From Sunday, April 23 to Wednesday, April 26, Frost & Sullivan will be hosting their 2023 Customer Contact East event. One of the major focal points of the event will be the recruitment, engagement, and retention of call center agents.
With this in mind, we thought we’d go over why call center staffing can be so difficult for any organization as well as a few tips for improving employee retention in an industry with an infamously high rate of turnover.
Why Call Center Staffing Efforts Struggle to Keep Up
There are a few reasons why it can be hard to keep a call center fully staffed. Some examples include:
It takes time to hire a new employee for any role. In call centers, employees with extensive experience in customer service or sales are a must, but the pickings are often slim. Limited pools of qualified talent and long recruitment cycles can make it difficult to keep up with your call center staffing needs.
High Voluntary Turnover
Call centers are notorious for having a high rate of employee turnover. Quality Assurance & Training Connection (QATC) places the average rate of turnover for contact centers between 35 and 45%. Some factors that can contribute to high turnover include:
- High Stress. Whether the call center specializes in sales or customer support, interacting with consumers over the phone while upholding strict performance goals can be stressful. This can lead to burnout or a loss of motivation as employees reevaluate whether the paycheck is worth the hassle they face on a daily basis.
- Lack of Career Advancement. A lack of career advancement opportunities can put a dent in even the most dedicated employee’s motivation. If there isn’t a clear path for upward or even lateral mobility within the organization, employees may leave to find other ways to achieve growth.
- Insufficient Pay/Benefits. Employees have bills to pay. If they aren’t getting paid enough to make ends meet or achieve their personal financial goals, call center agents may end up looking elsewhere to get paid what they’re worth.
- Company Culture/Interpersonal Friction. Sometimes, employees leave because of interpersonal issues with others in the organization. If someone is actively antagonizing call center agents, those agents are much more likely to leave.
Working in a call or contact center isn’t for everyone. Some job candidates may struggle to keep up with goals or demonstrate the appropriate skills for the call center. Or, they may be actively disruptive to other employees—dragging down the performance of the whole call center. These poor fit hires may need to be removed from the team to help others realize their full potential.
The cost of turnover and the inability to fill vacancies can be enormous to any business. In fact, Gallup estimates that employee turnover costs U.S. businesses over $1 trillion annually. So, finding ways to minimize turnover is crucial.
3 Tips to Help You Overcome Call Center Employee Retention Challenges
Improving employee retention might be easier said than done. However, there are a few things that you can do to address the basic causes of turnover and make keeping great contact center agents easier:
1. Take Time to Coach Your Team
Did you know that employee coaching can actually improve employee engagement with work and help them realize greater satisfaction from life? It can. If done the right way.
According to the McLean Institute of Coaching, “80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence” and that they also gain “more life and job satisfaction.” However, it isn’t enough to just hold a coaching session or two. It’s important to follow some employee coaching best practices to encourage engagement and satisfaction with work.
For example, say that there are two employees on two different teams that both get coaching from their managers. We’ll call them Bill and Tom. Bill is called in once a quarter and told whether he’s hitting his numbers or not—a fact that he is already well aware of from his own performance tracking against his goals. His manager doesn’t do anything aside from telling him he “needs to sell more of XYZ bundles.” He isn’t given any advice or support: he’s just given a goal and told to hit it.
Meanwhile, Tom goes in for an employee coaching session once every month to spend half an hour with his manager. In these sessions, the manager provides not just feedback on numbers, but advice for closing deals, information about the company’s product/service bundles that customers might find attractive, and tips for suggesting the right product or service for each customer’s needs—and then roleplays with him a bit to get him used to putting the advice and info into action.
In this example, which employee would you expect to show a more significant improvement in their performance and satisfaction with their work? Tom, on achieving better results, gets more confidence in his role and is more satisfied with his job—encouraging him to stay with it for longer. Meanwhile, Bill just plods along, doing the absolute minimum while hitting up job recruitment websites looking for a way out of what he sees as a dead-end job.
2. Showcase How Employees Can Grow within the Organization
Since lack of advancement or career opportunities is a major reason why some employees decide to leave, showing employees how they can continue to grow within the organization can be a great way to drive employee engagement and retention.
For example, say that Tom is doing well at his work in the call center and has been for a few years now. However, he’s getting restless and is looking for ways to earn more money and kick-start his career. To help keep Tom engaged with his work, his manager, who is preparing for retirement, starts giving Tom some additional responsibilities—turning him from a basic call center agent into a quasi-manager of his own team of newly onboarded employees.
While setting Tom up with these new responsibilities, his manager encourages him to take some extra qualification courses to help him get the skills he needs for eventual promotion to team lead. If Tom can prove his mettle with his new team and pass the certifications, he can take over for his manager when they eventually leave for retirement.
This helps the company keep Tom for longer, prepares a replacement for a team leader who is aging out of the workforce, and helps new employees benefit from the experience that Tom accumulated as a call center agent.
3. Collect Feedback from Employees
Getting feedback from your contact center agents can be crucial for finding out about things that aren’t always easy to spot from performance data alone. For example, say that an employee, let’s call them Alex, is actively pranking his coworkers. Not out of maliciousness, but because that’s how he’s used to breaking the ice with people and his friends usually just prank him back—it’s the kind of environment he’s used to.
However, Alex’s coworkers don’t appreciate the pranks and find themselves actively distracted by his jabs. It’s starting to affect their performance and complaining to Alex doesn’t seem to stop the behavior for long—he often leaves them alone for a day before reverting back to his pranking behavior.
If there isn’t a line of communication between the team and their manager, the manager might not realize that there’s a major problem until it starts affecting the team’s numbers or generates a workplace harassment complaint.
However, if the manager is actively getting feedback about the workplace from their team, they can identify the problem and correct Alex’s behavior before it puts a major strain on workplace relationships. If Alex persists in his pranking behavior despite reprimands, then removing him from the call center might be the best solution for the team as a whole.
Removing obstacles to a positive workplace experience is just one way that managers can help protect employee engagement with work and promote a great workplace culture that enhances retention.
Join Us at the Frost & Sullivan Event!
Want to learn more about employee engagement and retention for contact centers? Join us at the Frost & Sullivan event for their “Recruit! Engage! Retain!” collaboration zone. Or, if you need help right now, reach out to C2Perform and ask about our employee engagement and productivity management platform!