How to Keep Your Call Center Employees Happy and Reduce Turnover

Call centers are notorious for having a very high attrition rate of their employees. Many agents find the call center life to be extremely stressful and leave as soon as they can get a replacement position.

A report by Trostle & Associates discloses some disturbing employment statistics from the call center industry. These include:

  • Typical global call centers report 20% turnover (ranging from 4% in Austria to 40% in India). The typical US average rate is 43%
  • Large global call centers average 49% annual turnover. Large US call centers with more than 1,000 agents average 70% turnover annually

These statistics indicate that many call centers have great difficulty motivating and keeping their staff.

Their problem is compounded by the average cost of replacing each agent lost being $3,500, $4,000 for big call centers. The high rate of agent attrition is highly costly to the industry. If a call center can keep its employees happy and reduce their turnover rate, it will save them a considerable sum of money.

So in an industry full of disgruntled and unhappy employees what can you do to break away from the norm?

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1.     Put Sufficient Effort into Selecting and Onboarding Your Staff

Some firms take as long as twenty weeks to break even on a new hire, so it makes sense that you ensure that new employees get the best start possible. You do not want to drop them straight into the deep end without any training or understanding of the business they have just joined. A thorough onboarding process is essential for all staff if you want the employee to feel comfortable in their new role. It is imperative that new employees feel welcomed by management.

Of course, it is much easier to onboard an employee who fits your business culture than somebody who is a square peg in a round hole. The better you are at recruiting suitable people to work in your call center, the easier they will find it will be to fit into your organization.

2.     Understand the Value of Happy Employees to Your Call Center

Happy employees are productive employees. The happier an employee is, the more effort he or she will make to ensure that your business runs smoothly. If your agents feel they are simply there to earn pay and then go home, then they are unlikely to perform anywhere near their capability.

It is important that your employees feel sufficiently mentally stimulated. If they constantly feel bored, they are unlikely to operate at much more than a functioning level. There is a real danger of this happening in a call center that is highly script-dependent and reluctant to allow agents to use their initiative.

As with any workforce, your employees are likely to talk amongst themselves. They will quickly notice any perceived unfairness or biased treatment from managers towards particular employees. It is probably worth investing in appropriate software to ensure that everybody receives fair rosters and that any overtime available is made equally available to all who request it. Employees want to see equity in their workplace.

3.     Ensure Your Managers Don’t Micromanage

The biggest cause of employee dissatisfaction comes from conflict between workers and their managers. Firms with quality managers tend to keep quality employees. In fact, the best managers are not managers at all; they are instead leaders, who show by example and gain respect from their workforce. They still do all of the essential tasks that run-of-the-mill managers do, but they also take on board employee suggestions, delegate responsibility and encourage their team, rather than giving orders to their team and demanding unquestioning loyalty.

The least successful managers in a call center are micromanagers who feel the need to keep a close eye on every employee task and criticize everything not done in the way they would do it themselves. No matter how good your workforce is, they will not stay long if they have to suffer under a tyrannical, micromanaging supervisor.

4.     Encourage Your Agents to Take Ownership of Their Roles

Some call centers truly undervalue their call center agents. However, once an agent has been in his position for a while, he is likely to become highly knowledgeable about the firm’s products, customers, and their issues. The call center agent is the company’s frontline, and they are the people who best understand how the customers actually think.

Therefore, give some responsibility to your agents. Let them take ownership of some campaigns and activities. Allow them to use their initiative. Allow them to vary from the company script if it is appropriate for some calls. This is also another example of ensuring that your managers are not micromanaging, and are allowing your agents to use their initiative.

5.     Reward Your Best Performing Agents

Call center agents are like any group of human beings. They respond well to rewards and praise. Your staff will respond best if you recognize their good performances. It is natural for people to give up trying if nobody notices or acknowledges the positive things that they do.

You might consider an Employee of the Month award, recognition of good work on the company website, or some other form of incentive. Employees will try their hardest if you are known to recognize good performers when it comes time to renegotiate remuneration.

If employees feel that management supports them, they are more likely to remain with an organization. It gives them further incentive to improve their performances. You are likely to find that any increased reward you give to your high achievers will be less than what you would pay to onboard their replacements if they left due to frustration at their lack of recognition.

6.     Provide a Continuous Program of Professional Development

Your employees need to be able to visualize a strong career path ahead of them if you want them to stick around at your organization. For this to happen, you need to continually upskill all of your agents.

The second benefit of this is that the professional development will improve your employees’ skill and knowledge, which will, in turn, enhance their ability to resolve your customers’ problems.

7.     Provide Your Agents with Up-to-Date Tools and Equipment

If you want your agents to perform to their best you need to provide them with suitable tools to do their tasks. There is no point complaining about slow call resolution times if your computers are so slow that agents have to sit around waiting for information to appear on their screens. Many calls are very demanding for an agent, particularly in somewhere like a Complaints Center or a Debt Collection Agency, and it is vital that agents can access the correct information when and where they need it.

It helps to have a quick, user-friendly CRM that can provide you with all the information your agents need to know with only a few mouse clicks.

8.     Realize there is More to Success in an Agency than Just Productivity

While it is important to keep a close eye on your call center’s metrics, you need to do this from a holistic approach. It is more important to look at the bigger picture than to narrow your focus to solely looking at productivity statistics.

Your employees have more incentive to improve customer-focused and employee-focused statistics. If you reward employees for improving their Average Handling Time or Average Calls Per Hour, you are rewarding quantity over quality. A very quick Average Handling Time just means that an agent gets through their calls with speed. It does not mean that they have managed to resolve the customer’s problems. It is far better to focus on First Call Resolution (FCR), for instance, as this emphasizes how successful an agent is at actually resolving customer issues.

9.     Actively Learn From Exit Interviews

Although exit interviews can be considered to be like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff – too little, too late – they at least give you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and make certain that you do not repeat them.

Exit interviews can provide you with excellent insight into the minds of your departing agents. They give you a good idea as to what has not worked for them, and what they believe you could do better to improve staff morale.

It may pay to wait a few weeks after an employee leaves before you undertake the exit interview. If you interview them too early, they are likely to give skewed answers, either because they do not want to upset you, or because they are angry at your call center and are happy to take their anger out on you.

By following the advice above, you will be able to reduce the turnover in your call center. Empowering your employees, listening to what they say and giving them opportunities to grow their career will make them want to stick around longer. By applying these principles, not only will you reduce your turnover, but you will also have a happier and more productive workforce. Using a call center software tool with advanced agent analytics can help you monitor your agent improvement when applying these tactics. Try Nectar Desk today to get a better handle of your agent performance