Customer experience can be the determining factor in whether or not your company rises to the top or falls off the radar. While much of the user experience results from the quality and usability of your product, the service customers receive from your call center agents significantly impacts their opinion of the product and the company as a whole.
How can you ensure your customers receive the best service when they contact the call center? Improving your call center recruiting practices and implementing agent retention strategies will help you attract individuals who can successfully resolve customer problems and create an environment where they will want to build a career.
Contact Center Attrition
It is a well-accepted fact that call centers experience a high turnover rate. Some studies conclude that turnover rates are as high as 50% in the first 90 days of employment. These staggering numbers can be costly for businesses hiring these employees, as managers must repeat recruiting, onboarding, and training tasks for each new agent they hire. There are many factors which can contribute to this high turnover rate, including:
- Lack of Understanding – Some new hires may not fully understand the job requirements or the challenges associated with fielding customer questions and complaints.
- Lack of Growth Opportunities – Nobody wants to feel stuck in their job. Those who cannot see a path forward or an opportunity for their job to become a career may opt for another route.
- Lack of Interpersonal Connections – Agents who rarely interact with other agents may feel they are working in isolation. Loyalty to the company depends on developing connections to other employees.
These challenges are not unique to call centers. However, the work performed by customer service agents and the call center environment are unique and can exacerbate these issues. Managers hoping to reduce attrition and build a skilled agent base to serve their customers can implement policies and practices to mitigate the effects on their employees.
Reducing Call Center Agent Attrition
1. Improve Recruiting Practices
Open and honest communication with call center applicants during the recruitment process is imperative. To attract well-spoken candidates, you may be tempted to portray the work as more rewarding and less challenging than it is. Providing an accurate representation of the job and setting realistic expectations is a more effective strategy if you want to identify individuals who can thrive in the position.
However, the conversation does not have to dwell on the challenges. Assist applicants in understanding how their work fits into the bigger picture and how they help the company achieve its goals and mission. Holding an open house where applicants can observe daily operations and speak to other agents can be enlightening for applicants.
2. Search for the Right Skills
Call centers thrive when they are fully staffed. However, staffing a call center is more than filling seats. To be successful, a call center needs the right people with the right skills. In many cases, the technical expertise of potential agents is less important than their soft skills. Consider making a list of the traits that make your top-performing agents successful. Some soft skills customer service recruiters look for include:
- Having patience
- Remaining positive
- Communicating effectively
- Being resilient
- Coping well with stressful situations
- Keeping calm
- Thinking outside the box
Soft skills are not usually evident on a resume. A thorough interview can reveal which applicants have these traits. Pay special attention to their communication skills during the interview. Consider asking questions that require them to think on their feet and demonstrate problem-solving skills.
3. Provide the Right Tools
Have you ever tried to tighten a screw with a butter knife or serve a slice of pie with a fork? While using the wrong tool for the job sometimes works, it is often a frustrating experience with a less-than-satisfactory result. Yet, we continue to use the wrong tool because it’s the one we have.
Many individuals have learned how to be a successful call center agent with the tools they have. However, not everyone is willing to put up with the frustration of working with inadequate tools. Implementing software, policies, and practices that support agent efforts empowers agents to focus on improving their skills and helping customers.
Additionally, providing new hires with mentors to guide them through tricky situations can help them feel connected to their coworkers and build their confidence, making them less likely to quit.
4. Offer a Career
Landing a job is a great accomplishment. However, most people would rather launch a career. Employees want to see where they are headed and understand what it takes to get there. In a call center environment, the path to advancement is often unclear, leading agents to leave in search of the next step in their careers.
To reduce attrition, establish a progression path and communicate it to employees. It should have clearly defined roles that offer more responsibility or opportunities. Agents should understand what they need to do to reach each new level.
5. Proactively Build a Company Culture
We have all had that job. The one that you disliked, but it paid the bills, so you stayed put until you could find something better. Retaining employees in a call center environment requires taking deliberate steps to make your company a great place to work. Companies that employees love to work for offer perks they can’t do without.
- Work-life balance – Demonstrate that you see agents as individuals with unique needs by offering scheduling flexibility where possible.
- Benefits – Paid time off, dental and health insurance, family and sick leave, or a gym membership may be essential to your employees.
- Social interactions – Schedule events where team members can get to know one another. These interactions will help bring agents together and build a supportive environment.
- Invest in the office – Go beyond providing the necessities. Make the office a pleasant place to work by sprucing up the decor with plants, artwork, and pictures. Everyone will appreciate the improved atmosphere.
- Learning opportunities – Provide opportunities for agents to advance their skills through online learning, conferences, or shadowing other employees. Investing in their future is investing in your company as well.
One Step at a Time
Solving the problem of call center attrition is a lofty goal that companies should not plan to achieve overnight. However, improving contact center recruiting will help companies identify individuals willing and able to pursue a successful career in customer service. Likewise, changing business practices to make your company a more appealing workplace will help you retain the most qualified candidates. It will take time to see improvements, so consider what you can do today to nip call center attrition in the bud.