March 9, 2017
According to metrics gathered by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the turnover rate for contact/call centers is between 30%-45% annually. Compare that figure to other industries which hover around 15.1%, and the problem becomes clear. It is extremely difficult to find and retain good customer service talent. This has long been a problem in the contact/center industry,, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do to hold onto our contact/call center agents and reduce agent attrition.
Consider this strategy for increasing employee engagement and reducing turnover. It’s all about providing a path forward and celebrating milestones.
The Challenges of the Contact/Call Center
Contact/call center agent attrition occurs for the same reasons that any professional would look for other opportunities. They may have conflicts with management. They may be seeking a higher salary. They may be considering a change in careers. Despite these similarities, the contact/call center faces a few distinct challenges to agent retention.
- Dead End Job: No one wants to feel like they work in a dead end job. The mere notion that an employee’s current position has a low ceiling can sap the motivation and enthusiasm out of them. Unfortunately, the contact/call center can have a reputation for low upward mobility.
- Not Right for Everyone: Simply put, the good work of customer service isn’t right for everyone. Without the right mindset and personality type, a contact/call center agent can quickly burn out.
Reducing Agent Attrition
To reduce agent attrition, the contact/call center must find a way to overcome these challenges, and any strategy for agent retention must have an answer for them. The good news is that the problem is clear, and clear problems can have clear solutions. If your contact/call center agents feel like they are working a dead end job, make it a dead end job no longer. If they are not right for the job, provide an easier way to filter through agents until one sticks.
- Career Path: When interviewing a potential new agent, make it clear that this job has a future and lay it out for them. Start off agents as specialists, then offer promotions to analysts, then senior analysts, and finally supervisors. By creating these intermediary positions between agents and management, you can appeal to an agent’s ambitions and allow them the opportunity to excel. Part of this career path might also include expanded privileges after a year. If an agent can stay for a full year, they earn the privilege to work from home one day a week. This further increases agent satisfaction and keeps them looking forward to their second year.
- Contract-to-Hire Model: Consider switching to a contract-to-hire model for your agents. Start any new agent off as a three or six month contract employee. This provides both the company and the agent a well-defined point to review their performance and job satisfaction. If after this period, the agent is still enthusiastic about the job, they may be worth hiring full time. The ability to cleanly separate from new agents unlikely to last saves a lot of time, money, and headaches.
- Career Milestones: These two new policies naturally combine to form a career trajectory with clear milestones. Rather than the dead end job, there is a well-defined future with the company.
- 3 – 6 Months: Agent earns full-time employment
- After 1 Year: Agent earns the ability to work from home
- After 18 Months: Agent becomes eligible for promotion
Creating a Better Work Environment
Everyone wants to feel like they are working towards something better. Part of the problem with careers in a contact/call center is that a feeling of self-improvement isn’t always prevalent. By mapping out the future an agent can have with your company, you will find more employees willing to walk that path. At the same time, the contact-to-hire policy provides everyone the opportunity to walk away early if it is not working out. By following this strategy, your contact/call center can reduce agent attrition, keep top talent longer, and improve your customer experience.
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