Use employer engagement as a stop sign to keep agents from leaving

Sick and Tired of Turnover? Stop Losing Agents in your Contact Center through Employer Engagement

Losing your employees is an emotional and taxing experience for you and the rest of your agents. You might feel like you’ve failed an important team member, and agent morale dips from all the people who make an exit. It’s easy to grow resentful any time an employee leaves. This thought looms constantly: Here we go again, back to the tedious, costly hiring process.

It’s common knowledge that contact centers have a problem with agent attrition. It’s sad that the perception of working in a contact center is summed up as entry-level and a dead end for your career. In reality, the work of customer service brings insane value to a company and is difficult and skillful work. It adds incredible skills and experience to your employees’ resumes.

But, how do you engrain that mentality and keep your support staff from leaving for other jobs or positions in the company after 12 to 18 months? Two words: Employer engagement.

Admit there’s a problem.

For starters, you have to accept that agent retention is a problem. Don’t grumble and complain when another agent leaves you. Instead, learn as much as you can from it. The cost of losing employees, and hiring new ones, is expensive. Take the time to calculate the rate of turnover in your contact center.  You lose money when you recruit, hire, and train. Not to mention the cost of losing someone with detailed knowledge about your company offerings.

Assuming it takes about $10,000 to replace a single agent, your churn rate can get costly real fast. Say you have 100 contact center employees and a 45 percent attrition rate. With $10,000 to replace each agent you lose, you’ll spend $450,000 every year just to hire and backfill those positions. Imagine investing $450,000 in training materials, conferences, and existing employee salaries. With that money, you could encourage retention by engaging your employees effectively.

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And then there’s the emotional stress. Having agents come in and out wears on you and the rest of your team. It’s hard to build a real sense of community when you’re constantly tearing down then rebuilding the team dynamic. You pour in more time to hiring new agents than you would like, too. Plus, lowered morale influences your customers’ experience as well. Burned out agents lead to dissatisfied customers.

Ok, so now that I’ve stressed you out more…let me offer some advice that can help lower your turnover rates.

Start with hiring.

Reducing turnover starts with hiring. Create a list of specific skills you want your agents to have, and put a careful hiring process in place. Despite popular belief, not everyone can be a phenomenal customer service agent. Lists like this post on our blog can help narrow your search so you hire the right people.

As the industry evolves, the role of contact center agents changes. Modern contact center employees need to have a breadth of skills to succeed. The job now invites an opportunity to build a career with direction. Consider talking to your existing employees about what skills they see as most necessary in their day-to-day work, or what they wish they had known before starting. This helps you in the interview process to ask effective questions and find the right candidates.

Ask your potential new hires about their qualifications. Then dive into what drives them, and you can start to read between the lines. Are they looking for an easy job to pay bills? Or, are they planning to stick with it over time? Why did they leave their last job? Hone in on why they chose to apply in the first place. Find employees who aren’t just looking for the next paycheck and you’ll have a team willing to engage.

To reduce turnover, push for progress.

One of your jobs as a manager is to facilitate the career trajectory for your employees. Your agents want to feel like they will progress with your company. They want to know they will grow and have new skills to add to their resume. The LinkedIn Global Job Seeker Trends report notes the top reason employees change jobs is lack of career advancement opportunities. And, the main reason they’re attracted to a new company is a strong career path.

Another report, this one from Gallup, found 87 percent of millennials rate professional or career growth and development opportunities as important to them. Yet only 39 percent say they’ve learned something new in the past 30 days to enable them to do their jobs better.

Have a growth pathway to determine what it means for your agents to progress while they’re in your contact center, and at your company. As a resource, SurveyGizmo developed a rubric for career advancement in contact centers. Use this as a guide to your own version of a similar program for your team.

Just as it’s necessary for your agents to know how they can progress inside your team, make sure they know the organizational structure of the company. It’s so frustrating as a front-line agent to not know how and where you can advance. Make sure they know the hierarchy within the company, inside and outside of the contact center, so they can choose whether or not to work toward particular future employment goals.

Career roadmaps turn the perceived entry-level job of a contact center agent into a kicking-off point for a long, fulfilling career. When you invest in your employees’ futures, they see the value in their work as being part of a larger purpose and will invest in you. With personal goals to work towards, employees engage and perform better.

Want to see how investing in your agent experience pays off? See the facts that build a business case for a better agent experience.

Increase agent autonomy.

Employer engagement needs to lead to employee empowerment. As Netflix’s prior Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord describes it, you have to treat them like adults. She wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “If you’re careful to hire people who will put the company’s interests first, who understand and support the desire for a high-performance workplace, 97 percent of your employees will do the right thing.”

Netflix, of course, has a foundational culture deck they’re now famous for. As a manager, you might not have control over your organization’s policies or give employees complete ownership over their PTO, but McCord’s principle is worth paying attention to.

Train employees well, and then let them do their work.

Just by hiring them, you show your agents you trust they’re capable to succeed. If your employees have the right skills for the job, granting autonomy inspires them to be effective in addressing customer needs by being flexible, responsive, and personal. They put their own voice into their work and feel greater accomplishment when they fix an issue or problem solve.

Trust your agents to do the right thing and be hardworking, and they’ll be much more engaged as a result. Don’t baby them, and they’ll be happier to come to work every day and more productive and present in their roles.

Listen to your agents.

Lastly, take the time to listen to your agents. Have regular team meetings and one-on-ones. Send out anonymous surveys so your employees can tell you where the pressure points are, or what annoys them about your management style. Maybe they hate a policy, or they’re sick of the software you use. If you want them to stay, respect them by creating spaces to vent frustrations. And then, take that criticism and act on it. When an employee is unhappy at a job for too long, it is only more irritating if the organization is stuck in unhealthy or toxic patterns.

At times, all it takes is the freedom to have a voice and knowing someone hears it. Be humble, actively make your contact center a better place to work, invest in your agents, and turnover will go down.

Reinvent ways to engage your employees so they don’t leave you. Check out our recent blog about just that!