How to Reduce Agent Turnover at Your Call Center


The call center is no stranger to the Great Resignation. But you can improve agent well-being, optimize operations and satisfy customers all at the same time.

Call centers have long been known for their high staff turnover. According to a 2021 report from Calabrio, 1 in 3 contact center agents are considering leaving within a year — and 50% plan to leave within 2–3 years.

Every new staff member you need to hire and train costs your business money. In fact, a Gallup analysis revealed that finding and training a new worker could cost half to two times an existing employee’s annual salary. As such, reducing turnover is essential to your bottom line.

Improvements to your call center operations can greatly impact agent happiness. So instead of making customer-focused decisions, try making agent-focused ones. If you do, the customer focus will take care of itself.

Defining the Turnover Problem

Your turnover rate is the percentage of staff that leave each year. You can calculate it by dividing the number of staff who leave by the total number of staff, expressed as a percentage.

For example, if you have 100 call center agents and 25 leave over the year, the turnover rate is 25%.

Some of the biggest reasons employees leave the call center, according to the Calabrio report? Unhappiness with their job, lack of growth opportunities and the need for more pay, among others.

Let’s take a deeper look.

Lack of Empowerment

Once call center agents are comfortable answering customer queries, the work can become monotonous. If staff must follow scripts to the letter, they can feel unmotivated.

Similarly, when your personnel doesn’t have the knowledge or flexibility to resolve customer problems, they’re left feeling helpless. As a result, they’re more likely to leave.

No Recognition

Call center agents deal with a lot of people on a daily basis, many of whom are already unhappy because they’re calling in with an issue or question. And if a caller complains about the service received, management immediately investigates the matter.

On the flip side, if a customer compliments an agent, that employee may not hear about it until their next evaluation — or ever. Unfortunately, this type of feedback system leads to low morale and high turnover.

Burnout

One study from Toister Performance Solutions found that 74% of call center agents are at risk of burnout — a form of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion typically caused by a heavy or unrewarding workload.

Emphasis on key performance indicators (KPIs), high call volumes and inadequate technology and information can all increase the chances that agents will get burnt out.

Coupled with this is the fact that 81% of agents experience customer abuse, and 36% have been threatened with violence. This added stress provides a greater incentive to look for a new position.

Isolation

In many call centers, agents clock in and start taking calls without a chance to interact with colleagues. In high-volume centers, employees are likely looking at a screen and talking to customers for their entire shift.

This situation makes people feel isolated and alienated while at work, increasing their chances of leaving.

Related Article: A 4-Step Recipe for Improving Your Contact Center Agent Experience

Looking Beyond the Standard Turnover Rate

These issues are some of the most common across all call centers. But it’s important to understand the unique factors leading to high turnover in your company, factors that may differ from those above.

One way to investigate why your call center agents are leaving is to conduct exit interviews. This procedure should be standard for every departing agent, as it gives you insight into issues your staff is experiencing.

However, you can also look at different figures to see if there are patterns in your staff turnover.

Your basic turnover rate “isn’t all that useful by itself,” Penny Reynolds, co-founder of The Call Center School, said in a quarterly publication. She recommended taking an in-depth look at the following metrics regarding your agent attrition.

Internal or External Attrition

Are agents leaving for new companies? Or are they leaving for roles in other areas of your business?

Agents using the call center as a stepping stone to other positions within the company can bring significant benefits. You just need to ensure the call center receives additional budget assistance to hire and train replacement staff.

Voluntary or Involuntary Attrition

If you need to terminate a high number of employees due to poor performance, the problem is likely your call center operations. Look at your hiring and training practices to see where you can make improvements.

When staff leaves voluntarily, exit interviews can determine if there are changes you can undertake that might encourage people to stay.

Team Turnover Rate

If there’s a high number of people leaving a particular team, it points to a problem with management. Your team leader or supervisor would likely benefit from additional training.

Call Type Turnover Rate

If agents in your center take different types of calls, it’s important to see if there’s a correlation between the call type and the attrition rate.

If one type of call has a higher turnover, you can take steps to ease the stress for those agents. Consider adding more personnel to the team, streamlining processes or providing more training. Make sure the agents taking these calls have the experience and skills necessary to resolve customer queries.

Improving Call Center Agent Well-being

You may have addressed specific problems within your call center but still have issues with high turnover. If that’s the case, it’s time to improve operations to promote agent well-being.

Hiring Practices

The most important step in lowering agent turnover is hiring the right people. Unfortunately, this is often a catch-22 situation.

High turnover means you hire quickly because you need people answering phones. When you need to hire quickly, you’re less rigorous in screening candidates. And often, those hastily hired employees aren’t able to cope with the role and leave, leaving you stuck in the cycle of needing to hire more people quickly.

It’s worth taking the time to break this pattern. Make sure you recruit people who fit your culture and work expectations. Hiring someone who prefers a low call volume environment for your fast-paced center sets the agent up to fail. Similarly, someone looking for high-volume work will become bored in a slower center and start looking for something new.

Sangeeta Bhatnagar, Principal at SB Global Human Capital Solutions, advised in a blog post that you should “be upfront and fully transparent! Highlight the positives but also some of the must-haves (mindset, hours, expectations).”

She added, “How people are treated at every touchpoint will impact the quantity and quality of people you recruit. We know the future of work is human, so putting the human in every part of the recruitment process will be required to attract and retain top talent.”

Ongoing Training

Call center training starts with onboarding, where agents learn how to answer phones and get the knowledge needed to answer customer questions. A thorough onboarding process can take weeks or longer, depending on your business and the complexity of queries.

Making sure agents thoroughly understand their roles and responsibilities before they start answering the phone is essential to giving staff the confidence to do the job.

However, training shouldn’t end with onboarding. Agents face new challenges all the time, particularly in their interactions with customers. Ongoing training can give agents the tools they need to manage irate customers, as well as the knowledge to answer queries correctly the first time. This type of training leads to happier agents and satisfied customers.

Agents who receive regular training also feel valued by the company. If you’re willing to put time and money into the growth of your staff, agents will feel like there’s a future in the position, making them less likely to seek opportunities for growth elsewhere.

Opportunities for Advancement

Most people want to grow in their jobs and look for opportunities to move beyond entry-level positions.

In call centers, there’s a large number of agents managed by a much smaller number of leads or supervisors. This setup makes it difficult for staff to see the potential for advancement. If there’s no perceived growth, employees will look for another company to grow with.

It’s not possible for every agent to become a team leader, but you can provide other ways for your staff to utilize their experience. You can ask experienced agents to mentor new staff or take on more complex calls. These opportunities not only provide the chance for agents to learn new skills but also help break up the monotony of call center work.

Scheduling Improvements

Scheduling is an ongoing problem in call centers. If you have too many agents on the phones, you’re paying people to stare at computer screens. If you have too few agents, everyone is under stress to work quickly while your customers wait in queues.

Use your metrics to help you queue, looking at busy times, agent availability and agent skills. New technologies are emerging that can help you quickly achieve this goal.

When working up a roster, try to have enough people scheduled to give agents a breather between calls. It may seem counterintuitive to schedule so many agents that people aren’t always on calls. However, this is one of those times when agent well-being and customer satisfaction coincide.

Scheduling an extra agent means customers aren’t left waiting for their call to be answered. It also ensures the agent who answers their call has the energy to provide friendly, efficient service.

Agent Evaluation

Evaluating agent performance is essential to ensuring high standards for your team. But it can be a source of contention between management and staff, especially if the evaluation is linked to benefits, such as a pay raises or bonuses.

Supervisors typically perform evaluations by listening in on a random sampling of calls. However, this method can be subjective — you may catch a batch of unhappy callers, an agent who’s having a bad day or a supervisor with a dislike for a certain employee.

To improve this process, perform an evaluation calibration. Gather everyone who conducts call monitoring and develop a standard for scoring. You can listen to recorded or live calls and discuss how each member of the leadership team would evaluate each call.

Coming to a consensus can help eliminate perceived and actual biases. And agents who see a fair scoring system are more likely to stay in their roles.

It’s also important to look at the right metrics when evaluating agents. Understand your goals as a center, and use that to develop your evaluation.



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