Reducing Agent Turnover to Reduce Contact Center Costs

In some contact centers, agent turnover year-to-year stands at more than 100%. With turnover figures like that, it can’t be a surprise to say that if you could reduce your turnover, you can reduce your costs. It takes a lot of resource and energy to train up new agents, and newer agents typically have much lower first contact resolution rates. As a result, a newer agent ends up costing a contact center a lot of money.

In this blog entry, I’ll explore just a few ways to break the cycle of constant turnover. How can you help keep agents around?

First and foremost, career pathing is an important part of agent retention. If agents feel that they are working in a dead-end job, it won’t take long for them to start sprucing up their resume. If they see their current position as a stepping stone, perhaps to a more senior position in the contact center, and after that either to a position in contact center management or a position in a business group in the organization, they’re more likely to stay around, and at the same time, positively affect the contact center’s performance. Career pathing doesn’t require any technology whatsoever to implement, but it can make a significant difference in the perception agents have of the contact center and their future with your organization.

Let’s also look at a way that current contact center technology combined with a business process can improve morale and result in better retention. Many workplace studies have shown that for the majority of workers, just getting a compliment when they do a good job helps motivate them, energize them, and keep them emotionally in the game. Compliments are free, and can be handled either privately, or better yet, publicly—by posting a message throughout the contact center when an agent does a particularly good job.  For some centers, it could be the result of a good quality score after scoring a set of recorded interactions. It could be increased sales figures – or perhaps a compliment passed on from a customer during a customer satisfaction survey. It takes management a little time to craft the message—but the payoff will be worth it.

Do you have other ideas on how to retain agents to help lower costs? We’d love to hear from you.

Rachel Wentink

Rachel Wentink

Rachel Wentink

I joined Interactive Intelligence in July 1999 as Manager of Technical Support for the Americas, then had the good fortune to move to the South of France to manage our Technical Support and Education division for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East (and yes, the South of France truly was wonderful!). I headed up our Product Management team for many years, and now lead a team focused on deploying our newer Business Automation technology worldwide. These include our business process automation, content management, and mobile application development solutions. My team and I perform frequent on-site customer and prospect visits and have the opportunity to see how many different industries perform their work across the world. This new focus also gives me a chance to work with disruptive technologies, and to experience how firms innovate from within--both successfully, and unsuccessfully. Prior to Interactive Intelligence I served in different roles as a technical support agent, knowledge manager, manager of an IT team administering a CRM system, and as an IT consultant focusing on customer service best practices. I hold an MBA from Ball State University, and an undergraduate degree in French Language and Literature from Florida State University. I promise to keep the existential philosophy to a minimum in my blog articles!

9 comments to Reducing Agent Turnover to Reduce Contact Center Costs

  • Hi Rachel,

    Hiring the Wrong Call Center Agent is the Root Cause of most Call Center Performance Issues. It’s a Significant Drain on the Budget & Bottom Line, on Customer Satisfaction Ratings and Sales Results, and on Team Morale. Every Failed Hire represents Wasted Dollars Down the Drain. Not to mention the Lowered Productivity, Poor Morale & Higher Absences associated with a Poor Job Fit.

    Pre-Employment Screening Software is Very Cost-Effective and Highly-Predictive of an Individual’s Suitability for a particular Call Center Agent Position. 

    Pre-Employment Software can Test for:

    • InBound CSR (Up-Sell/Cross-Sell/Win-Back)
    • InBound CSR (Service & Support)
    • Technical Support/Help Desk Agent
    • OutBound TeleSales (B2B or B2C)
    • Inside Sales
    • Order Entry
    • Reservations/Guest Services Agent
    • Central Station Monitoring
    • Information & Referral
    • 911/811/511/311/211
    • Telephone Answering Service Operator
    • TeleCollections

    Pre-employment Screening Software screens out the Job Candidates who will burn out fast because they aren’t suited for the work – and identifies the people with the Personality/Job-Fit, Soft Skills, Motivation, and Work Ethic to be Top Call Center Agents. With Pre-Employment Screening Software as part of your Hiring Process you will Select New Call Center Agents who Fit your Employment Needs Better and Stay on the Job Longer – leading to a Call Center Agent Workgroup that has More Experience and is More Productive.

  • This is good information. I believe one of the major contributing factors is positive leadership.

    For instance, trying to catch people doing things right sends a very positive message to your workforce. I have witness the opposite and the damage that is done is insurmountable.

    In addition, allowing the agents to have a voice and a platform to discuss the direction, issues, best practices of their work environment is motivating. Nothing works better if you have a performance issue and you ask them what "we" can do to fix it. Then just run with their ideas. They will take ownership with the solutions. This always works.

  • I would second David’s thoughts. Pre-employment screening is a must. BUT the assessment needs to be customized to the call center and its culture, and a comprehensive validation study that compares those who leave versus those who are retained is a must before implementing the testing.

    Second, sound behavioral interviewing practices must be implemented. Ideally the behavioral questions should be generated based on the pre-employment assessment. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

  • Mark E. Behrens
    You’re right – agent turnover is extremely expensive. I saw a recent metric that assigned the cost of replacing an agent at approximately $8,000 – and that does not address the lost efficiency and effectiness as the new agent makes their way up the learning curve.

    In my experience employee satisfaction is a major driver of turnover – and most of the drivers of employee satisfaction lay in the hands of leadership. Here are some of the keys:

    1 – training time and content. If training time is compressed to try to cut costs and push agents out onto the floor too quickly, agents will feel overwhelmed and will lack the confidence needed to satisfy customers.

    2 – availability of a transitional "nesting environment" for new agents who have graduated from training but need more close support than more experienced agents. Placing newer agents in an environment where they can quickly receive coaching and assistance from a supervisor who has the personality and skills to develop new agents can make a large difference in retention for these agents during the critical first month or two out of training.

    Tools – whether the technology and business processes within which the agent has to work facilitate success or work against makes a huge difference. A knowledge base management system that makes it easier for agents to find information and answer questions that they haven’t had to address before will make the agent more confident, effective, and efficient. Integrated agent desktops that reduce the complexity of gettinig the job done make the learning curve shorter and the work more accurate. Business processes that are transparent, reliable, and designed to empower the agent and the customer add confidence to the agent as well.

    Culture – this is the key driver. If the company is truly focused on employee and customer satisfaction (and satisfied employees go a long way towards satisfied customers) then the company will be motivated to make the investments that I’ve addressed above, and will communicate a true sense of concern and care for employees that will go a long way towards retaining agents and reducing turnover.

    In my experience the vast majority of people want to succeed, want to do their jobs well, and want to be appreciated. When you see extremely high turnover the root cause is never the agent population. The good news is that the causes can be addressed. An organization that believes it cannot afford to address these causes is an organization that does not understand the effect that employees have on customer service, and the effect customer service has on customer retention, and the effect retention has on profitability. You really can’t afford not to address high turnover!

    There are some great discussions going on and many great ideas being shared in blog posts exchanged thru Twitter – follow the #cctr, #cem, and #scrm hashtags and joion in! My twitter tag is TriSynergyLLC. I blog at trisynergyllc.wordpress.com – this post is particularly relevant to the topic of turnover: http://trisynergyllc.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/are-you-hiring-csrs-or-alligator-wranglers/

  • Great conversation! I’d like to throw in that some companies are moving their agents to an at-home model. These agents work remotely from their home. The technology today offers the same security and customer service as if they were sitting in the office. An at-home model significantly reduces agent turnover. Secondly, employee engagement cannot be overlooked! Employees need to know they are important to the company; they must understand company goals (and if they are taking calls for a customer – what that customer’s goals are as well). Do the research (or call me) to manage the process and reduce your turnover!
    Beth Haley
    http://www.movingbeyondthebricks.com
  • Elliot Skinner
    Our call center organization reduced agent churn by over 40% when we implemented a remote agent program. The agents loved the ability to work from home because of:

    * Monetary savings because they were not paying for gas and wear and tear on there vehicles as well as reduced wardrobe and dinning costs.
    * Time savings because they did not have to commute
    * Life style change because they were in a more relaxed working environment and could wear anything they wanted to work.

    The organization’s largest savings were from the reduced hiring and training costs due to attrition reductions. There were additional difficult to measure savings because it takes 6-12 months to get a new agent up to speed so they are truly productive and this impacts everything from customer service to productivity.

    The organizational savings are even more significant once you are able to hire and train virtually because the applicant demographics change dramatically. Your applicant pool becomes anywhere in the country with high speed connectivity and you attract agents that are more educated and experienced that would never consider working in a physical contact center. In addition remote agents are more willing to work difficult time periods and split shifts.

  • I think that the company should properly train their call centers so that they can perform better.
  • Call center agents must be well trained and has a good character to be able to retain good agents to help lower cost.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>