How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Influenced the Attrition Rate in Call Centers

Staff attrition in call centers has always been one of the management’s headaches. Has anything changed since the COVID-19 pandemic? How to reduce the attrition rate in your call center? Let’s try to figure it out in our new article.

How to Calculate Attrition Rate

Attrition rate is defined as a percentage of employees that left your call center during a particular period. You can calculate it, dividing the number of these employees by the average number of employees for that period.

Let’s take an example. You want to know what was the attrition rate in your call center for the last year. First, you have to calculate the number of employees that left your call center in 2020. For example, you started with 1,500 employees and ended with 1,240. Then the number of those who left you will be 1,500 - 1,240 = 160. After that, we need to calculate the average number of employees for this period. It is simple: (1,500+1,240)/2 = 1370. Then we calculate the attrition rate: (160/1370)*100 = 11.7%.

As you can see, this metric is quite easy to calculate. Now let’s try to figure out why you need to pay close attention to it.

How Can Your Call Center Suffer From High Employee Turnover?

Small attrition is not so bad as it may seem. It brings in a contact center fresh blood and enthusiasm. However, the high employee turnover can have quite a negative impact on your organization. The consequences may be the following:

  • Increased recruitment and training costs. A high turnover means that you need to hire and train more employees than usual. That, in turn, makes recruitment and training more expensive.
  • The average agent competency becomes lower as you have many ‘learners’ and few experienced employees.
  • The quality of the customer experience can decline. Why? As the agent has little or no experience they may not know how to answer the customer query correctly first-time.
  • Your agents won’t be able to meet call center KPIs, such as the first-time resolution, call transfer rates, call length and queue time.
  • The morale of the remaining staff will be negatively affected. It’s hard to keep calm and stay motivated when you have to meet new colleagues every two weeks or so.
  • Inexperienced staff are more likely to miss cross-selling and up-selling opportunities. They can’t even notice such opportunities because such a skill comes only with experience.
  • Team leaders and experienced agents feel more pressure. It’s hard to be productive when you’re one of the few who is qualified enough to answer customer questions correctly or to make successful cold calls.
  • It’s hard to implement new technologies and ideas because the agents have problems with what is already in place.

How Did COVID-19 Pandemic Influence the Attrition in Call Centers?

In 2020, Contact Babel conducted contact center surveys in the UK and the US that resulted in decision-makers’ guides. Both books offer interesting data on call center attrition rates.

Let’s start from the historical data. As we can see from the graph below, the agent attrition in the UK has remained quite stable in recent years. In 2020, it even reduced a bit, from 21 to 20%.

Figure 1. Historical mean UK agent attrition (2003-2020)

The following table for the US shows that historical attrition rates have been relatively stable as well. In 2019, figures were a bit higher, suggesting that the US economy offered many alternatives. In 2020, however, the attrition rate dropped from 34 to 30% as fewer companies have been hiring new employees.

Figure 2. Historical attrition rates in the US


To see the whole picture, let’s take a look at how the attrition rates are spread across the industry. In the UK, as you can see from the diagram below, 16% of contact centers had to deal with attrition rates of over 30% and another 17% had agent attrition rates of over 20%. Only 16% of respondents showed an exceptionally low attrition rate - less than 5%.

Figure 3. Agent attrition rate ranges in the UK

What about the US? As you can see from Figure 4, the picture is a bit different. The number of respondents who had to deal with attrition rates of over 30% was 26%. Another 17% of contact centers had attrition rates of over 20%. Only 9% of respondents showed an exceptionally low attrition rate - less than 5%.

Figure 4. Agent attrition rate ranges in the US

Interestingly, when the respondents were asked how their attrition rate compared with 12 months ago, 39% of them in the UK (50% in the US) answered that there were no major changes. Another 45% of the UK respondents (23% in the US) said that attrition had decreased and only 14% (26% in the US) told about the increase in attrition. Therefore, we can say that although mean attrition rates remained practically unchanged (especially in the UK) many contact centers had actually seen lower employee turnover.

How to Reduce Attrition in Your Call Center. Simple Tips 

1. Hire right people

According to the Contact Babel’s survey, mentioned above, the first reason for staff attrition is hiring the wrong type of people for the job. It is especially important now when most call centers have switched to the work-from-home mode for God knows how long (maybe, even forever). Remote work has its specifics that can have an impact on job requirements. To take these specifics into account, we recommend creating the agent’s persona, updating all the job descriptions, implementing a multi-level interview process. The more attention you pay to the candidate’s personality, communication skills, cultural fit, team-oriented attitudes, and professional skills, the more likely you are to retain them. To learn more about hiring, onboarding, and engagement of work-at-home agents, read our article.

2. Improve training programs

Inadequate training makes newbies’ adaptation more difficult. If they have to learn all they need to know on the go, it will eventually kill their motivation and make them quit the job. It is especially true for remote agents because they don’t have an opportunity to learn from their colleagues. Improve your training programs and try to make them as detailed as possible.

3. Provide development and promotion

As the Contact Babel’s data states, lack of promotion or development opportunity is the second reason for staff attrition. Some people value career progress while others like it when their work allows them to develop their skills. Use these factors as incentives. Skill development programs, as well as promotions within a call center, will help you to break stereotypes about the agent’s job and reduce employee turnover.

4. Give continuous feedback

Timely and continuous feedback can also become one of the ways to reduce the attrition rate in your call center. In remote mode, feedback is even more important than in the office. So don’t be afraid to overcommunicate. It is better than a lack of feedback. You can also take advantage of call monitoring software. A cloud-based call center solution from Voiptime Cloud allows you to create scorecards using your own assessment criteria. You can grade your agents’ performance from 0 to 100 and comment on what they have to improve. It will provide them with constructive feedback and keep them motivated.

5. Provide clear communication channels

Imagine a situation where your marketing team launches a discount program to attract new customers and engage existing ones. People are calling to your contact center but the agents don’t know anything about that. Why? Just because the marketing department forgot to inform them. It’s needless to say that such “surprises'' make an agent’s job more stressful than it is. To avoid that, involve them in business decisions, inform them about company goals and strategies and new campaigns. Then they can provide your customers with excellent service and feel that they are part of the whole team.

6. Enhance recognition and rewards programs

Recognition and rewards are as important as constant feedback. Your managers should ensure that your agents receive rewards when they meet key milestones or KPIs. This will increase their motivation and engagement.

7. Pay more attention to customer-centric metrics

Don’t overvalue such quantitative metrics as average handle time or calls per hour. Too much focus on them may decrease the quality of your customer service. Focus on customer-centric metrics instead. Contact quality, customer satisfaction, and first contact resolution should be monitored and enhanced not only to improve customer satisfaction but also to help agents to make a personalized connection with their callers and derive the most satisfaction from their job.

8. Leverage first-class software

As Contact Babel’s data says, repetitive work is the third reason for staff attrition in contact centers. Efficient call center software can help your agents to get rid of repetitive tasks that, in turn, may reduce call center turnover. Voiptime Cloud call center solution gives such opportunities both for inbound and outbound calls. For example, the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menu allows your callers to get answers to simple questions (account balance, delivery status, and so on). You can also put in the voice menu the information about your service plans, products, promotions, etc. It will save your agents from answering the same questions thousands of times and from quitting their job in the end. As for outbound calls, your salespeople can use power and predictive dialers to launch campaigns more effectively. The power dialer calls the phone numbers one by one and connects available agents with live calls only. Predictive dialing software collects the call statistics and calculates the number of concurrent call attempts. It also filters out all the busy calls, no-answers, and answer machines but dials the next number when an agent is about to be available. The predictive dialer is good for big teams (5+ agents): it allows the system to calculate the agent’s call length more precisely. The main benefit of using all these tools is that they can make your employees more productive and increase the quality of your customer service.

Conclusion

As you can see from our article, there is no such thing as the industry standard of attrition rate in a call center. It may depend on different factors so it is impossible to calculate some benchmark. Moreover, the call center industry has always had higher employee turnover than other fields because of a more stressful atmosphere. So the best way to reduce it is not to add more stress to the agent’s job and hire only those who are a good fit for it.

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