It’s no big secret.
The call center industry has one of the toughest retention success rates amongst their agents. Attrition is high amongst this sector, and it’s not really all that surprising.
The job is tough, and empathy reserves run dry after hearing complaints day in and day out. It’s a frustrating job, and at times it can even be a thankless job. This is why companies have become accustomed to the high attrition rates amongst their agents and have accepted it as just another “part of the customer service game.”
But does it have to be this way? The answer is no.
The complacency with agent attrition has created a self fulfilling prophecy, where companies have little faith in retention and therefore put little effort into keeping agents happy.
The biggest problem with this is that it reflects a company culture. This culture is one in which these employees on the front lines, dealing with customer interactions everyday, don’t receive the necessary motivations to deploy a successful customer experience.
This can be changed of course. Understanding what drives and satisfies your agents is the first step toward fostering a healthy relationship that can keep retention high.
Hire right the first time
One of the biggest mistakes we surrounding call center attrition is that the hiring process doesn’t account for retention at all. As we said previously, companies have all but gotten used to the high rates of turnover in the call center industry. This creates unhealthy hiring habits where the agents that are hired are not properly vetted for long term employment.
You can start with hiring qualified agents. This is a no brainer, but more often than some would like to admit, filling seats in the call center takes precedence over hiring skilled and trained professionals. This also means hiring the right mindset. If your agents don’t plan on adopting your company’s vision and commitment to the customer, that can create problems down the road. Also, vetting an employee’s mentality to make certain they are prepared to handle high stress situations and sometimes disgruntled customers is essential.
To help with this process, be transparent and clear with your expectations from the start with new hires. This is especially true when it comes to discussing workload, as overload can certainly cause agents to jump ship.
Invest in training
Investing in your agents shows that you are investing in them. It’s far more costly to hire new agents than it is to improve on those you already have. Equip them with the skills and tools necessary for them to do their jobs successfully.
This not only gives your agents the confidence to do their job the right way, but the reassurance that you have confidence in them to get it done.
This is also something managers should be aware of when evaluating their agents. If some agents need help in a specific area — it should be identified and handled accordingly. Personalizing the training approach makes every agent feel valued by their employer and able to come ask for help if necessary.
Better performance metrics
Contact centers can be a stressful environment. Some of the more prominent stressors are performance based metrics that loom over agent’s heads.
Plenty of the traditional metrics treat call centers as speed machines or assembly lines. This is a big mistake not only for customer satisfaction but for employee satisfaction as well.
Instead of focusing on metrics like handling time or average calls answered — set your sights on customer satisfaction and the quality of the interactions. It’s of course still a good idea to monitor the speed of calls and such, but promoting these as “performance based” only takes away from your agent’s ability to handle interactions with care.
Agents will have a much better go at it by stressing less on taking on more calls than having extremely successful ones.
Offer career paths
Call center agents don’t want to be stuck in the same role. Unless there is an opportunity for vertical movement, there lacks a motivator to improve on performance. This means that from the start, there should be clear career paths available to those agents that work hard enough.
Similarly to offering a clear career path, rewarding achievement serves as a motivator for performance. Recognition really does go a long way, especially in a customer service job where it is often difficult and stressful.
Rewards are a great way to retrospectively show appreciation for an achievement. But even better, incentives keep agents motivated toward a goal. To improve on communication and teamwork, some incentives can even be team oriented — prompting a more cooperative effort toward your company’s vision.
Take feedback seriously
Just like customer feedback, employee feedback is an extremely valuable piece of information that should inform decisions and actions down the road.
This means gathering their needs and wants for themselves and for the company. Get their feedback on the working conditions, their workload, their workplace interactions. Seek out new processes or solutions for how things operate in the workplace. Nobody knows the job better than those that do it everyday, so use this valuable information to your advantage.
Make the surveys or feedback process anonymous if it makes sense to do so. This will help with transparency in case some feel their position at the company were to be in jeopardy because of their responses.
But at the end of the day, all the feedback in the world isn’t worth anything at all if you don’t do something about it. Take recommendations seriously and if any changes do come to light — let the agents know that the changes came from their suggestions.