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Turnover Rates


May 01, 2002

I'm looking for information on industry turnover rates for call center agents. Can you provide me with this info? -- Mickie O'Donnell

If you're interested in industry standards, make sure you check out Brad Cleveland and Ted Hopton's article on the subject: "Industry Standards Cannot Replace Sound Decisions."


  • Posted at 12:00AM on Jun 1, 2002

    Your turnover numbers tell an important story, so it's important to use the right approach to measure turnover in your center. To measure turnover accurately, calculate an annualized turnover rate. This annualized figure provides a consistent basis for comparison and trending. The calculation is as follows:

    Turnover = (# of agents exiting the job / avg. actual # of agents during the period) x (12 / # mos. in period)

    The average number of agents on staff during the month is often calculated by taking the average counts at the end of each week of the month. Alternatively, an average can be taken of the trained staff count at the beginning and end of the month.

    While this overall turnover rate is a useful number and a good starting point, break down the number further into internal (i.e., leave the call center to move into another department) and external (i.e., leave the organization entirely) turnover and voluntary (quit) and involuntary (fired or laid off) categories. Another useful breakdown would delve into turnover for 1st, 2nd or 3rd shift workers or full-time versus part-time employees.

    These breakdowns will provide the call center manager with more detailed, meaningful data to use in formulating an action plan to address the root causes of turnover. For example, a call center with 50% turnover may find that 40% of that turnover is contained within the 3rd shift team. This points the call center manager toward the true source of the problem (3rd shift) to focus his efforts toward uncovering problems or issues that may be contributing to turnover on that shift.

    In a recent ICMI study, 38% of respondents reported a 1-10% internal turnover rate per year, 23% reported between 11- 20% and 11% said theirs was between 21-30%. As for external turnover rates, 42% of call centers reported between 1-10% per year; 13% had an external attrition between 11-20% and 16% of respondents said theirs was as high as 21-30%.

    For further breakdown by industry, refer to the ICMI Agent Staffing and Retention Study II: Final Report.

  • Posted at 12:00AM on Jun 1, 2002

    I have used several different methods but my preferred approach is a rolling, annualized turnover rate. At the end of each week of the month I look at my staffing numbers and average those numbers for a monthly average. I then total the attrition number for the month as well. I track this monthly on a rolling 12 month period (current 12 months). Dividing the total turnover number by the average number of monthly staff and, factoring that number with the number of months you are tracking, will provide the annualized turnover rate. I track turnover weekly, monthly and annually but I always compute it annualized. For instance, if my total turnover for the 3-month period of Jan-Mar is 10, and average monthly staff is 100, then my annualized turnover is 40% (10 / 100) X (12 / 3). Many use another method of simply looking at a month alone, dividing their turnover by their staff numbers at the end of the month, and multiplying by 12. Although that calculation will get you close, it will always be higher than your true annualized turnover rate.

    Please remind your leadership team that analyzing turnover is more than just reviewing numbers. Track the type of turnover. Consider categorizing turnover by supervisor, or internal/external, voluntary/involuntary, length of employment, etc. Also, instead of comparing your turnover with the industry, also compare it against your market and demographics. You may find that a ten percent annualized turnover in one market or industry may not be as spectacular as compared to another. Meaning, 10 percent may be fine compared to the entire call/contact center world but, if the call center across the street or one on the other side of the state is at 5 percent, you may view your results differently. -- Robert Mitchell

  • Posted at 12:00AM on Jun 1, 2002

    Our firm uses (Total number of agents leaving the call center) / (Total number of agents at the beginning of the period). Usually, the time period is one year. Also, total number of agents leaving includes voluntary, involuntary and internally transferred agents. However, there are times when you may want to back out transferred and/or terminated agents.

    Hope this information is helpful. -- Rebecca Oettinger, The Segal Company

  • Posted at 12:00AM on Jul 1, 2002

    At Pacific Gas & Electric Company's Call Centers, in 2001 we experienced a 31.4% attrition and our trend for 2002 is at 40%. This data is based on employees moving out of the centers, not from one shift to another within the center or from center to center. It is only based on those employees leaving the job as a result of termination, resignation or transfer to another job. -- John Cuneo

  • Posted at 12:00AM on Jul 1, 2002

    ICMI's Agent Staffing and Retention Study which includes results from 186 call centers across all industry sectors, suggested the following:

    • Internal Turnover (defined as staff going to another department within own organisation) rates ranged from zero to 95%.
    • External Turnover (defined as going to another organisation) rates ranged from zero to 86%.

    Across all industries, less than 38% of those participating in the survey reported a 1 to 10% annual internal turnover rate. 23% reported between 11 and 20% and 11% reported between 21 and 30% internal turnover. 42% reported an external turnover rate of 1-10%, 13% lost between 11 and 20% staff externally and 16% had rates of external turnover between 21 and 30%.

    The results from ICMI's survey are borne out by other research such as that undertaken by supportindustry.com, based on a survey of 550 executives which reports that 45.7% of companies enjoy a staff turnover rate between 0 - 9%, 27.7% run between 10 - 19%, and 17% struggle with attrition rates of 20 - 29%.

    Hope this helps . . .

  • Posted at 12:00AM on Jul 1, 2002

    Here are a couple of statistics from "formal" and "informal" surveys of call/contact centers.

    The first is from a poll conducted right on our QueueTips page, so the responses were from folks like yourself in the industry. The results of that poll were as follows: 27% of call centers report staff turnover rates of between 21 and 35 percent in 2001. However, 58% of respondents claimed turnover rates of 20 percent and below – 20% reported a low zero to 5% turnover; 21% said their turnover ranged between 6% and 10%; and 17% said annual turnover averaged 11% to 20%.

    The second set of results come from a "formal" survey conducted by ICMI in 2000, entitled The Agent Staffing and Retention Study Final Report. The results of the survey indicate, (as does my own experience managing call centers and consulting with call centers) that turnover in call centers across the country ranges from minimal (3% or less) to 100%+ in some industries. The study also revealed that 34% of the respondents said that the average length of employment for their full-time agents was 2 years, while 27% said fulltime agents stayed for only six months to a year. Approximately 15% of respondents kept their agents for an average of three years, while 12% claimed a 4-year retention rate.

    There are a number of other studies out there. Another site you can visit is www.benchmarkportal.com. They list lots of statistics there as well.

    However, I also need to add that while it is always valuable to look at other industries and see what "their metrics" are, in this case turnover, there is no one objective number that a center should target for turnover. Instead, what centers can and should do is target a number that is realistic for their center (looking at historical trends, current economic situation, etc.) and challenging at the same time. The real focus should be on the hiring process. This is where it all begins (and sometimes ends). Our efforts should be driven towards ensuring our hiring processes are designed to recruit and hire employees who "fit" with the job, the company's culture and the specific call center practices so that when we do hire someone they will want to stay . . . and that wanting to stay then must continually be focused on, by creating and reviewing the call center employment policies, culture, recognition, training, management, compensation and any other aspects of the company that an employee would be touched by. This switches the focus from turnover to retention, which ultimately is the goal.

    Hope that helps!

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