You take a chance on an employee, invest money to bring them up to speed, give them hours of your time and watch them transform into a skilled worker. After a few months, the employee in question cleans out their desk and heads toward a new opportunity. Sound familiar? If so, you probably either have experience managing call center agents or you are one.
Deloitte Consulting’s study on contact centers found that large call centers with more than 500 agents experience turnover rates of 50 percent or higher annually. The cycle of call rep churn is vicious. The industry’s employee turnover rates doubles the average for all other U.S. occupations. This isn’t just an inconvenience, either. Not only is it costly for organizations to continuously hire and train new agents, it can result in negative customer experiences, and then, you guessed it, customer churn.
The nature of the customer call agent job is tough. On a daily basis, they face irritated and emotional customers, high call volumes and situations where it is impossible to please the customer. When the phone lines are busy, taking a break is out of the question for hardworking agents. On top of it all, the majority of call center reps are entry-level workers with salaries to match.
Turnover can even fuel a toxic work culture, further propelling the seemingly endless employee churn cycle.
While those aspects might be out of a company’s control, there is plenty an organization can do to start taking the right steps to maintaining a happier workforce.
1. Hire agents who will succeed
Evaluate your hiring process and examine which qualities make for an outstanding agent. Although you must spend extra time in the recruiting process to ensure you secure the right fit, it pays off in the long haul. According to Tethr’s Chief Product & Research Officer Matt Dixon’s Harvard Business review article, there are seven types of reps. Which type are you hiring? Which type should you be hiring? If your answers on those questions aren’t the same, you have reached an excellent starting point.
2. Train your agents so they will succeed
Nothing sets up a new hire for failure like a manager who drops their rep in a booth and leaves them to fend for themselves. Even if they have previous call center experience, you must prepare them for the unique obstacles of your particular business. The entire customer experience can suffer when callers try to work with agents who haven’t had enough training to resolve more complex issues, resulting in the agents demonstrating powerless to help behaviors. Powerless to help behavior not only yields in customer disloyalty, it results in expensive and tedious escalations.
Don’t skimp out on educational programs to provide support for those that need it. Training should be modified to fit each agent’s unique needs. That’s the difference between being a manager and being a coach. Using listening enterprise software like Tethr, you can offer each rep a personalized training program based on actionable insight from their calls.
3. Be clear on objectives
Your company has a unique way to benchmark performance (we hope). These markers shouldn’t be secret. Agents need to hear what is expected of them so they can excel. Successful reps are much less likely to be unsatisfied with their jobs. If you don’t set the stage for what kind of milestones you want your team to reach, how can you expect them to meet or exceed expectations?
4. Recognize results
Celebrate big wins. As a species, humans tend to want to be recognized for their achievements. When managers stop acknowledging hard work, employees start looking for positions where they will be appreciated for their effort and accomplishments.
5. Stagnant roles aren’t interesting
Figure out what kind of performance results warrant a promotion and what that promotion might look like. It’s important to be an organization that retains employees by giving them opportunities to advance in their roles. When the agent reaches the standards set, be sure not to forget to follow through on the terms you promised. Whether or not you remember, they absolutely will.
6. Give agents valuable tools
Provide reps with the call center software they need to excel. Tethr’s technology works to combine what’s going on in real time with historical data for context to lead your agent to the best practices. Automatically surface impactful coaching opportunities to help your reps reach their goals. Zero in on issues right when they happen and coach on-the-spot.
7. Feedback is king
If your agent isn’t sure where they stand on performance, it isn’t their fault, it’s yours. Coaching is a continuous and active process. Managers should model behavior, provide timely feedback specific in language and tailored to the individual, while helping to improve the agent’s ability to drive positive customer outcomes. Tethr’s technology leaves no room for guessing. By analyzing 100 percent of phone calls, agents and managers can work together to pinpoint exactly where improvements need to be made, and where agents are excelling.