If call center retention keeps you up at night, you’re not alone. In the era of the “great resignation” and in an industry with record staff turnover, employee retention is on every manager’s mind. The numbers are sobering. According to the 2021 ICMI report, a contact center’s average employee turnover rate was 58% per year. This figure is about 10 percent higher than the US average employee attrition rate of 47.2%. What’s up?
Every field has employee turnover, of course. But stressful industries like contact centers stand out. Let’s take a closer look at why call centers see so much agent turnover and consider the solutions.
Tools like Fonolo Voice Call-Backs relieve agent stress and keep customers off hold by offering call-backs during call spikes. Conversation Scheduling let callers schedule a call-back up to 15 days in the future.
Why Does Call Center Retention Matter?
It’s worth the effort, we promise. The cost of losing an employee is much higher than most people realize. The hard costs of employee turnover are easy to measure – and significant. They include money spent on administrative taskwork, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding.
Soft costs are harder to see, but they cost money too. There is low productivity surrounding an employee leaving: co-workers are spread thin while covering extra duties, and supervisors scramble to keep things running smoothly.
It costs 30-50% of their salary to replace an entry-level employee. Mid and senior-level employees cost companies between 150% – 400% of their salary to replace. Bottom line? Train, compensate, and engage your employees!
Why Do Call Centers Have High Turnover Rates?
Low wages are a factor
Higher compensation is always a good place to start. Most call center agents are underpaid for their skillset and education, compared to the market. Indeed says, the average hourly rate for US call center agents is $16.50. That’s about a dollar per hour less than a data entry clerk and two dollars less than an administrative assistant – comparable jobs with considerably less stress.
DID YOU KNOW?:
Zippia reports that 65% of contact center agents have college or university education
Call center work is stressful. Agents can feel like they’re putting out fires all day long. They deal with frustrated, upset, and sometimes angry customers, responding calmly and with empathy — but the stress takes a toll. Studies by Toister Performance Solutions show that a whopping 74% of agents are at risk of burnout. When customers have been waiting on hold, often for hours, it only makes things worse.
Lack of training and opportunity
Call centers put considerable resources into onboarding, but even that can comes up short. Despite spending an average of 6-12 weeks training new call center employees, half of agents say the initial training needs to be more hands-on and engaging.
Once agents are hired, the training tends to stop. And there is little opportunity for advancement. Call centers are often viewed as separate entities in a company and do not always offer the traditional career path that an employee might have if they joined as an administrative assistant or data entry clerk.
But your employees want to grow and progress in measurable ways, financially, professionally, and personally. When their goals aren’t met, employees can disengage and start to look for fulfillment in other workplaces.
More Benefits of Call Center Retention
There’s plenty to lose if your employee turnover rate is too high. We’ve already discussed the dollar figures. Employee churn is expensive! But there are other things to be gained by lowering your employee turnover rate and creating a healthy, supportive professional culture where people want to work. Who doesn’t want that? Here are some other benefits of lowering your employee turnover:
- Agents become more efficient at their jobs.
- Knowledgeable, experienced agents can become brand ambassadors.
- Skilled agents offer higher quality customer service.
- Happy agents = happy customers.
How do you calculate employee turnover?
Use this simple formula to calculate employee turnover. Most contact centers calculate this number on an annual basis:
5 Call Center Retention Strategies That Work
Throw your search nets wide and include social media and video posts to attract digital natives to your contact center. Call center work is increasingly technical – some even say that contact center employees are the first generation of AI workers – and you’ll benefit from the expertise and experience of millennials. Offer career open houses where prospective employees can observe your company’s culture and facilities. And hire carefully, ensuring your new staff members are team players who can express empathy and handle stressful situations.
Once you’ve identified and hired excellent staff (way to go!), you’ll need to train them well. Be transparent about company goals, processes, and performance metrics, and employ effective onboarding strategies. Set up new hires with a mentor if you can. And don’t rush things. A survey done by ASAPP research found that reduced training lowered agents’ confidence and competence – and led to an uptick in absenteeism.
Training should not be a one-and-done scenario either. ASAPP also reported 38% of agents said ongoing training and career growth opportunities would improve their jobs.
Offer automation tools to support employees
Call volumes at inbound call centers increased dramatically during the pandemic. Gartner says 41% of call centers reported higher than usual volumes during the pandemic, with some reporting increases as high as 800% over previous levels. Customer volumes remain high.
Automation and AI-supported tools can help deal with high call volumes and lower your agent’s stress. You can use chatbots to answer simple queries. In fact, IBM predicts that 80% of routine customer queries can be answered by AI-enabled chatbots. And call-backs can keep callers off hold and lower call spikes by rescheduling calls for quieter periods. Fonolo’s Visual IVR provides even more flexibility, letting customers select a call-back from any device at a time they prefer.
Engagement is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to keeping call center agents happy and slowing down employee turnover. What improvements can you make?
- Create a positive culture
- Recognize achievements and offer meaningful rewards
- Use metrics and offer mentoring
- Provide ongoing training programs and opportunities for advancement
- Support your agents with the right tools and technology
Offer hybrid and remote work options
Remote work is one of the most effective agent retention strategies, according to a Time Doctor study which says 59% percent of people would choose a job with hybrid or remote work options. The same study found people working from home were 22% happier than those working in an office. Working from home is here to stay, and contact centers need to offer agents flexibility, or they will lose them to companies that let agents decide where they want to work.
Spend Smarter for Better Employee Retention
Managers know call center retention is important and are already spending money on staffing, training, and engagement. You need to optimize your investment! Once you’ve ensured your agent compensation is competitive, consider upgrading your work environment and letting agents choose to work remotely if they want to. Make training an ongoing part of your workplace and offer opportunities for advancement.
Finally, a careful audit of your workflows can show you where automation can offset workload, relieve employee stress and improve call center retention. Call it a win, win, win scenario!