PrincePerelson & Associates

How to Improve Retention Among Call Center Employees

Successful companies usually have several defining characteristics in common, including competent leaders at the helm, a product or service that stands out in their industry, and exceptional customer service. While the first two characteristics fall squarely within the purview of company leaders, customer interactions often fall to call center agents.

While the job they perform answering questions, resolving issues, and selling products is vital to the company’s success, it is not glamorous. Dealing with frustrated or irate customers is often thankless. It requires patience and can be stressful. These conditions lead call centers to have one of the highest rates of turnover in the United States. The Quality Assurance and Training Connection (QATC) estimates that the average turnover rate in call centers is 30-45%. These high percentages lead companies to spend nearly one-quarter of staff expenses on recruiting, hiring, and training new employees.

These numbers appear staggering, but they don’t tell the whole story. Despite the average turnover falling between one-third and one-half of all employees, those numbers are only an average. Some call centers have turnover rates near zero, while others are near triple digits. Why the drastic difference? The difference is in the way they do business, and it clearly illustrates that call centers have an opportunity to affect change in their turnover rate by identifying and addressing employee needs.

Why Leave?

Employees choose to leave companies over pay, conflicts with their boss, unmet family needs, or simply because they don’t like what they do. The underlying similarity in almost every case is employee disengagement. For one reason or another, individuals become disconnected from their job.

Call centers, in particular, present a challenging environment in which to maintain employee engagement. The work is repetitive and often monotonous. Working alone can lead to feelings of isolation rather than developing a team culture. Accomplishments are seldom celebrated, and there are few opportunities to grow and advance.

Observant managers can recognize the signs of disengagement. They may see an employee’s productivity drop as they pull away and allow more of the workload to fall to others. A disengaged employee may take more time off, even dipping into unpaid leave. As they move further and further from the company, they interact less and less with their coworkers and supervisors. Simply stated, they show decreasing interest in what happens at work and their role in it.

Improving Engagement

The solutions implemented by call centers with low turnover rates transform their isolating call center positions into jobs with opportunities, social engagement, and a defined career path.

1. Establish Company Culture

Employees are more likely to be engaged and find fulfillment in their work when their values align with those stated and practiced by the company for which they work. Define your company culture and then support it with actions that make your call center a desirable place of employment.

If your goal is to provide employees with exceptional work-life balance, offer benefits that support that balance. Flexible working hours, the opportunity to enjoy more paid time off, and ergonomic workspaces all make it easier for employees to meet family and work obligations while enjoying life. The benefits clearly back the stated goals, and employees who align with your culture are more likely to stay because they believe in what you stand for.

2. Refine Your Search

Finding the right candidates who fit in your well-defined culture is vital to retention. Take the time to define the characteristics that your ideal candidate should embody. Then, change your recruitment process to identify applicants with the critical skills and traits on your list. Your call center hiring will be most successful when you recruit those who align well with your established company culture. Be open and honest about your expectations as well. Surprising new employees with rules or requirements starts the relationship off on the wrong foot.

3. Provide Opportunities

The term “dead-end job,” referring to a job that leads nowhere, is not one you want employees to apply to their situation. An employee that feels trapped without any hope for change will look elsewhere for something better. However, if you provide a light at the end of the tunnel and open up possibilities for the future right where they are, you give them a reason to stay.

Every employee can benefit from regular training. Training call center employees not only improves your customer service, but it helps employees feel more confident in performing their job. When they feel certain that they are doing well, they are less likely to succumb to the stress and frustration of the job. They are better equipped to handle challenging situations and be less likely to quit as a result.

Employee training should not be limited to classroom-style instruction. Incorporating team-building activities, company events, and multimedia content is beneficial in bringing employees together to learn and build a collaborative dynamic.

Setting measurable goals that align with company goals encourage employees to look at the bigger picture and examine their future with the company. Goals can help them to recognize how their efforts support the business. Make sure they see a career path that leads to greater responsibility and increased pay as they apply themselves and hone their skills.

4. Remove Roadblocks

Have you ever tried to remove a screw with the back of a hammer? It doesn’t work because it is the wrong tool for the job. Using the wrong tools only leads to failure and frustration. They are roadblocks preventing otherwise capable employees from performing to the best of their ability. Call center employees are most effective and engaged when they have the right tools at their disposal.

Examine your call center processes and practices for weak spots. Is the software buggy? Is the internet down more than it’s up? Are call center supervisors helpful and supportive? All these factors create potential bottlenecks that employees may not be willing to overlook in the long run.

5. Recognize Excellence

Because call center employees rarely work together to solve problems, their accomplishments are seldom recognized. Employees need to know that managers and supervisors appreciate their efforts and hard work. Rewarding individuals for a job well done goes a long way towards providing job satisfaction. A monetary gift, gift card, time off, or pick of shifts all send a clear message and encourage hard work in the future.

Working in a call center can be a challenging job – the very nature of the work performed in call centers leads to high turnover rates. However, just because turnover is typical doesn’t mean hiring managers should accept it. Offering benefits, training, and recognition can bring employees together to build a company culture that is welcoming rather than isolating. Under these circumstances, you can improve your retention rates.