High rates of agent turnover in call centers, and the related challenges of constant recruiting and training, rank among the top issues of call center leaders and front-line managers.
Recent data from global consulting firm Mercer shows that contact center attrition remains above 25% on average. Pair the historical challenges of high agent turnover with the US unemployment rate near 50-year lows, and it is no wonder that it can feel like a daily crisis for contact center managers.
Common Causes of Call Center Turnover
Working in a call center is a tough, but often rewarding job. Typical causes of agent turnover are well known to experienced leaders, but let’s take a quick review.
- Burnout — Spending all day handling tough issues and challenging customers can be draining without the support in place for agents. It can be a true deal-breaker if the required level of stress-management and empathy don’t come natural for the employee.
- Supervisor conflict – it is well researched that people typically leave managers more than the company or job itself. If agents don’t feel they are being fairly evaluated or if supervisors don’t have the right skills and training, then don’t be surprised if you have even higher attrition.
- Lack of the right tools — Agents need more than a desk and a phone to succeed, and stay. in their jobs. Lack of training or modern call center software with an easy to use agent desktop is another trigger for many agents to quit.
- Job vs. career — Ultimately if employees feel they are in a job with little chance of promotion in the contact center or other parts of the business, then you’re going to lose good employees to your competition.
10 Tips for Reducing Agent Turnover in the Call Center
There is no one silver bullet for reducing attrition in your call center. However, there are a number of proven investments in the agent experience that combined can have a dramatic increase in agent engagement and retention.
- Hire right: not everyone is cut out to be a call center agent. Nip attrition in the bud by screening for the right personality traits and skills in the hiring process that demonstrates they will enjoy and thrive in the role. Simulated customer service scenarios in the interview process can help.
- Train for success: Make sure you train your front-line agents — and supervisors — on soft skills such as empathy, problem solving and stress management, in addition to technical skills.
- Provide the right tools: the average agent has to juggle between 5-7 screens to do their job. For them to provide a fast, effective, and personalized customer experience it is important to deliver a consolidated desktop to handle omnichannel customer interactions, show customer journey information, and provide just-in-time help for agents.
- Coach to improve: Quality monitoring gets a bad rap amongst agents if they feel it is not-objective and a way for supervisors to cherry pick and play favorites. Use speech and text analytics embedded in quality management tools so evaluations are unbiased and can lead to fact-based coaching to make agents better.
- Fair scheduling: The only thing worse than always being stuck with the Saturday night shift is feeling no control or ability to get the shifts or time off you want. Instead, use workforce management software that includes agent preferences (like shift bidding) and makes it easy for agents to use within their common desktop.
- Work-from-home flexibility: Either as a full-time option or as an occasional reward, work-from-home arrangements can be a powerful tool to hold on to your best agents. Just make sure you have the HR policies, quality processes, and cloud contact center software to make it possible.
- Tailor and segment agent experiences: Just as providing differentiated service for different customer segments can boost NPS (Net Promoter Score) and CSAT (Customer Satisfaction), the same works for your employees. Adjust policies, training, and management styles so that you’re not treating a Gen Z in their first job in the same way as a 20-year customer service veteran.
- Gamification: Motivating your call center staff requires more than donuts and favorite sports team day. (Although I’m a fan of both — Go Blue!) Use performance management dashboards and wallboards to create friendly and aligned competition where it matters most – delivering great customer experiences, helping colleagues, and improving efficiency.
- Reward the right behaviors: Games, contests, and KPI reports only motivate agents if you then reward the right behaviors. Make sure rewords of all kinds – cash, prizes, time off, or desired shifts — are earned through the behaviors that matter most and you’ll turn your agents into fans.
- Career path: “If you love them, then don’t be afraid to let them go.” Trying to all keep agents in the same frontline job as long as possible can be the quickest way cause turnover. Make sure your team sees and believes they have multiple upward career options. This could include moving into other parts of the business, supervisor roles, or expanding their skills and expertise within a front-line role — such as becoming omnichannel agents that handle voice and digital channels.