Think of a 10-hour job, every working day, chained to a desktop with a phone in hand, listening to the complaints of angry customers, trying to resolve their issues even as they choose to not be understanding towards your constraints, all the while being paid slightly over the minimum wage at best.
Does this sound like a very lucrative job to you? While this may not be the condition at all call centers, this is certainly prevalent in a significant percentage of them.
Even with the ushering in of modern technology in the past decade or so, where call center software has been designed to relieve the load of call center agents somewhat, attrition remains one of the biggest factors of worry, a challenge that companies struggle to overcome despite years of trying.
Despite some improvement, the employee attrition rate is alarmingly high at an average of 26% for full time employees, and even higher at 33% for part time employees, as recorded in 2016. Even if you change the year, you are likely to end up with similar, if not worse, numbers.
In a job environment as challenger as a contact center, employees often find no motivation to give it their interest. “The best way to make your employees go the extra mile is to appreciate them”, said Alexander Den Heijer, the Dutch author and corporate motivational speaker.
Indeed, there are many factors contributing to attrition that lead back to the employee feeling dissatisfied with the workplace expectations one way or another – be it long shifts, excessive workload, a feeling of not fitting into the scheme of things or not having any reassurance of quality.
All of these reasons, while inevitable, cause significant damages to the company.
The costs related to turnover are huge. According to a report for the Center for American Progress, the average cost hike associated with replacing an employee who drew a salary of $30,000 annually is in the region of $5000, and these costs only increase for the replacement of higher-ranked employees.
A supervisory role with a salary of $50,000, for example, would incur an additional $10,000 for replacement. There are also costs associated with allocating resources for interviewing, pre-screening, training, etc.
However, the cost of attrition transcends beyond the monetary losses. The biggest problem lies in the fact that over the course of follow-ups, an agent gets to more know and more about the clients he is handling, and in turn the client grows more comfortable with that agent.
A sudden shift in employees can cause a change in customer behavior, and very often leads to the customer dissatisfied with having to start off all over again.
Given how crucial it is to fix this problem of employee turnover, here are ten things contact centers can do to help in this regard.
1. Focus on the correct metrics. Too often, companies put their entire focus on straightforward productivity metrics like average calls handled, waiting time, etc.
These metrics show a very one-dimensional view of operations, and make agents think that they have to achieve these targets no matter what, thus compromising on quality, customer satisfaction and even personal motivation.
Managers should pay more heed to quality-centric metrics instead of quantity-centric ones, to bring about a positive agent experience.
2. Provide opportunities for career development. Any employee, who feels like there is no scope of improvement with your company, will not hesitate to move away into better jobs.
This is why career development programs become so important for employees. Companies should invest in training their employees and arming them with the skill sets that will help them to forge better paths on their own in the future, while retaining faith in their company.
Employees with a very good performance should also be taken into consideration for promotions and decision-making authority.
3. Reward your best performing agents. Sometimes, supervisors tend to overlook the exceptional performances that an individual or a team puts in for making something happen.
This in turn leads to employees feeling like their efforts are not appreciated enough. Having a system in place where your best performing agents are rewarded periodically holds two advantages.
First, it gives an incentive to all employees to strive to be the best and second, it builds trust between the employees and their supervisors, leading to better productivity.
4. Allow agents to take ownership of activities. Call center agents, by virtue of their job, get to know a lot about how customers behave in certain situations.
Since they are the ones interacting with people every day, they know best what these customers actually want from their products, and have a fair idea of what sort of campaigns might lead to capturing their attention in the most productive manner.
Therefore, letting your employees take ownership of activities is a great way to get the most customized results, and foster a sense of trust and belonging for the agent with the company.
5. Encourage transparency in communication. Management and agent need to know any issues that each other might have so as to work towards a solution. Openness in communication between these two strata also helps in establishing the sense of having a shared purpose.
It allows employees to talk about their problems freely, and thus the managers can get to know what is really going on and work for the betterment of all agents. It also perpetuates a sense that the managers are approachable, and that the call center as a whole cares about its employees.
6. Do not limit your agents’ worth to simply answering phone calls. Call center agents must be encouraged to play a more key role in proceedings, by pitching their own ideas, using their experience to come up with better strategies, etc.
This sort of a relationship motivates an employee to think beyond just answering queries from customers, and helps to empower them so that they feel like they belong in the company.
7. Identify the leaders who are failing to inspire. Identifying the performance of employees under particular leadership is helpful to identify toxic patterns. If there are people assigned under a supervisor who are quitting faster than others, then that leadership style is not suitable for your organization.
On the other hand, this would also provide an indication of which supervisors are doing a good job of motivating their employees and maximizing their employee retention.
The principles used by these leaders can then be applied in a more general sense to improve the overall condition of the call center’s employees as a whole.
8. Hire employees who are a culture fit. Realistically speaking, not everybody is cut out for a specific job, or a specific organization. This is exactly where intelligent hiring becomes an important factor.
Segregating candidate profiles effectively and determining which of them resonate with your work culture is essential to ensuring that these employees do not feel like misfits and they continue to serve the company for long periods of time because they genuinely enjoy the work-space.
A company would much rather invest in proper hiring than having to replace employees within a year.
9. Conduct agent engagement surveys. To measure the impact of your moves and the improvement in engagement, you need to stay in touch with your employees through the agent engagement surveys.
Instead of conducting a generic survey that does not suggest any real actionable changes and wastes everybody’s time, companies will find it far better to battle attrition through surveys that serve to understand the underlying operations that agents want to see, happen differently.
Such feedback would be helpful in curating a workflow that is in tune with what the employees think is best for themselves and for the company.
10. Conduct a formal exit interview. Even though all of the tips mentioned above can work significantly in reducing the employee turnover rate, it is impossible to completely do away with the turnover.
There will always be employees who are not happy with the workplace and want to leave. However, by formalizing an exit interview for every agent who leaves, the company gains insight into exactly why they are leaving and what can be done to better this exodus in future scenarios.
They can use the information they get from exit interviews to build better relationships in the workplace.
The Case Study
The strategies mentioned in this article help in boosting the morale of the team working day and night to keep a high standard of customer service.
We have seen why it is so important to foster a feeling of trust and belonging in your employees, since replacing them every now and then is a burden not only financially but in terms of loss of the trust of clients as well.
For this reason, companies invest significantly, often turning to the best call center software to give them the indications about what is to be done to better the conditions at work so that employees stay loyal to the company.
To understand this point let us take the example of Honor Solutions, a telemarketing agency providing call center solutions for a large company.
In this case study, we will look through the situation they were in, what sort of challenges they faced and how they drew up solutions to overcome those challenges. We will also see what sort of effect those changes had on the overall performance of the call center.
The Problem Scenario
The company was plagued by the problem of employee attrition. Attrition rates had increased from 25.4% three years ago, to 28.41% in the previous year.
This was especially hurting the company because so many employees were leaving at a time when the company was looking to expand its businesses and was looking for more and more manpower in its customer service departments.
They were looking to identify the source of the problem their employees had and reduce the outflow to boost their performance.
The company faced the following challenges with regards to its employees opting to leave.
1. Employees often cited that they did not see how their career could prosper in the future under the scheme of things in their present company, as a reason to leave. They claimed that competitors were able to build a better road map for their careers.
2. The company found it difficult to ascertain what exactly made each individual employee unhappy in the first place. They did not gain any insight from the people who had left and thus could not enforce any significant changes.
3. There was no mechanism in place to empower employees beyond training them to pitch convincingly over the phone. Their inputs were not being considered because there was no platform by which the managers could get to know of their inputs relating to the campaigns and activities.
The solutions that were proposed to deal with these challenges are listed below.
1. A clear career ladder was envisioned for the employees and their opportunities for growth were frequently discussed. Moreover, training programs were arranged so that the employees could learn and master various skill sets.
2. A formal system of exit interviews was put into place, so that the company could gain insight into the reasons for employees leaving the company. These reasons were compiled and action was taken to prevent reappearances of these problems.
3. Quality-centric measures were taken into account to judge an employee’s performance, and rewards such as “Employee of the Month” were designed to acknowledge exceptional performances.
The implementation of such a well-documented system proved beneficial from the very outset. Within the next year, employee attrition rates fell from 28.41% to 25.03% and there was a higher level of morale among the existing employees.
This directly translated to higher productivity, with the company recording a 4% increase in revenue within a year of these changes.
We see how it is important to employ whatever methods are reasonably possible to ensure that your employees feel valued and stay motivated to perform at the workplace.
Contact center turnover is probably the biggest problem facing the telemarketing industry today, and the strategies presented here are the keys to relieving some of that stress and making it far more likely for your employees to stay loyal to your company.