Most if not all conversations about customer service innovation revolve around technology. Topics like revamping the contact center with software that automates processes, saves money, improves operations or saves time (yes, Sparkcentral does all of these things) are universal, but we tend to overlook another important aspect for customer service excellence – the people behind all this technology. In today’s service climate—we’ve all heard it again and again—customer experience is critical to the success and livelihood of brands. Customer service departments are very valuable to an organization because no other department has as much direct contact with customers, can capture as much relevant customer feedback, or has as much impact on customer sentiment. For these reasons alone, looking at ways to reduce call center turnover is critical. 

So why aren’t we investing more into empowering the agents who are on the frontlines of customer interactions?

After stating the obvious, let’s take a closer look at the reasons behind call center turnover and why agents quit:

Key reasons for call center turnover

1. Lack of training and on-the-job learning

Most of the time, customer service agents are entry-level employees who have little to no experience working in a contact center. Without proper training, agents can easily become overwhelmed by the stress and workload of dealing with unsatisfied customers. To make matters worse, they are also expected to use technology that’s complicated and outdated, not to mention decades apart from the consumer technology these 20-somethings are immersed in on a daily basis.

What can you do?  Think beyond the one and done.  Continual coaching of agents has been proven to lead to better performance outcomes and a reduction in call center turnover.  Make it easy for agents to learn as they go along and give feedback that helps them succeed.    

2. Little to no collaboration among team members

What is the level of interaction between co-workers? Are they able to collaborate or just work in a silo?  This is particularly important if you have a team of remote employees that are working from home. Data shows that people who work together on teams are more happy and productive.

What can you do?  Make it easy for team members to connect and collaborate with one another.  A simple way to do this is through an internal chat tool that enables agents to ask one another questions and management to say hello and provide real-time guidance.  If you have team members that work from remote locations, having this type of functionality becomes even more important.  

3.  Burnout from performing repetitive tasks

Performing the same task day after day, with little room for taking on new challenges, can make agents emotionally and mentally exhausted.  Many contact centers have moved towards strict scripts and rigid adherence to processes in an effort to simplify tasks and achieve consistency in service.  However, the downside of these shifts means that agents get to exercise little to no autonomy or creativity in their work.  The monotony and lack of challenge in the work leads to burnout.  

What can you do? Enable agents to experience working in different capacities (as generalists or specialists) and in different customer service channels (phone, email, chat, social, in-app, etc).  The variety that comes with working in different channels helps them hone their skill sets to adapt to customer needs, and keeps the work exciting and fruitful.  

4. Inconsistencies between expectations and performance measurement

Contact centers have been around a long time and not much has changed when it comes to coaching, metrics and optimization. Yet times and expectations are changing and some managers have succumbed to the trap of setting generic metrics that don’t reflect the true outcomes they want to achieve.

Keeping up with all of these social media interactions is challenging, but it helps to have a clear focus on the metrics that matter to both the customer and the business, such as first response time, time to resolution, customer satisfaction (collected through surveys), and in-channel resolution.

We’ve seen that when companies do this well, they can resolve over 95% of issues through social media, while maintaining customer satisfaction levels above 90%. These metrics are also essential in improving agent performance and retention rates.  Are you able to look at messages sent out by individual agents for training purposes?  Additionally, having concrete data around not just timing and resolution rates, but also customer satisfaction, are essential in driving more targeted performance growth and changes.

What can you do? Management needs to do the hard work of making sure that agents are set up to succeed in delivering full resolution care on the channels they support.  

5. Working with outdated and inefficient technology

Working with cumbersome software that is complicated and non-intuitive diminishes agent productivity, forcing agents to take on additional, time consuming tasks like:

    • searching for messages to respond to instead of being assigned the right conversation based on skill specialty
    • determining the customer’s previous interactions with the company – i.e. asking the customer to repeat themselves on their inquiry
    • toggling back and forth between different tabs and systems to get customer profiles and history.

All of this takes the focus from the customer and puts it on the process, which adds to agent stress and frustration, leading to increased call center turnover.

What can you do? Use tools built to support agent process.  One of the main causes of agent inefficiency when it comes to social customer service comes from teams using a social marketing tool to do customer care. There are diminishing returns with that approach as social volume grows and you have multiple agents responding at the same time. Having a platform or software that assigns messages to the right agent at the right time is essential. In addition, it has to have built in collision control, so the same agents don’t start responding to the same message.  These little things along with smart automations can significantly reduce initial response times.  

Agent satisfaction = reduced costs, less turnover  

So, back to stating the obvious. A strong focus on agent satisfaction and retention not only avoids significant costs, but it is also critical to running an excellent call center operation. Motivated agents that enjoy their work are more likely to increase customer satisfaction and contribute to the achievement of the company’s goals. According to Forrester, this is the Age of the Customer, and companies that don’t invest in the technology and people needed to deliver a consistent and effortless customer experience will find themselves at a disadvantage among those that do. Fact is, agents are the face of your company, so why not employ an awesome team of call center agents who love what they do. The success of your company may depend on it.

Interested in learning more about ways to reduce call center turnover? Be sure to read this post on how to effectively interview and hire a social customer service agent.