Agents make up the heart of the contact center. Every day, they assist hundreds of customers across a variety of channels. Contact center leaders have a long history of working to combat agent attrition through a variety of tactics but it remains a leading cost factor for customer service teams. This blog post explores the costs of contact center agent attrition along with best practices for lowering turnover and solutions for improving employee satisfaction.
Agent attrition is a real problem
In any job, workers will come and go with time. However, in the contact center, there is a longstanding and alarming trend: agents are leaving their jobs at more than twice the average attrition rate of other jobs. While there are a number of factors that play into the gradual reduction and replacement of a workforce, a few notable ones are often attributed as the leading causes of attrition.
Reasons contact center agents quit
- High-stress situations with emotional customers
- Limited training and career development opportunities
- Vague understanding of personal contribution to business goals
- Lack of necessary tools for effective performance
The reasons for quitting a contact center job vary from agent to agent, but often have a few trends in common: they are a result of unmet expectations, exacerbated by a sense of helplessness, and are widely preventable. Attrition rates are higher for new and less-experienced agents. This pattern continues as the gig economy increasingly provides many other wage-earning opportunities, such as ridesharing or delivery driving, for hourly workers who seek flexibility and job satisfaction.
The price of contact center attrition
Replacing a single contact center agent is an expensive process and that cost increases as the rate of attrition grows. There can be a myriad of expenses even before the contact center agent quits – disengaged employees, especially front-line workers like support representatives, can decrease customer loyalty and increase customer frustration. Then there are costs associated with the work human resources puts into processing paperwork as well as sourcing and hiring candidates. On top of that, you have the training and onboarding time required for replacement hires. Many contact centers report that it is normal for agents to take six to nine months to reach full productivity.
10% agent attrition can lead to 1% churn in customers
When you have established a team of high-performing agents, you want to retain as many of them as possible. There are very real and extreme cost-savings associated with maintaining that team. Research has found that 10% agent attrition can cost a business 1% of their customers. If your contact center is near the average rates of 30%+, can you afford that impact of your contact center on your business? It is difficult to argue that you aren’t a so-called “cost-center” if you are actively contributing to customer churn.
Solutions and best practices for combating attrition
When agents feel supported and empowered, they are more likely to understand the value they bring to the contact center and overall business and consequently less likely to leave. There are a number of low-cost or free changes managers can put in place today. Here are a few of our favorites:
Make customer service a company-wide priority
This cost-free change takes time and energy but is ultimately worth it – and not just for your contact center! Becoming a customer-centric company must start at the top and be apparent in the decisions your business makes. From the moment you begin recruiting, look for individuals that have a customer-centric mindset. Hire team members who truly care for your customers and recognize those who go above and beyond for them. We recommend measuring customer satisfaction, Net Promoter Score (NPS), and customer effort to gauge how effective these practices are and what changes stem from enforcing a company-wide mindset.
Keep in mind that:
- Many of us rely on our friends and families for product and brand recommendations all the time. If a customer is referred, their lifetime value to a business is actually 16 percent higher – with a greater return-on-investment (ROI) – than others.
- According to a report by Nielsen, 83 percent of customers said they trusted a recommendation from a friend or family member more than traditional advertising. Leading to a higher customer satisfaction rating.
If you’re new to some of these metrics or would like a refresher, have a look at this piece about Net Promoter Score by G2 Crowd, which also goes into some more depth on the above-cited data points: What is Net Promoter Score? An NPS Guide for 2018
Invest in software and systems intended for customer service
Far too often, we meet prospective clients who turn to Sparkcentral for help with more than just their digital messaging platform. They find themselves the victims of legacy systems that promised all-in-one solutions but ended up without much more than basic functionality for customer service specifically. If agents are forced to interact with or work from a system that is complicated, inefficient or requires high effort, they will feel you are more concerned with cost savings than empowering your workforce and increasing customer satisfaction. At Sparkcentral, we prioritize studying how agents can best accomplish their work through streamlined processes in order to reduce effort, improve user experience, and lower agent attrition with the aid of workflow and software.
Shake up the status quo: a Zappos example
When discussing customer-centric brands that consist of a notably content workforce, one must look no further than Zappos. The customer service organization that just happens to sell shoes, clothing, and accessories, is heralded as a leader and often referenced when describing moments of “wow” within the customer service world. Zappos is known for putting all new hires, regardless of job responsibility, through an intensive training program meant to give employees the tools and information they need to serve their customers best. But they don’t stop there!
The team at Zappos also has an internal currency called “Zollars”. Employees earn Zollars for participation in training and by volunteering to help out. They can redeem these Zollars at an internal store. Zappos also provides perks like free parking (a ‘hot’ commodity in downtown Las Vegas) for the “Master of WOW”, a coworker bonus program, and the Zappos HERO award. They are known to consistently have some of the lowest attrition rates at any large contact center. To learn more about those programs and how they improve employee satisfaction and reduce agent attrition, continue reading here.
Invest in messaging-first customer care
When we asked contact center managers about their employee satisfaction, 68% said that their agents who manage digital messaging (including social media) channels have higher levels of employee satisfaction than those who are tasked with providing support on the phone, email, and chat. Happier agents are less likely to leave their contact center positions and are more likely to provide better service. Contact center leaders primarily attributed increased happiness for digital agents to five main factors:
- Digital messaging and social customer care is considered a more prestigious channel to work in and is a job role many agents aspire to have.
- Messaging-first representatives get to engage with customers in positive conversations rather than primarily negative ones, like on other channels.
- Digital care agents get to represent their brand publicly and take a high degree of pride in their work.
- Agents charged with handling messaging channels are part of tightly knit teams in which they can collaborate with others on delivering and maintaining a high standard of customer service.
- With the right software, digital messaging agents can provide high-touch and personalized care across all of a brand’s messaging channels without switching software or channel-based mindsets.
If you knew there was a customer service experience your customers preferred, your agents aspired to manage, and your business saved costs on (from reducing attrition to ensuring first-contact resolution), how long would it take you to begin implementing it?
Conclusion: You can reduce agent attrition and we can help
To sum it up, happy agents lead to happy customers. Unhappy agents lead to customer churn and incur short- and long-term costs. Your agents cannot provide excellent service if they are unhappy, feel unsuccessful, or are disengaged. You are sure to have turnover – voluntary or involuntary – if expectations are not met. This turnover impacts the customer experience and can have extreme ramifications for your brand’s reputation. That’s why we at Sparkcentral are here to help!