and 58% stated they would like to develop a long-term career in the call centre industry.

However, call centre managers highlighted concerns around keeping talented employees, with 67% saying they believe it will be more difficult to retain their best staff as the economy improves. When asked about the factors that
could improve staff retention, offering career progression opportunities topped the list, followed by providing better training and flexible working.

Encouragingly, 41% of call centre managers say they are already focusing on staff retention measures, such as flexible working.

Simon Thorpe, Programme Director at Top 50 Call Centres for Customer Service, commented: "Through our work with call centres across the UK, we know many are working to improve their performance and ensure best practice in both customer service and employee engagement. While it is encouraging to
see that the industry is attracting an increasing number of job seekers, the clear focus needs to be on retaining the best talent to ensure high standards across the industry are maintained."

The research was carried out by Hays Contact Centres, in conjunction with the Top 50 Call Centres for Customer Service, a benchmarking initiative created to improve the performance of call centres and instil best practice
across the industry. Top 50 Call Centres for Customer Service is supported by Jabra, the leading headset provider, and Genesys, a provider of customer service software for call centres.