We’ve all heard about the human touch and how important it is in the CX and call center spaces. Skilled agents are key to delivering a great customer experience, and agent retention is vital to a healthy contact center. Think about it: your customers want thoughtful and empathetic service, and that’s not something you can get from technology alone.
Why do call centers struggle with retaining their agents? There are a lot of factors that contribute to agent turnover and attrition, and those challenges have increased even more thanks to the Great Resignation. Contact center work is challenging. The work can be repetitive and stressful, leading to employee burnout.
So how do you retain the best-skilled agents for your business? Read on to find out the best call center retention strategies to guide your efforts.
A Quick Introduction to Call Center Agent Retention
Let’s begin with the basics. When we talk about call center retention, we’re referring to your business’ ability to keep the agents you’ve hired and trained. Every manager knows that new hires are extremely costly, and even more expensive to replace. With strong call center retention, you can save a lot of money on turnover down the line.
It should come as no surprise that the call center industry experiences high turnover rates. According to QATC, the annual average turnover rate for call centers is between 30%-45%. Losing agents at this rate has a serious impact on quality of service, as skilled agents take a lot of time and resources to hire and train. Your customers are looking for knowledgeable and experienced support professionals to help them, and that is difficult to achieve with staff constantly entering and exiting your contact center.
How to Calculate Turnover Rates
To measure agent retention, you’ll need to calculate your team’s turnover rate. Let’s say you want to calculate your monthly turnover rate. Here’s the formula you need to figure that out:
(# of employees who left this month)
÷ (Average number of agents on your team)
= Turnover rate
For instance, if your call center has an average of 100 agents, but 10 agents departed in the past month, your formula would read: (10 ÷ 100) x 100 = 10%
Call center turnover rates should be calculated regularly. Once you have several months of data logged, you should start to see patterns emerge.
5 Great Call Center Retention Strategies
Ask yourself: what are the most common reasons agents leave? How can you improve your overall agent experience? Start paying attention to these factors, and you’ll be in a better position to lower your turnover rate.
There are many factors that play into agent turnover, including negative work culture, poor hiring and onboarding experiences, not having the right tools and resources to do their job, and more. Follow these surefire strategies, and you will soon start to see improved retention for your call center.
1. Follow best practices in hiring
When your contact center is short-staffed, your leadership team may be tempted to rush hiring. But this can cause huge problems down the line.
Why? Finding the right fit for your team means finding individuals who are well suited to call center work. Not everyone will rise to the challenge, so it’s important to ensure the people you hire have the right foundational skills and attributes. Otherwise, you risk losing them sooner than later.
Here are some tips for hiring new agents:
- Create employee profiles. Before you hire anyone new, you should know what you are looking for. An employee profile will act as your roadmap during the process.
- Focus on aptitudes, not just experience. Ask interviewees about their work style, how they motivate themselves, and critical thinking.
- Ask situational questions. Agents need to be able to handle different support scenarios, so this is a fantastic way to measure their problem-solving skills.
2. Invest in training and onboarding
Starting a new job can be stressful all on its own. But if your new hires don’t receive the proper support to get them started on the right foot, they’ll soon begin to plan their exit.
ASAPP research reports that 51% of respondents who received poor training felt pessimistic about their careers, leading to burnout and poor performance. Here are some tips for upgrading your training and onboarding efforts:
- Use different training styles. Not everyone learns the same way, so be sure to offer classroom learning as well as hands-on learning opportunities for your agents.
- Introduce your new hires to the team. This small but significant gesture can help your new hires feel at home with their new coworkers sooner.
- Provide ongoing training. Training should not just be for new hires. Offering regular sessions for your more experienced agents will keep them engaged and connected with their work.
3. Develop a positive company culture
From agents to managers to directors, all contact center professionals can attest to the impact company culture has on their daily work. Employees who are engaged in your culture are less likely to leave — that makes this an important part of your agent retention strategy,
Here are just a few things you can do to improve your company culture:
- Identify existing challenges. If your current work culture isn’t where it needs to be, pinpoint the issues and develop a plan to remedy them. Trust us, these issues won’t disappear on their own!
- Check in with your managers. Your managers are the ones with the most influence over your agents’ work experience. Offer managers training on how to create a productive and positive work environment!
- Conduct culture interviews. Ensure your new hires fit in with the rest of the team by inviting them to a more casual-style interview with a few of your team members.
- Prioritize work-life balance. Offer your agents perks and benefits to support life inside and outside of work. This can include flexible work hours, recreational memberships, and more.
In a Gallup poll, 75% of respondents voluntarily left a position because of their boss, not the job itself.
4. Provide the right tools and resources
Call center work is not exactly stress-free. While you can’t eliminate the element of pressure from customer support, you can make the agent experience more manageable and rewarding.
Contact center software has come a long way, with tools smart enough to automate the more mundane and repetitive parts of agent work. By investing in these tools, you create a more enjoyable and engaging work experience for your agents.
There are countless tools on the market, so we’ve listed our top categories below:
- Call-back technology. This incredible tool helps lower your call volumes while offering callers an alternative to waiting on hold. Fewer frustrated customers means happier agents!
- AI assist. Artificial intelligence is the ultimate agent assistant, automating simple and repetitive tasks so your agents can focus on more complex tasks, like supporting customers.
- Self-service tools. Like AI, self-service tools are meant to address simpler customer queries while alleviating the burden of work from your agents.
5. Provide growth opportunities
Did you know that lack of career development opportunities has been tied to high turnover? Your employees are looking for a future with your organization, and that includes exploring new positions and promotions.
There are lots of ways to foster growth opportunities with your call center. Here are some strategies to get your started:
- Offer one-on-one reviews. Have managers set time aside for each agent, and give them the opportunity to provide feedback on what they hope to accomplish in their current role and beyond.
- Create a career plan. Implementing and regularly updating a career plan will help illustrate your agents’ progression towards their career goals with the company.
- Create a mentorship program. Give your veteran agents an opportunity to take the lead and mentor your newer agents. This will help them develop leadership skills for their next big opportunity!