By Jeff Gallino
Agent churn is one of the most challenging issues for call centers throughout every industry. According to research conducted by the Quality Assurance & Training Connection (QATC), the average annual turnover rate for contact center agents is between 30 to 45 percent, more than double the average for other occupations. In major population centers, it is not unusual for attrition to exceed 100 percent and sometimes even 200 percent.
With agents being a crucial contact point in the customer journey, this problem has the power to seriously affect a brand’s reputation and bottom line, as seasoned agents with experience and skill under their belt are rare. It’s an expensive problem to have, too, with the average expense for onboarding a new agent costing an organization thousands of dollars.
We need a proactive approach in a few key areas for supervisors to churn-proof their call centers. Through understanding the top reasons why many agents decide to leave, leaders can fix turnover triggers and create a place that supports the most valuable customer experience possible.
A Lack of Objective Evaluation and Positive Recognition
As a call center manager, one of the most important aspects of the role is to provide fair, consistent evaluations and objective feedback to agents. However, agents often only receive feedback when its negative, it’s usually delayed, and sometimes it’s subjective rather than objective due to being based on only a fraction of calls. This can create animosity and confusion between managers and agents, driving feelings of unfair treatment or unappreciation on the agent’s side and often clouding the path to performance improvements.
There’s a world of value in providing real-time, objective, data-driven feedback. Recognition goes a long way as well. With speech analytics, call centers can analyze every phone call, painting a much more accurate picture of an agent’s performance versus only analyzing 5 percent of their calls. And with automated scorecards, agents receive an objective score based on criteria established by team leaders as soon as the call is complete—or even during a call— making feedback timely, fair, and objective.
This timely and relevant feedback allows agents to reflect on their performance immediately and work to improve their next call, giving employees the power to self-coach and determine for themselves where they need to seek additional learning. These scorecards also make it possible for managers to recognize agents for successful engagements and positively reinforce good work, commitment, and motivation.
Tools Don’t Help Agents Succeed, but They Do Cause Stress
A call agent handles between forty and fifty calls per day on average—managing hundreds of problems, concerns, and situations during a given week. And that’s why so many call centers are turning to tech to help their agents sift through information and help each customer as quickly and efficiently as possible.
But according to Gartner, 84 percent of agents say that their company’s legacy tools are not helpful to them in resolving customer queries. In fact, when they have the customer on the line, agents must navigate an average of 8.2 applications to get answers and resolve problems.
Companies should upgrade to tech that is designed to make both the customer’s and the agent’s lives easier. Technology should help agents capture conversational topics and integrate with other systems and tools to allow them to quickly identify repeat contacts and be best prepared to address issues.
Since call centers also tend to utilize several databases to manage customer information (sales software, CRM, a knowledge center, and so forth), this slows down an agent’s ability to help customers while searching for answers. Managers can simplify their agents’ work by investing in tools that work across databases and feed relevant information and valuable insights into one manageable dashboard.
Repetitive, Mundane Tasks Make Agents Feel Bored and Replaceable
High levels of monotony lead to agent turnover, which is why call centers should strive to empower agents with meaningful decisions and tasks. Automating the tedious jobs that take up much of an agent’s day can free them up to focus on more fulfilling work.
According to Forrester, by reducing routine calls, data entry, report preparation, transaction details, system navigation, logs, and documentation, agents can focus on tasks that deliver personalized experiences for customers. Through implementing AI-powered speech analytics, agents can move away from those monotonous tasks and focus on duties that drive growth and fulfillment. These include creative problem solving for unique situations, showing personality and empathy, becoming better product experts, and focusing on weak spots for a potential promotion or advancement.
Agent churn may be one of the most challenging issues for today’s call centers, but there’s no mystery behind why employees are leaving. Through understanding the top reasons for turnover, call center managers can adjust their strategy to accommodate the needs of agents while creating an environment that they want to be part of. It’s important to remember that feedback is meaningful when it’s given correctly, the right tools go a long way, and fulfillment is an important factor to any human’s happiness, even at work.
Jeff Gallino is the CTO and founder of CallMiner.