Featured Image for the blog: Top 5 Ways to Wipe Out the Turnover Plague in your Contact Center

Turnover in contact centers is an epidemic. Some employee turnover is a natural part of the workforce life cycle. But in the contact center, turnover sits at a staggering average of 30-45 percent It’s costly for your operations and it’s disruptive.

Experts have shared the cost of losing an employee is anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5 to 2.0 times an employee’s annual salary. That’s just the quantifiable cost. When a superstar employee leaves, everyone feels it. It harms morale and discourages progress.

With perpetual decamping in your contact center, it’s vital to calculate your turnover rate so you know the depth of the problem and can track its improvement over time. And then, hone in on what needs to change.

Here are some top areas to focus on when addressing employee churn.

Company Culture

I know “culture” is sort of a buzz word at the moment, but it’s hard to ignore how necessary a strong company and team culture is to retention and overall employee satisfaction. Culture is the glue that makes a job worth sticking with through the ups and downs. Establishing a strong company culture is essential to reduce turnover in your contact center.

Culture sets the tone for how your employees communicate with the rest of your organization. Your culture is born from the foundational values and mission of your company. It’s built in the goals of your team, and what you do to reach those goals. It’s perfected in the ways you foster bonds between your employees and build a community in your team. Basically, your culture is your company’s personality.

Company personality is hard to create if it doesn’t start at the top. Your employees shouldn’t have to dig to understand your culture. Keep in mind that culture is more than just what snacks are in your break room or how often you have a team happy hour. It’s the founding ideas and principles that support why you do what you do every day. It’s how you care about your employees –– their growth and personhood.

Take time to write down what your team’s mindset is. While the process of defining your culture needs to start at the top with executives and management, every employee should have input in what culture means for the company. Invite your team to offer up ideas of the perfect office vibe, get thoughts on what they value, and jot down the goals you want your team to achieve. Do you want to be a work hard, play hard culture? Then, make it clear that hard work will be well rewarded and celebrated.

When your culture is well-defined and holistic, it positively affects team productivity and morale. Plus it makes it worth it for your agents to stay with you through thick and thin.

If you need some examples of strong company culture, check out Google’s statement of values, or Buffer’s. Or read Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness, to see how he establishes his famous people-centric culture. These three companies are sought after employers, and their culture is foundational to making that true.

Promote your Agents’ Well-Being

Set aside the performance metrics and numbers for a minute. Now, take a look at how your employees, uniquely fit into the team. A study from professors at the University of Iowa delves into the consequences of individuals who fit in at work, and those who don’t. Individual employee fit can influence job satisfaction, performance, and whether a person chooses to stay with your company. When hiring, it’s use personality assessments and tests to know preemptively how your agent will fit with their peers and with management. These tests are also really great tools for you to learn how an employee likes to be managed and what kind of feedback is important to them.

Researchers in Italy found that promoting your employees’ well-being fosters job satisfaction and reduces turnover. Agents need to now how to deal with the emotions and stress of front line customer service. The study concluded that training programs should deal with that kind of emotional dissonance between an agent’s work and the rest of their life. When you train an agent to reckon with this dissonance, they’re better prepared and happier in their work.

Expectations of customers, and the frequent, negative emotions that come from a frustrated customer, can bleed into your employees’ personal lives. When this happens, your agents will be less likely to stick with the job.

When you focus training, engagement and benefits on the well-being of your agents, you encourage a healthy work-life balance that relieves the occasional emotional dissonance of contact center work.

Offer Ways to Grow

One of the leading reasons for high turnover rates in contact centers is that agents feel it’s a dead end for their career. For many, a contact center job is seen as a transient job just to pay bills. But your agents strive to grow and improve over time. Keep things interesting and give your employees goals to work towards. Offer opportunities for employees to get promoted within your contact center, and open doors to promotions in other departments. Continuously upskill your employees, so they can be more valuable to you and to any future employees.

Employees who know they have a future in your company will stay to invest and climb the ladder. They work harder knowing that hard work could result in a future position or a better recommendation. Whether it’s a new job, a higher salary, or greater responsibility, the opportunity for growth is important to reduce turnover.

Get Feedback from your Employees

There are always going to be natural barriers between management and the rest of the staff, no matter where you go. When a company has an unhealthy culture, it feels impossible for employees to offer any criticism to someone in leadership in an appropriate way. But, for your own growth as a manager, and the health of your contact center, open the door to feedback from your employees.

Open communication lines between your employees so they can share where there need to be improvements. Perhaps you have an agent who is motivated by receiving criticism of her work. Maybe it’s the opposite, and your agent thrives when he knows where he’s successful. Some agents need clear goals to feel accomplished. Others want more freedom to solve problems on their own. Your agents are the ones talking to customers, and they may notice particular quirks about the software that you need to address. Inviting feedback shows your employees you trust and value their opinions.

According to the Forbes Coaches Council, there are particular strategies, like building trust and being transparent, worth implementing if you want to get truly honest feedback from your employees. Anonymity in surveys and suggestion boxes can be incredibly valuable to get the truth from your team. Send out regular employee feedback surveys. Hold team meetings and open the floor for discussions. Take one-on-one time to have performance reviews, and allow agents to share feedback with you there. If you receive personal criticism, don’t be defensive. Show interest and own your mistakes. Your humility and willingness to listen teaches strong leadership.

But remember, no amount of feedback is useful if it isn’t applied. Apply the feedback and implement recommendations as you can. This makes your agents feel like they’re integral to the progress and success of your team.

Always Hold Exit Interviews, and Learn from them.

When your employees decide to leave, there’s not much you can do. But, the best way to reduce turnover is to learn from the employees who do choose to leave. Exit interviews are sometimes frustrating, and often awkward. They can feel like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff –– too little, too late. But they offer the best insight into what could have prevented your agents from leaving.

Departing employees give you a good idea about what worked and didn’t work for them. Take their thoughts and decide if it was the fault of your management, or perhaps their training. The job wasn’t what they expected. They weren’t the right fit. There was no room for growth or advancement. They didn’t receive any coaching. They didn’t feel valued. Knowing why your agents leave helps you define what you do differently or look for with your next hire.

Gallup offers some guidance on how to use exit interviews to reduce turnover. Good exit interviews capture the whole picture of your employee’s experience with you.

Gather data in the following areas while interviewing your agents or building an exit survey:

  • Your employee’s overall experience of working on your team (their role, team, supervisor, job duties, advancement and development opportunities, and so on).
  • The initial reasons they joined your company, why they initially considered leaving, and why they chose to follow through.
  • Their professional goals.
  • Their perceptions of what their next job will offer.

But don’t stop there! Too often managers have insights but fail to follow through on what they know their team needs. When trying to understand the exit interviews and how to use them, consider the following:

  • Monitor and act on reasons for turnover.
  • Revisit exit data for rehires. Use previously completed exit interviews for returning employees to address past issues.
  • Use exit interview information to coach other managers or agents. For managers who have unusually high levels of turnover, exit data can be used as feedback to coach managers on their management style.

Always Learn

Agent turnover will be a consistent problem if you don’t take the time to learn, grow, and address why your employees leave. Read more about how to stop losing contact center agents in this recent post!