They’re calling it the “Great Resignation”, a new wave that, since the pandemic, has seen more employees considering switching jobs or even changing careers altogether.
For many, Covid-19 proved a watershed moment. Lockdown gave them time to re-evaluate their lives and – in some cases – they came to the conclusion that where they are right now isn’t really where they want to be.
The result is that, according to one recent study, almost a quarter of employees are actively planning to change jobs in the next few months. Randstad UK, the recruitment firm behind the research, said it is now advising scores of businesses on the best ways to keep their top talent from jumping ship.
It’s fair to say that the contact centre sector has always had a problem with retaining staff, with the most alarming estimates putting contact centre churn at somewhere between 30 and 45%. Add in the effects of the Great Resignation and your HR team could be facing a serious staffing crisis.
The five step guide to reducing contact centre churn
In these circumstances, it’s more important than ever to give yourself the best chance of hanging on to your most reliable, experienced agents. Good agents are one of your most valuable assets, and they take a significant outlay in time and money to replace.
With that in mind, here’s our five step guide to reducing contact centre churn:
1) Watch out for red flags
The pandemic has been tough for everyone. Employees have had to switch to remote working, and many of them may still be working from home. Some of them will have found the transition difficult, due to personal circumstances or an inability to separate work time and relaxation.
Team leaders need to be on the lookout for signs of burnout. Has a previously engaged agent become withdrawn? Has she stopped asking questions and being curious? Has she stepped back from taking an active part in team meetings and training sessions?
Spotting the signs of disengagement can be harder when teams are working from home, but it’s not impossible. Use video calls for regular one-to-one meetings and instant messaging for quick, impromptu check-ins. Often, agents only want to vent about a rude customer, or feel reassured their efforts aren’t going unnoticed. As ever, communication is key. Try to offer opportunities for staff to socialise, either virtually or in person. Close teams often support struggling members through difficult times.
2) Focus on continuous learning
Staff want to be appreciated. They also want to be good at their jobs. The lowest flight risks are those who are confident in what they do, feel part of a successful team and meet their targets. It’s up to you to give them the knowledge they need to feel productive and valuable.
That starts with an onboarding process that properly equips new agents with the information they need to be successful, rather than forcing them onto the front line too quickly. A comprehensive, curated mentoring and training programme for new starters is a must for busy contact centres.
After that, it’s about giving agents opportunities to increase their knowledge and learn new things. A programme of regular training achieves two goals. It helps staff to be more successful, and it shows them that you take their career progression seriously. In an uncertain world, skills are an employee’s insurance against obsolescence. Help agents attain new levels of competence and they won’t feel the need to find them elsewhere.
3) Give agents the tools they need
As we’ve said, agents want to be good at their jobs. When they are, they’re better rewarded, less stressed, and by extension less likely to want to leave. Good agents have the skills they need to be successful, and they also have the tools.
Specifically, agents want tools that take the grind out of contact centre work, such as omnichannel communications and intelligent scripting. They want to get to the right customers at the right time in the right way, with all the information they need to create positive outcomes.
On that last point, a McKinsey study found that 52% of agents felt they didn’t have the right information to properly help customers, leading to frustration. At the very least, your contact centre software should integrate with your CRM solution so that agents always have up-to-date customer information at their fingertips.
4) Supercharge their motivation
Being a contact centre agent can be tough. Customers can sometimes be angry, frustrated or uncooperative. On some days, good outcomes can be hard to come by. In which case, motivation through incentives and rewards can help lighten the mood.
Incentives don’t need to be expensive or sophisticated, but they should be personal. A ‘thank-you’ note left on a monitor screen can mean a lot to an employee lacking motivation, and a plaque celebrating “team of the week” or “best weekly call” can be fun ways to make agents feel noticed.
Gifts can also be great motivators, but again, make them personal. Get to know your team so you know whether chocolates, plants or Amazon vouchers are the best fit for a particular agent. For major achievements, would a Fitbit be better appreciated or would they prefer a Netflix subscription?
Spread the rewards widely, and make sure everyone has a chance to work towards them. By all means reward simple sales success, but don’t forget agents who go above and beyond to solve a customer issue, or those who ace a training module, or those who show the biggest improvement month on month.
5) Offer a career path
A good agent wants to know that loyalty will be rewarded with advancement. According to McKinsey, promotional opportunities account for 14% of an employee’s overall satisfaction levels.
Make sure every agent knows how far ahead the next step on the career ladder might be, and what they need to do to reach it. That might be achieving better monthly figures, taking extra training or just making gradual improvements over time, but whatever it is the path needs to be clear. If an agent can see a route to greater responsibility and better rewards, they’ll be more likely to stay with your company. If they feel trapped at their current level, they’ll be more likely to leave.
Of course, some agents may show little interest in promotion, suggesting they regard the position as a stopgap until something else comes up. That’s fine, as long as they do the job satisfactorily. But focus more time and resources on those agents that clearly see a future with your business.
Agent churn is likely to remain a challenge for your contact centre, and may become more of an issue in a post-pandemic era when many of us are re-evaluating our priorities. But look after good agents and offer them a clear career path, provide regular upskilling opportunities and a well-considered package of rewards, and you can avoid your staffing challenge becoming a full-blown crisis.