Article : Train to Retain
"Helping you do something new"
Call centres are returning to the UK and are one of the key elements to growth in the economy. Finding and retaining good staff is the difference between success and failure and yet the industry has the worst attrition rates in the UK.
How can call centre operators improve their staff retention and increase productivity? This is the question that we set out to answer in this article.
Call Centre Staff Retention & Productivity
In today’s painful economic situation the need to retain top-performing staff has never been more important. Shockingly the Call Centre / Contact Centre industry has one of the highest attrition rates in the UK with 50.9% staff turnover compared with a UK average of 16.1% (Source: CIPD).
The industry continues to grow, with many companies pulling their call centres back from offshore to the UK. Therefore, the staff retention problem continues to grow.
There is no silver bullet that will allow you to retain your best call centre staff or increase the productivity of your lower-percentile performers; but there are some simple steps that you can take which will lead to dramatic overall improvements.
The Power Of One
One powerful methodology is the ‘Power of One’ which looks at your top 6 KPIs and focuses on delivering a 1% improvement in each of them. Consider, for example, an organisation that succeeds in:
Increasing staff productivity by 1%
Increasing sales conversions by 1%
Increasing customer satisfaction by 1%
Reducing staff attrition by 1%
Increasing cross-sales by 1%
Increasing transactions per hour by 1%
The compound effect of these seemingly minor changes will be significant, in fact the cumulative effect can be as high as 52%. A single Carphone Warehouse business unit, for example, experienced a £9.5m increase in contribution to profit thanks to its adoption of a ‘Power of One’ performance improvement strategy.
The Power Of One for the Call Centre industry
An engaging training strategy will achieve dramatic results in all six of the above KPIs as applied to a call centre business:
Increasing staff productivity
Three factors directly contribute to the productivity of call centre agents:
Technology. Is the technology allowing staff to deliver at their potential?
Soft skills. Do the agents have the soft skills to maximise every opportunity?
Motivation. Are the agents motivated to succeed?
Increasing sales conversions
Increasing sales conversions is more an art than a science; however two key elements can support an improvement in this area:
Role modelling of successful staff.
Improved training to build sales skills.
Increasing customer satisfaction
The current levels of customer satisfaction (statistics blended across inbound and outbound call centres) show that the benchmark is set fairly low in this area, at 68% according to the Global Contact Centre Report. This suggests there is ample room for a successful call centre operation to look to differentiate here. But how?
Measure, monitor and manage the levels of customer satisfaction.
Tailor training around the problems that you uncover.
Reducing staff attrition
This is one of the easiest areas to measure within the business and one of the most harmful if not managed correctly. As we mentioned earlier, the rate of attrition in call centres in the UK runs at over 50% and, using the Talent Drain retention calculator, the annual cost to a business of 100 employees would be over £214,000 and for a large business of 1,000 employees would be just over £3.8m. Realistically, a 1% improvement here is eminently feasible and the implementation of a basic 4 stage plan should deliver significantly more:
Recruit. "It is difficult for employers to retain good employees if they do not have a strategy to hire the right people in the first place"
Induct. "If we can get staff up to speed quicker, there is a net benefit to the whole organisation"
Train/Motivate/Engage. "A program which involves the agent and allows them to participate online and offline reaps huge benefits"
Reward. "Salaries, commissions and career opportunities are the decisive factors for both front-line and management staff"
Increasing cross selling
In order to ensure that all staff are taking every opportunity to cross-sell your products and services, you need to ensure that everyone from the CEO to the postroom clerk has a clear understanding of each product and how to position it. This does not happen by accident.
Training, training, training. Only training which takes every CSA out of the comfort zone of their individual operations and uses an engaging experience to immerse them in the company’s sales culture will lead to enthusiastic ambassadors for sales.
Allowing your staff to process transactions more swiftly without having a negative impact on the customer experience will drive an improvement to the sales line. Two areas must align to enable the agents to achieve this:
Technology. The systems and processes need to be in place to streamline the ordering process.
Agent Skills. Agents need to be able to shepherd the caller through the transactional process without being pushy or losing empathy.
Resolving the training challenge
The high rate of employee attrition in the contact centre business means that it is one of the industries in which formal provision of training is most deeply embedded. Yet most call centre operators are failing to use training effectively beyond the induction process to drive ‘Power of One’ style performance improvements. This is as much the fault of training providers - here we are going to look specifically at how training can have a measurable impact on outcomes and why it so often fails.
Skills training, in many sectors, has become far too cosy an industry with a few known players trotting out the same courses and tools that they have been delivering for the past 3 years or more. A training "comfort zone" leads to:
- Box-ticking: when training is driven by policy rather than outcome, it becomes a box-ticking exercise – so long as staff have worked through a process, the job is deemed to be done.
- CPD on autopilot: many professional disciplines require ongoing development training as a non-negotiable to maintain qualification and the right to practice. That’s all very well, but because these training courses are mandatory, there is no incentive to make them genuinely engaging.
- Training at the top, nothing for the masses: perhaps most destructive of all is the fact that most training is only engaging for a thin layer of top and line management – people whose energies are already invested in a company and its objectives. There is a signal failure to produce engaging, entertaining and nurturing training materials which change behaviours where it matters most: the engine room of a call centre, its ground-level workforce.
If training is to justify its budgets and translate not only into measurable outcomes, but also outcomes which visibly affect productivity and operational efficiency, HR managers have every right to demand more from their training providers. Here’s a checklist. Demand that your training offering is:
- Engaging: we can’t do much better than Lord Reith’s original specification of the BBC way back in the 1920s, when he wisely pronounced that the Corporation should "educate, inform and entertain". Today, that means training which is media-rich, using video, audio, quizzes, demos and walk-throughs. If staff enjoy the learning experience, they’ll absorb the knowledge.
- Respectfully professional: employees don’t need to feel like they are back in school. It’s entirely possible to remain credible without being stodgy.
- Accessible and relevant to all: training platforms should allow a degree of customisation, personalisation and granularity so that everyone from the postroom clerk up to the CEO receives a learning journey which precisely meets their needs and aspirations.
- Instinctive: the days of multiple logins and clunky interfaces to online training platforms must be gone. Online learning should be natural and intuitive, even for those with low computer literacy.
- Ongoing and durable: one-off training yields results for a matter of weeks at best. Effective training systems engage employees in an ongoing pursuit of excellence – which translates into their daily operations.
- Measurable: the outputs from training need to be agreed before it is commissioned; they should link directly to your KPIs, and they should form the basis of a bespoke development. Off-the-shelf training will only ever yield off-the-shelf results!
‘Employee engagement’ has become an HR ‘buzzword’ but it is more than this – it should be rooted in a central set of values and purpose that drives the organisation.Andy Bond, Chairman of Asda, agrees, "Employee engagement has a very hard commercial edge to it. The simple rule is, if you’ve got people engaged in your company, they’ll serve people well and be more productive. Communication is hugely important in achieving this. Asda is a company with 170,000 people, and everyone needs to understand where we’re going and their role in it... and you can only engage people by great communication. Engagement is up there as one of the biggest priorities for a successful business."
If you can provide training that engages your staff at every level and delivers not only information and skills but also inculcates each employee with your brand, vision and values then this can have a measurable effect across all of the KPIs discussed above. If all parties – from front-line agents on the phones to board-level directors - align and sign up to delivering against these formal KPIs, even a shift of just 1% greatly improves profitability.
About Ed Stonestreet:
Ed has over 12 years of experience in running technology based companies, from start ups to large listed corporate companies. His areas of expertise include building and running successful sales teams in both the direct and indirect model; delivering operational strategies to improve financial performance; providing strong and consistent leadership through periods of change and flux; providing training and mentoring for large diverse employee bases.
About Yoodoo Media:
Yoodoo are a company who provide a means of engaging broad and diverse audiences, whether they be staff, customers, partners or the citizenship at large. We are content agnostic, our primary focus is on ensuring that the message is delivered and absorbed. Yoodoo was set up to solve a major problem; how to change behaviours in large, diverse and less engaged audiences. We find that on average only 20% of any given audience will make an effort to find and understand key information; the other 80% tend to be passive or indifferent unless engaged in a way that makes it relevant and interesting.
Published: Tuesday, December 7, 2010