It’s no secret that being a contact center agent is a challenging job. To last in the industry, customer service representatives (CSRs) and others who handle calls, emails and social media messages require a unique set of technical and people skills, as well as positive support from their employers and direct supervisors.
If an agent isn’t the right fit for the job, or if they don’t receive exceptional support from their employer in terms of training, compensation, mentoring and career opportunities, they won’t be around for long. The average annual call center turnover rate for CSRs in the U.S is 29 percent, according to the 2016 U.S. Contact Decision Makers’ Guide. The “average lifespan” of a U.S. contact center worker is just 3.3 years.
But high attrition doesn’t have to be a given in contact centers. With a proactive strategy, contact center service providers can keep annual call center employee turnover rates in the single digits, as DATAMARK has done for its clients at our locations in the U.S., Mexico and India.
Call center turnover rates – 5 ways to lower them for good
1. Recruit agents who will be the right fit for the profession.
We use the word “profession” here, because we seek talented individuals who understand the professional role of a CSR or other specialized contact center positions, such as inbound and outbound sales or language interpretation. These are not “just another call center job.”
The recruitment process should include pre-hire “job previews” to let candidates know what they will learn in the position, what they will be expected to perform, how performance will be measured, and how they can secure opportunities for advancement. Operations managers also should be involved early in the recruitment process to help identify best-fit candidates for certain contact center roles. Setting expectations and sharing a clear path for advancement early in the recruitment process will help weed out candidates who are not a good fit for contact center work.
2. Build the foundation first
Contact center agent training should be comprehensive and continuous, supporting employees on a career journey from new agent to top agent (mentor) to supervisor. Training for new agents should begin with a foundation of general knowledge about the industry, customer service best practices, and personal communication skills. From there, new agents can turn to client-specific training, learning the history and culture of the company they will represent, and building the expert knowledge of the product or service they will support.
3. Continuous training clears a path for success
New-agent training continues into the transition to the contact center floor by partnering with an experienced mentor agent and close monitoring and coaching. Training should be ongoing throughout an agent’s career, with periodic refresher sessions to ensure knowledge isn’t forgotten and that new procedures and best practices are always shared. Training in leadership and career development will help prepare agents for advancement. And knowing that management is supporting them on a career path helps keep agents motivated.
4. Make performance management immediate, consistent and visible
DATAMARK has established a system for providing immediate feedback to agents when quality issues are identified. Agents appreciate the positive, constructive feedback from mentors and coaches because it helps them do their job better, resulting in less stress and eliminating the potential for burnout. Agents also like to know how their performance is being measured, and will welcome advice from supportive coaches and mentors. Performance metrics should be shared with agents, kept consistent as possible, and made easily accessible and visible on whiteboards or dashboards in the contact center.
5. Recognize performance (and make it easy for agents to be top performers)
Bonuses, prizes and other incentives for top performance, when added to a package of fair pay and benefits, will definitely motivate and retain agents. But keep in mind that agents also appreciate being given the power and tools to help customers, so be ready to empower top-performing agents with more authority to take care of problems without the need for approvals or escalations. Also ask if they have the resources they need—such as access to real-time customer information—to solve problems. Ultimately, agents want to be empowered to help customers. A great day of full-contact resolutions, plus the opportunity to pick up a performance bonus will keep agents coming back for more.