Keeping good employees is a priority in every industry. But in call centers, it can be significantly more challenging. QATC estimates that the turnover rate in the call center industry ranges between 30-45%. If you're a veteran of the industry, you already know this because hiring and retaining good agents is something successful contact centers constantly focus on.
Every employee is unique in terms of what specifically satisfies them about a job and makes them stay with their employer. But there are also some common areas that can influence satisfaction, including the quality of supervisors, the opportunity to expand job skills, recognition and culture. Clearly, curbing agent attrition requires a multi-pronged approach. Here are 10 steps any contact center can take to help increase retention, and reduce call center attrition it begins with the hiring process.
1. Full Disclosure During the Interview Process - Not everyone is cut out for some of the more challenging characteristics of an agent's job, such as a lot of desk time and occasionally dealing with irate customers. Recruiters need to be very transparent about what the job entails. If possible, take recruits on a tour and have them watch call center agents field a couple of calls. Part of retention relies on hiring the right person in the first place. Try to avoid a scenario where an agent quits soon after training because she's surprised by the nature of the job.
2. Equip Call Center Agents for Success - And speaking of training, it's often one of the very first impressions new hires have of their new employer, so it should be engaging and make them feel prepared to take calls. Equipping agents also means making sure agents have the tools and support they need to be successful on the floor. Is the technology current or is it archaic? Are team leads or supervisors available to help out? If agents don't have what they need to successfully assist customers, they may not last long.
3. Develop Great Supervisors - There is a saying that employees don't leave companies, they leave managers. That is a little oversimplified, but there is also a lot of merit to it. Bosses have a significant impact on the satisfaction of their employees. In an industry where many supervisors were promoted because they were competent agents, it's important to develop them so they can also be competent managers.
4. Embrace Good Turnover - Most contact centers are in close quarters, meaning that everyone is aware of what their coworkers are doing. One troubled team member can have a seriously negative impact on the rest of the team and potentially impact retention. Try to turn them around with timely and specific feedback, but if that doesn't work don't hesitate to counsel them out. It's the right thing to do for the other team members.
5. Promote Talented Agents - I know it's hard to let them go, but lack of career progression and the lack of opportunity to learn new skills are two of the top reasons workers quit their jobs. In addition to supervisors, I've seen agents move on to be talented QA analysts, trainers, account managers, schedulers and IT business analysts. It's better to keep talent in the company, even if it means losing some good people from the phones.
6. Recognize, Recognize, and Then Recognize Some More - According to a Lifeworks survey, 75% of respondents who don't think they are valued at work are in the market for a new job. Recognition matters and it can be so easy and inexpensive to do. Verbal praise from the supervisor, call center manager or even C-level leaders is a great place to start. Peer recognition programs can also be powerful. For organizations that can fund it, recognition can come with a physical reward ranging from $5 gift cards to more significant annual bonuses. Be creative and consistent. It should move the needle on retention.
7. Give Back to Your Community - Chances are high that millennials make up a majority of your work force. Globally, they moved into that position in 2015. On the whole, it's important to millennials to make the world a better place. Demonstrating that your company is also committed to this goal not only helps the community, but it will also appeal to your millennial agents and make them feel better about your company. Community activities I have seen in practice include inviting a nearby daycare to come over and trick or treat, adopting families during the holidays, sending care packages to deployed soldiers, and participating as a group in fundraising walks. Let agents help with the planning and then make sure they have the opportunity to participate.
8. Foster Fun - A company's culture also impacts employee turnover. If you aren't in a position to impact the culture of the entire company, at least try to always improve the culture of your team or contact center, and make it fun. If creating fun isn't one of your strengths, you're in good company. Identify the social butterfly in your group and enlist their help to plan monthly birthday celebrations, chili cook-offs, etc. Friendly competitions among teams can also be great fun. One of the best team competitions I have been a part of is penny wars. It generated much excitement as well as raising money for a great cause.
9. Keep the Lines of Communication Open - Communication with call center agents should be two-way. Chances are good that they get a lot of specific feedback about the quality of their call handling. But they probably want to hear more than that from their supervisor - topics like: are they doing a good job overall? When will that software bug be fixed? What is the new assistant contact center manager like? In other words, treat them like the professionals they are by being transparent with information. And listen to them, as well. They likely have opinions about how to improve things for customers, how to make processes and technology better, what to do for the next team event. Good communication improves employee engagement, which improves retention.
10. Hold Exit Interviews - Despite your best efforts, good people will leave. It's important to know why so that you can continue to refine your retention efforts. This should be a formal process administered by HR. The person conducting the interview should be someone outgoing employees will feel comfortable giving candid feedback to. Then the information needs to be packaged, shared and acted upon.
A multi-pronged approach to retaining talented call center agents will net the best results. It requires a coordinated, well-executed plan. Incorporating some of these tips into the plan should have you well on your way to lower attrition.