A call center can prove to be a very demanding workplace. Working hours stretch from 8 to 10 hours a day, with employees bound to their cubicles with a phone in hand and a desktop crunching numbers every second, having to listen to complaints from customers for a significant section of their day, trying to resolve their issues as calmly as possible even though the person on the other end of the line may be stubborn, misguided, angry, rude or even misbehaving.
The remuneration for all of this is often just slightly over the minimum wage.
With the advent of different call center software to increase productivity, companies have taken great care to ensure that their technology is not hampered by neglect, overwork or incorrect usage.
However, despite acknowledging its greatest power – the employees that can work day and night – call center agencies typically turn a blind eye to their needs when it comes to providing more than the absolute minimum necessities.
Therefore, it is very common to see call center agents leave the company to either join a rival company or move on to a different job.
The ratio of the number of employees that choose to move out of the company to the total number of employees that the company has is called attrition rate.
A high attrition rate (or turnover rate) signals that more and more people are opting out of your company.
The average attrition rate for customer service agents stands at a staggering 29% – an extremely high rate for work that does not involve physical labor.
The average lifespan of an agent in the United States is just above 3 years, meaning that on an average everybody moves on after 3 years at a workplace.
Attrition rates in developing nations are even worse owing to poorer working conditions and lower wages. The turnover in India stands at nearly 55%, with an employee lifespan of just about 2 years.
Larger contact centers see higher turnovers in general, but it has become almost inevitable that the work of a call center agent will cause burnout or dissatisfaction and cause attrition rates to hover around the 25% mark despite the best efforts we have put in thus far.
Attrition is not just a question of losing an employee. It is costly to replace an employee because the new agent must be provided training and dry-runs before he can function with the same productivity and intensity.
Besides being a costly affair, the phenomenon of agents leaving every year can affect team spirit, damage morale and thus negatively influence the productivity, bringing down the overall performance of the call center.
“Managers tend to blame their turnover problems on everything under the sun while ignoring the crux of the matter – people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”, says Dr. Travis Bradberry, award-winning author of the book “Emotional Intelligence”, translated into 25 languages and available in over 150 countries worldwide.
This is a very important point because a majority of people leaving companies claim they found no sense of direction or purpose working under their managers.
In this article we will be discussing some of the reasons why agents choose to quit their jobs, and how we can draw up solutions to some of the problems that exist.
1. Lack of career development opportunities. One of the most common reasons cited by personnel for leaving a telemarketing job is that they see no potential for growth in the industry.
There is no clear career chart planned where the agent can walk through the expectations and rewards of performance on a long-term basis.
This is why a lot of young professionals feel they will be stuck with the same work without any real possibility of an upgrade for however long they choose to work in that industry.
2. Better offers from competitive companies. The call center industry is highly competitive, with different agencies competing for the most productive talents.
On many occasions, talented professionals are made to work for low wages in unsuitable working conditions, which makes it very easy for rival companies to lure away these people with better pay packages, better and more flexible working hours, better work environments, etc.
Lots of people opt to leave with the promise of a better career in a different company.
3. Problems with stringent supervision. Agents often feel excessively monitored, to the extent that they think they have no freedom in the workplace.
Working long hours with such stringent supervision is problematic for most agents. They feel like they are unhappy with the practices that are enforced by the managers, and that other companies might have better opportunities to offer them.
Because they are uncomfortable with their workplace, these people are again very easily convinced to join a different company with a different setting.
4. Lack of recognition or acknowledgement. This is also a very common reason for attrition. Employees complain that their good work is often taken for granted, but any mistakes are amplified and made a reason for belittling.
They believe that even exceptional work goes by without any recognition by the managers. The managers do not feel the need to be encouraging towards the workers, and do not engage in any gestures that would make an agent happy at having performed well.
5. Unrealistic targets. Agents often cite the fact that the targets that are set for them are almost impossible to achieve.
This over a period of time makes them feel like they are not contributing enough, despite their best efforts. Such targets also cause a drop in morale of the entire team, because they do not get to feel that sense of having achieved something even if they have done good work.
Over a period of time, this causes the agents to feel devalued and they prefer to move on rather than try to reach impossible targets in vain.
6. Expectations beyond money. Managers have a tendency to use money as a cure-all, believing that monetary incentives are enough to convince workers to stay at their desk for longer hours, and meet stricter targets.
However, on many occasions this is simply not possible, leading to a mental and physical deterioration of the employee’s well-being.
To escape this vicious cycle, employees choose to opt out of a job that brings with it so much stress and problems.
7. Not allowing job flexibility. Call centers may have their shifts scheduled at weird working hours. Sometimes, what these employees require is an option that works best for both the company as well as the individual, for example, allowing a work from home option in case the employee is unable to report to work for some issue, or if the timing is not at par with the usual business hours.
Companies, however, have been known to neglect such requirements. As a result, there are a lot of employees who consider a change in careers to search for something that offers more job flexibility.
The Case Study
We have talked about some of the most widely seen reasons that employees cite for quitting their jobs in a call center.
A high attrition rate will eventually lead to a drop in performance levels and the quality of customer service being meted out, because people fresh out of training are now being entrusted with roles that were previously held by people with some experience.
Even the best call center software, while being extremely helpful, cannot do the entirety of a human’s work – it can only point to the best course of action.
Employee attrition causes clients to doubt the integrity of the company as well as harbors feelings of insecurity among the employees.
To further understand this point; let us take the example of AmbiTech, a telemarketing agency providing call center solutions for a large organization.
Through the course of this case study, we will look at the situation they were in, what sort of problems they were facing in their operations and how they drew up solutions to overcome those problems.
We will also see whether or not these changes had a positive effect on the performance of the call center.
The Problem Scenario
AmbiTech had recorded an attrition rate of 27% in their last year, which was an increase from the 25.1% they had recorded the year before.
As it is, these rates were pretty high, and on the top of that, this increase was alarming. Attrition was forcing them to invest more money on frequent training programs for the new employees.
Customers were being affected because new personnel had to be brought up to date with all of their previous interactions before the conversation could move forward.
Leads that were being generated could not mature because of such swift changes in the employee structure. Overall, the company was losing business and trying to identify the root cause of the problems.
The day to day operations of the company was plagued by the following challenges.
1. Employees who left cited a failure to grasp any potential for development in the future as their primary reason for leaving.
They were unable to see how their careers could prosper in the industry, regardless of the experience they garnered along the way.
2. Managers were setting almost unrealistic targets, and employees who could not match up to those numbers were being severely criticized.
This led to an environment where the employees were constantly unhappy because they could not reach the goals that had been set out for them.
However, the fault in this case lay with the managerial rung for setting targets that were too difficult to accomplish.
3. Agents complained of the lack of acknowledgement for the outstanding effort. They believed that showing some form of recognition would boost their morale and in the absence of any such mechanism, employees were not feeling motivated to continue working for a company that took their efforts for granted.
The managers recognized the immediate need to rectify these problems in order to keep their business prospering. Some of the steps that were taken are listed below.
1. A clear career chart was provided to each and every employee, which highlighted how they could progress with their professional lives while contributing to their current organization.
In addition, training programs were conducted so that employees could arm themselves with various different skills. This ensured that agents always felt like there was room at the top, and they could work to achieve greater heights within the company.
2. Targets set for employees were more quality-centric than quantity-centric.
The company devised the use of call center software solutions to determine key performance indicators which could effectively judge the quality of service, rather than archaic quantities.
By doing so, the company placed more value on an agent’s approach towards solving a problem, and took away the burden of having to strive for an unrealistic target.
The company tried to motivate agents to better each other’s work, rather than chasing after a pre-decided number.
3. Rewards such as “Employee of the month” were designed to promote a spirit of healthy competition among agents, and to acknowledge the outstanding contribution of motivated personnel.
The implementation of these new tactics helped increase the productivity of the firm almost instantly. Within the next one year, attrition fell to 23.8% – the lowest the company had seen in the last five years.
Sales were boosted because of this, and profits rose 4.5% over the previous year. The call center agents were able to provide better quality of customer service, and customer satisfaction levels rose along with employee satisfaction rates.
We have seen costly attrition can prove to be, and what common triggers are found in the workspace which propels an employee to leave his or her company.
All of these arise from a mismatch in the requirements of the employee and the manager’s interpretation of the same.
Once this communication gap is cleared up, more measures can be introduced which better the lives of call center agents and help to convince them to stick to their career paths.