The job of a contact center agent is notoriously stressful, which is one reason why the industry has an employee turnover rate of approximately 33 percent (some estimates are as much as 45 percent). Although not as high as retail or food service (67 and 62 percent respectively), center leaders across sectors cited agent turnover as their No. 1 challenge in 2017. And although every industry has some turnover, agent attrition has been an ongoing headache for center managers for decades. Here are the three driving factors that make increased agent retention an important goal for every contact center.
It’s predicted that, by 2020, customer experience will overtake both price and product as the key brand differentiator. For contact centers, customer experience is only as good as its agents, and turnover has a profoundly negative affect on customer experience. As they become more familiar with a company’s products, technologies, processes, etc., agents deliver increasingly better customer service. When they leave, that service suffers. Agent turnover breaks the rhythm of operation, which directly impacts customers looking for help. What’s more, if attrition is sudden, other agents are forced to perform additional duties. The result is increased response times, backlogs of customer complaints and other effects that contribute to customer experience.
The Bottom Line
According to research, employee turnover costs an organization at least 25-30 percent of the benefits and salary for each vacated position. The fact is, agent attrition is expensive. The Human Resource Institute estimates turnover of a frontline employee can cost as much as $15,000. In the call center, hard costs of agent attrition fall into several categories: recruitment and hiring, training time and resources, supervisory periods, and more. But the soft costs, such as missed opportunities and damage to your reputation can be just as detrimental.
Prolonged, chronic attrition also impacts employee morale. When turnover is high, your workplace environment suffers as staff become fearful or worried. Productivity and motivation decline, teamwork falls by the wayside, trust in leadership is eroded and inevitably, sales drop. In this challenging environment, managers must devote more of their time and energy to maintaining stability and running a business-as-usual operation.
When examining your business’ turnover rates, keep in mind that not all attrition is created equal, and you should consider voluntary vs. involuntary, as well as other factors. Furthermore, not all attrition is necessarily bad. It’s easy to point to negatives like a poor working environment or low performing agents, but consider that employee retention does not always equal employee engagement. The goal should be to create a great employee experience – not unlike how you create a great customer experience – rather than focusing on attrition numbers. In this way, you will retain the employees who are engaged and productive, while accepting that some turnover is not only inevitable, but actually positive.