Сall Center Attrition and Turnover: How to Get Rid of It

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Why do call centers have high turnover rates? It is the question that disturbs numerous managers and even persons who are not related to the industry. Call center attrition seems to be the highest among almost all industries, and average call center turnover is also huger.

What is the root cause of these two issues? Why do call centers always suffer the most? How do these factors influence the entire department’s performance and productivity?

Firstly, we should discover what is the dissimilarity between employee attrition vs turnover - and especially if there is any difference between them. 

Attrition includes only cases when an agent leaves the job of his own free will. Turnover, contrastively, contains all leavings, including terminations and others, that happened of the employer’s will. 

Now we have dealt with definitions, so let’s take into consideration that the call centers have issues with other workforce management rates, such as call center shrinkage or contact center absenteeism. 

Thus, we should search for reasons in call center workforce management practices, because it looks like contact center agents are dissatisfied with their job, perspectives and duties. 

Let’s have a look at statistics.

Average turnover rate across the market

As the ICMI research states, the average turnover rate across the industry is higher than 40%. It is a horrific score because normal turnover for other industries isn’t higher than 20% - for the financial niche, it is less than 19%, while for marketing and business development it is 17% and 6.4% in accordance. As you can see, it is more than two times less than it is in the contact center industry, and this is a good reason to ask yourself why call centers face such terrible scores. 

To say more, agent attrition rates aren’t lower - 42%. For the banking sphere, it is 16%, almost three times less than it is for customer service centers. 

As you could guess, the data above proves that almost every second call center employee will work less than a year. As a consequence, you get unstable team relations and communication, huge operational spending on coaching, training programs, and onboarding of new workers, permanent shuffles among the agent groups, and poor performance with weak customer service, finally.

How to calculate the agent turnover score?

Well, the formula is more than simple. You take the number of leaving per selected period(month, quarter, or year), divide it by the overall number of employees, and multiply by 100. The result is the percentage of turnover rate. 

The same formula applies to the attrition score, but you select the number of employees who left the job of their own free will, not because of your decision.

Let us look at a sample: you began the previous year with 120 operators, and 47 of them left positions during the year. You want to know the annual turnover rate, so it would be counted as 47/120 x 100 = 39,2%. 

Inner and Outer Turnover 

Have you known that there are various turnover kinds? We bet you haven’t. Anyhow, when the employee leaves the job but stays inside the organizational structure - receives a promotion, transfers to another position, or whatever else, it is called internal turnover. It is a bad situation for a few reasons: you need someone to replace him, this replacement will cost you money, and it takes time. 

Even though there are some drawbacks, the worker stays with the company, so you don’t lose the onboarded, experienced employee, who is more likely to grow professionally and bring you more impact in the future. 

A much worse situation is when we come to external turnover - the situation when workers leave the company forever. It may be both because of termination or their own decision to leave, but no matter the cause you get the need to hire new workers, train, and onboard them - without any guarantee that they won’t leave too.

If you decide to terminate some customer service agents that are performing poorly, try to find the reasons for their low productivity and unsatisfactory rates. Sometimes, the cause of weak performance is the same as it is for release. 

Turnover vs Agent Attrition 

As we have mentioned earlier, they differ by volitional nature. Some agents are doing bad, and you sack them, while others come with an application for dismissal. There are many causes for agents to leave: strong emotional pressure, toxic and frustrated customers, poor internal communication, untactful managers, and unchallenging and boring tasks. The same reasons may lead operators to perform poorly and boost such occurrences as absenteeism and call avoidance, which strongly reduce agent productivity. 

Count turnover by groups

It is vital to calculate turnover scores not only by the entire department but also by smaller units too. If some groups have significantly higher turnover than others, the root cause may lie in supervisors. Sometimes, team leaders behave without respect for their subordinates, so they feel too much pressure and leave. Another occasion is when a supervisor performs badly, and can’t set goals and organize processes, so operators decide to find a department with adequate management. 

Correlation between turnover and performance

Even though turnover always means additional expenses, time losses, training costs, and unexpected hiring and coaching efforts, it may have a positive effect on overall performance. If you lose mostly weak specialists who haven’t been bringing any outcomes for the company, look at this occurrence as an opportunity to find real professionals who will perform a few times better than their predecessors. 

How much do you pay for replacing workers?

The main reason why you should never ignore high turnover rates is that it costs you a lot. Numerous studies have been conducted to find the real price of call center turnover, and various results have been achieved. The overall price for one agent is from 10 000 USD to 20 000 USD, so, according to the average salary of 32000 USD (US), you get at least 30% of the annual salary paid just for the replacement of one worker. Sound horrifying, doesn’t it? Thus, keeping in mind that call center turnover rates of around 40% cost the companies nearly 15% of all labor costs per year. Now think of where this money could be invested if the turnover rate was reduced, and how many call centers lose because of the churn rate by industry. 

There are also indirect costs you pay because of high turnover - a high customer abandonment rate caused by a lack of staff, low customer satisfaction due to poor customer service, a lack of experienced agents, and so on. As a consequence, losses due to huge call center turnover can cost you a fortune. 

Reasons for high call center turnover

There are many reasons for heightened employee attrition metrics, but all of them have similar essence: bad management tactics, emotional pressure, stressful environment, and lack of communication and support. We have compiled the most popular reasons as the list: 

Absence of encouragement

Agents spend days talking to customers with similar problems and similar requests. This task can become boring faster than you could imagine, and agents feel unencouraged and unmotivated, and as a consequence employee engagement reduces. The worst situation is when operators work with similar scripts and similar packs of issues to resolve, so they have nothing flexible in their tasks and repeat every action again and again. Are there many people who want to do so.

Another problem is that some agents can face the occasion when they can’t help clients because they aren’t acknowledged enough and the managers haven’t provided them with coaching sessions. When does a worker understand that he can’t help clients, what is the reason for him to stay and work? 

No internal communication

Many contact centers just make operators sit in an isolated workplace in front of the computer and talk with clients all day. Agents feel in isolation, and this feeling is boosted by the inability to talk with colleagues. Try to sit at the same place with two partitions a few centimeters from your face and ask yourself: is this the job you want to have? 

Agents are also people with their own needs and emotions, so when they are isolated and made to repeat the same sayings a hundred times per day without any opportunity to communicate about something apart the customer support, they will almost definitely leave the job.  

No praise 

Most contact center managers are more likely to criticize agents for bad service than to praise them if some clients note their qualifications. This leads to the situation when agents feel useless, unappreciated, unneeded, and unfairly criticized and as a consequence, they quit their job. 

Sometimes it happens not because all managers are heartless, but because there are too few team leaders to identify and praise every agent. Call center workload may be very high, and managers just do not have time to find out the results of their subordinates, but nonetheless, in this case, call center retention will decrease powerfully.

Inadequate feedback and evaluation

There are dozens of rates to measure operators’ performance and effectiveness, but some managers prefer abusing their authority and unreasonably criticizing agents. It may happen for many reasons, such as managers’ prejudice, bad manners, personality type, or just a bad mood, but no one will tolerate this. The target of employee turnover is to find suitable job conditions - and this is not only about scheduling or salary, but about respectful, wise, and friendly management too. 

If you have managers who love to give causeless negative feedback or use punishments without reason, terminate them first to reduce agent attrition. 

No career perspectives 

There are middle, great, and outstanding operators. Some of them are almost irreplaceable in solving customer problems, but what happens when they have more than a year of employee experience in the same position? There is no opportunity for a career path across the agent profession, so the only opportunity for such a frontline employee is to become team leaders, but what if they do not want to do so? What if they want to find development opportunities in the same field, but you can’t offer a better salary, scheduling, or some really valuable growth opportunities? Then agents will leave and look for some more interesting offers. 

What do you lose because of a high turnover rate?

We have mentioned such negative effects as higher costs and time losses, but let us discuss all negative effects in detail: 

Increased operational costs

As we have mentioned before, every released agent costs around 30% of his salary, but it is not the end of all spending that takes place because of attrition. When the agent leaves, you have to find a new hire, onboard and train him, and try to not lose him too. The problem isn’t that alarming if you lose a weak professional or a beginner, but it also costs money. But what if you invest in an agent for months, and he becomes a powerful customer support specialist who easily resolves client issues, but poor organizational culture or lack of perspective makes him release? Then you have to invest the same time and effort to train another professional, similar to the dismissed one, and this is the task that costs much more.

Worse client service

As we have stated, when experienced agents leave, newbies come. And new hires have no knowledge and skills to deal with the same tasks as their predecessors, so the overall quality of service decreases, and this reduction may seriously harm customer experience and satisfaction and lead to lower customer retention and worse sales rates. 

It is little chance to hire first-class professionals from the first attempt. Such specialists are by the weight of gold, and their bosses put maximum effort to keep them in their position, while newbies need time for acclimatization and obtaining the necessary skills and knowledge. Thus, you get the stalemate - no opportunity to keep the customer service on the same level and no chance to save money on training new hires.

Decreased staff confidence 

It is a mistake to think that attrition has no effect on other agents who keep working. Everyone in the team knows when someone dismisses, and there is nothing to be satisfied with. If people go, then something is going wrong, and if something goes wrong, then it may be a reason for others to go too. What would the job satisfaction level be in such occurrences? 

Permanent leaving among the team members makes other workers doubt managers’ professionalism and the possibility to lead the unit to a successful future.

The collapse of team scores

So, you lost some experienced operators, hired new ones, and continued to work pretending that nothing happened. What will happen next? New operators will not be able to meet the same KPIs and performance standards as their precursors, so the overall performance reduces. You spend more money and time to train them to reach needed rates, while old operators become to show worse productivity too. Why? - you would ask. Well, just because of the previous reasons - their colleagues(maybe even friends) went away, agent morale is at the bottom, newbies can’t deal with tasks, employee retention decreases, and everything falls out of hand. It is the snowball effect when the failures of one team member influence the others. 

No opportunity to set up new technologies

The call center is also an organization that always requires new technological solutions to perform better. New software appears new instruments implement, new workforce management tools become available - these all factors need the team to be in synergy and prepared for new solutions. And how should it work in a unit, where every few months someone dismisses? Even experienced agents need time to acclimatize to new software tools, while newbies aren’t even ready to work with existing tools. 

Ten tricks to eliminate the contact center attrition rates

Even though low agent retention and permanent agent burnout may look like a no-way-out situation, there are some recommendations that you should follow and keep in mind to reduce or even eliminate agent attrition and turnover. There are many call centers that keep these rates by less than 10%, and it is a perfect score for our industry. Thus, if it is real, why won’t you use it? 

Create a thoughtful hiring strategy

To avoid unpleasant surprises in the future, do all to hire appropriate workers from the beginning. Ask yourself, what ideal characteristics would you like to see in your agents, and what skills should be born by the perfect customer support representatives. It is not a secret, that such soft skills as communication skills or problem-solving skills are must-haves for anyone who works in customer service, so it is vital to decide: whether you hire people who already have such skills - it is not that hard to evaluate communication abilities of a candidate during the first interview, or you invest in hires training to gain that skills. 

To be honest, not all people have a suitable skill pack to work as operators, so it is wiser to offer the job to those who have that skill set. It includes also such skills as conflict extinguishing, adaptability, empathy, and so on. You must comprehend that if the person isn’t empathic, it is no chance to change him or her. 

Train them regularly 

It is not enough to improve training materials or programs, you have to provide permanent and in-depth, such as gaming activities, soft and hard skills training, personal coaching, one-to-one sessions, training on real examples, and so on. 

Call center software offers you enough opportunities to discover the KPIs and rates of every employee, so use this data to select training programs. The call recording option helps you to research every single call of an agent to find his strengths and weaknesses, communication manner, and customer reactions to his actions. 

Never stop training and coaching, because only permanent progress and improvement can lead you and your subordinates to success. 

Implement more internal communication

Talk to your agents. Remember their names, greet them every day, ask about their personal lives, encourage dialogues between team members during breaks - do all possible things to bring agents closer together. 

Let employees know that you are also a living person with emotions and what is more vital - a sense of humor, so they can not only talk to each other but ask you about something. Don’t do it by force, do it sincerely, so staff members will become more relaxed and trust you more. 

Invest in team building

The team is not only a number of robots who come to the office at 9.00 a.m. and leave at 6.00 p.m. They want to do something apart from talking with customers, and they want you to consider them as something bigger than talking machines. 

When we say you organize some non-working activities, it doesn’t relate to training sessions or something like that. Organize corporate events, day-offs, collective lunches, and games, and visit some events with your team. Do you have remote employees? Take them too! 

Fill employees’ life with something that doesn’t remind them of that boring dialogues about refunds or something else. Let them love their work by giving them something that can make them love it. 

Give constructive feedback and create a reward system

We have already informed you that praising employees is a vital part of a wise manager’s strategy because it is a strong motivational factor and an energy boost for the further self-improvement of agents. Nonetheless, feedback should be constructive. Never provide only the negative feedback - it frustrates and harms agents, and as we are talking about reducing agent attrition, try to not do anything that harms them(if it is not justified enough!). Integrate negative feedback with positive feedback to eliminate the emotionally harmful effects of the criticism, and achieve the highest motivational outcome of providing such a review. 

Contrastingly, you can furnish only positive feedback, especially if you want to praise employees, who perform the best. But praise should include a material factor too, so use a thoughtful reward system to give prizes for good results.

Offer career growth opportunities

When a worker sees no perspectives for his professional development, does he have any arguments to work further? Surely, he doesn’t. On the contrary, we have stated that there are poor career path perspectives in a call center - nothing, but a supervisor’s job. But try to use this to motivate those young specialists who want to grow, because after the supervisor’s position they will have a chance to become a call center manager. 

If some agents perform great and develop faster than others, take mentorship above them and guide them to the supervisor’s role - if they are interested in it, and most will be interested. They will not only get career development but become a sample and a motivation for other operators. 

Give the place for employees’ voice 

Employees want to be heard and listened to. Their ideas, wishes, and expectations should be taken seriously into consideration when making decisions about crucial changes in call center activities and processes. Organize agent surveys to measure their job satisfaction, wishes about career development, and awaited changes in workforce management or in other fields. Let workers also give feedback about your performance to you directly and be ready for that. If honestly, not you only should have a right to evaluate other people. 

Let agents take more responsibility

Both agent and client hate working just according to scripts. If the client hears that the agent uses scripts and sounds like a robot then he will be totally dissatisfied and unhappy with such service - almost 80% of customers confirmed that. Happy agents also don’t like to repeat the same sayings hundreds of times per week. 

Don’t be scared to let operators be more independent in making decisions about customer service - the script can’t cover all potential problems and situations, as well as you can’t let every call be escalated to take everything under personal control. 

You invest thousands of dollars into agent training and coaching not to limit their responsibilities on the level near to IVR’s responsibilities, it’s foolish and unfair. Additionally, if you want them to be happy, let them do more based on their decisions and ideas, not yours. 

Implement automation and modern technologies

How will the outbound calling agent feel if you make him pass through lead bases manually? Especially, if he knows that auto-dialers were developed many years ago. Will it be a surprise if he leaves his work? 

IVR and live chats can strongly decrease the number of routine and unnecessary calls, the call scripts ease the call process, auto-dialers automate outbound calls, and so on. These techniques are almost always included in well-developed cloud-based call center solutions, and cost a fair amount of money. It is cheaper to buy the tool that boosts rates and eases agents’ work than to be put into the employee turnover cycle again and again. 

Always organize exit interviews

Some people leave the job not because you or your company are bad. Someone retires, others change their profession, another goes to study, somebody moves to a different region, someone has children, and this list can be almost endless. But if the person has passed a long way with you, it will be fair and useful to ask about this experience and how the worker evaluates it and what would he have done differently. 

Yes, some negative factors will never be changed by you - because they have taken place in the past. Yes, you can discover some things that you would not expect to hear. When the worker leaves for a non-conflict reason, he will be more direct and honest with you during the exit interview. It may point to some fields where improvement is needed, or some processes that should be changed, etc. Or you may just hear that this experience was great, and get a portion of positivity to move further.

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