Agent attrition refers to how often customer support agents leave a firm. According to a NICE survey of 400 U.S. and UK contact centers, agent turnover is a massive problem in the industry, with contact centers seeing an average attrition rate of 42% in 2021. Larger contact centers are even worse hit by high attrition rates, with an eye-watering 50% turnover rate.
Agent Attrition Is the Biggest Threat in Your Contact Center
High attrition rates lead to:
- Higher recruitment costs
- Reduced customer service, because experienced agents are rare
- Higher training costs
- Lower KPIs
- Lower overall team morale
How much is this costing your company? A lot. The Society for Human Resource Management states that finding and replacing an employee on average costs the equivalent of 6-9 months of their salary.
The Center for American Progress analysed 30 case studies and found that the cost is closer to 10-30% of an employee’s salary, but can be as high as 213% for highly skilled workers.
Because of the huge demonstrable cost of attrition, companies should be doing all in their power to reduce turnover rates.
What Causes Call Center Agent Attrition?
Agent attrition can be caused by many factors. According to research, the majority of call center agents actively looking for a job list better pay, clearer career growth paths, more flexible scheduling, and better access to remote work as the most important factors in their decision to change companies.
It’s easy to say that raising wages will lower agent attrition, but increased spending isn’t always a possibility or necessarily the most effective strategy. Below, we’ll list strategies you can employ to reduce turnover that hot the nail in the head and don’t significantly increase costs.
Strategies to Reduce Contact Center Turnover Rates
Hiring the right people in the first place goes a long way to reducing attrition rates. Employees who struggle with basic tasks are more likely to quit their job or need to be replaced.
Create a set of criteria you know is important before you begin interviewing. This can help you remain unbiased and objective, so you’ll be more likely to hire the right people in the end.
The hiring process should include questions that allow you to gauge how well candidates can think on their feet. You can start by asking candidates how they might respond to certain hypothetical situations with frustrated customers.
Role-playing is an excellent way to test the responses of your potential hires. You can evaluate sales skills, how agents cope with pressure, and whether they are open to constructive feedback.
Create an Onboarding Plan
Minimize the amount of time and money you need to spend on new hires by developing and using a strong onboarding plan. Not only does this set up agents to perform well at their position, improving satisfaction, but it also allows you to set the tone for an inclusive, friendly, workplace that agents will want to continue working for.
Provide a Pre-hire Job Preview
Even before you hire an employee, paint as vivid a picture as you can of the work they’ll be expected to do. When possible, include a shadowing experience and allow prospects to talk to current agents. You can include existing agents in the interview process, and give candidates a tour of the office.
This process can weed out those who don’t really want the job they’ve applied for. This is much better than pouring money into a candidate who will end up leaving the company within a year.
It also builds camaraderie from the get-go. Employees who will stick with you for the long run will appreciate getting to know the people they will work with, and they’ll build bonds with those who helped them when they were still finding their feet.
Display your Company Culture Front and Center
A meta-analysis of studies on employee attrition found that poor corporate culture is 10.4 times more likely to be the reason employees leave a company than compensation. Getting your company culture right is highly important to retaining staff.
During the onboarding process, continually emphasize the importance of your company’s culture. The first two days of onboarding should highlight your company’s unique story, mission, and values. Tie this to the work you expect the agent to perform and how important they are to continuing this legacy.
Ask individuals what they care about personally and tie it to the values of your company. Perhaps they value teamwork, generosity, diversity, or personal growth, for instance. It should be easy to identify ways your business displays these values and you can look for further ways to foster them in the workplace. If you can help an employee connect with a purpose early on in their onboarding, they’re much more likely to stick with you for the long haul.
Support your Agents Throughout Their Training
All your words will ring hollow if you abandon your agents after they complete their first few hours or days. New hires should remain a priority for you until they’re completely up to speed.
An onboarding team or buddy system can take some of the personal responsibility off your shoulders. If you involve several supervisors, leaders, and agents in the mix, there’s a much stronger feeling for agents that they’re being supported from multiple angles. They also get perspective from multiple angles on the company’s leadership, requirements, and culture.
Measure and Improve Agent Satisfaction
Your customer service performance metrics will show you how customers perceive your company and their interactions with it. How happy customers are with the service they received is closely linked with how likely they are to be repeat customers and bring in other businesses through word of mouth.
There’s a tendency to think of customer satisfaction KPIs as separate from agent satisfaction KPIs. But there’s a strong correlation between high agent satisfaction rates and high customer satisfaction rates.
Employer review website Glassdoor found that every 1-star improvement in employee satisfaction results in an average 3.2-point increase in customer satisfaction for customer service roles. This improvement in customer service directly translates to a higher average stock market valuation.
Identifying and improving the drivers that affect agent satisfaction will have a direct result on your KPIs.
Utilize the Agent Attrition Index
The agent attrition index examines the correlation between First Contact Resolution (FCR) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) and/or Net Promotor Score (NPS), usually over several months.
Data shows that the risk of attrition is higher when FCR and CSAT (or NPS) decrease over time. By monitoring your FCR, CSAT, and NPS, you can make more accurate predictions in terms attrition risks in your customer service organisation.
This correlation shows that turnover can be reduced if you can improve performance in key metrics—FCR, CSAT, and NPS. Happier customers mean happier agents, and a team performing well and hitting targets is less likely to disband.
Click here to learn more about the Agent Attrition Index
Identify Individual Training Needs
Most managers know the importance of training, especially during the initial onboarding stage. Agents should all go through the same initial training period to get accustomed to the company’s values, cultivate relationships, and acquire the necessary skills and knowledge.
It’s always important to keep up with training once agents move past their initial months. Yet 58% of agents feel they get very little from coaching sessions. More personalized training sessions offer advantages, as you’re able to work together with the agent on their specific blind spots.
Identifying individual training needs lowers attrition because agents can perform better at their jobs and therefore get less frustrated. It also shows employees that you care and want them to succeed at the company, building engagement and loyalty.
Listen to Employee Feedback
What better way to understand why your attrition rates are high than to ask your current employees about the struggles they face? This can be done in a formal survey, in a round-table meeting, or on an individual basis during one-to-one coaching.
Many employees will prefer to speak of their challenges and grievances in private. Listening to your agents can be the spark for ideas that will improve the work environment. It also proves to agents that you care about them, improving engagement and lowering staff turnover.
Empower your Agents with Software and Tools
Supporting customers without the right tools is a frustrating endeavor. Agents always pressured to perform better can feel demotivated when the software they’re required to use doesn’t help them. Indeed, in many cases, call center software can be a hindrance that requires agents to enter customer details several times.
Consider evolving the software and tools you use to better empower agents. Some ideas for improvements include:
- Singular call center software for omnichannel support
- Advanced call routing, so customers are always transferred to agents capable of handling their query
- Integrated customer relationship management system so agents always see the context of the call and previous interactions with the customer
- VoIP cloud-calling, so agents can perform duties remotely
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR) that customers can use to self-serve, lowering the number of frivolous calls
- Software with built-in escalation management so the most difficult calls can be handled quickly
Enable Agents to Take Ownership of Customer Interactions
We know that agent engagement motivates and retains talent, and one of the chief drivers of engagement is the ability to perform one’s job effectively.
Being able to go home each day knowing you have helped people is a powerful advantage to working in customer service, one that can build engagement in one’s job. Employees shackled by complex procedures or limitations on how they must solve customers’ issues can feel demotivated.
You can’t unleash a new agent onto the floor without setting boundaries. But, equally, aim to offer experienced agents who know the limitations of what you can realistically offer as a company to take ownership of customer interactions. Trust them to do their job effectively in the manner they know works best, and you should expect to see higher engagement that results in lower attrition rates.
Design Recognition and Reward Programs
Lack of recognition for one’s work is a fast track to low morale and disengagement. Why would anyone go above and beyond the call of duty if no one ever notices? It makes them feel that their work has little meaning, often resulting in them looking for a new position where they’ll feel more fulfilled.
Recognizing good work costs virtually nothing yet can have powerful results. As a manager you should be recognizing the hard work of agents as part of their job, but a more formal recognition and reward program works as a way to remind yourself and other team leaders to give credit where credit is due.
Get with the Times!
Are you losing agents because your competitors are offering better work conditions and more flexible working arrangements? The customer service industry has seen a seismic shift over the past few years, and contact centers that don’t respond can’t expect to keep agents for the long term.
- Three out of four agents say flexible scheduling is a requirement for them to remain at their job.
- Access to remote or hybrid work is important to 72% of customer service representatives.
- Half of all support workers state that having a career growth path in a company is highly important to them.
These benefits aren’t too difficult to implement and can even result in lower operating costs. As they have such a high impact on turnover rates, it makes sense to try to put them into action if you can.
Holding on to your agents makes a huge difference to the productivity and profitability of your helpdesk and there are several things you can do to reduce turnover rates.
Start as you mean to go on by hiring wisely and utilizing a clear onboarding plan.
Measure overall agent satisfaction and improve it with recognition and reward programs, better working conditions, and more flexible options. Tackle the problem at the individual level, too, by identifying specific training needs for each agent.
Finally, listen to agent feedback and give your agents the tools and autonomy they need to perform their job well, improving employee engagement and decimating agent turnover rates.