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Breaking Up is Hard to Do (But Shouldn't Be)

In my early 20’s I dated a young lady we will call “C”.  “C” and I were together for a few years and actually thought about hanging in for the long haul.  But something just didn’t seem right.  I said right, she said left.  My up was her down.  If I was in the mood for pizza, she wanted Chinese. We just didn’t fit together.  Eventually, she broke up with me…and I was actually relieved.  She was a good person and I wished her well. She just wasn’t good for me.

We all have break up stories, some better than others, and we’ve all had our reasons.  Now think about your contact center.  People come and people go – that’s called attrition. For better or for worse, and for various reasons, no one stays in your contact center forever.  There are costs and benefits; some may call it “addition by subtraction.”  The key is to manage the attrition, and when you can, use it to your advantage.

For the most part, good and bad attrition can be broken up into two categories:

1. Growing Apart – As with any relationship, sometimes one or both people grow apart and realize needs are no longer being met.  You become incompatible.  The work world is the same.  Perhaps the demands of the position change, or a representative or supervisor just wants more than their position can give.  This means it’s time for the journey together to end.  It’s not that either of you are bad people; you’re just not good together.  This is good attrition.

Growing apart is not a bad thing.  In fact, it can be very good if you can identify it early on.  Growth is positive for everyone involved.  It helps to build skill sets and to give others opportunities.  There will be some short term pain with the changes because someone new has to fill a void and responsibilities may have to be divided amongst those that are left, but long term, it’s better for everyone involved. 

type of attrition can actually be a positive, allowing the contact center to reap rewards.  Everyone wants to grow and develop; everyone wants to succeed. If your center builds s a reputation for shaping people to be future leaders and pointing their career path in a positive direction, you will be able to choose from the best and brightest applicants because everyone will want to work in your center.  That not just good attrition, that’s a benefit of great attrition.

2. “Get Out” – when you hear or utter the words “get out”, it’s usually not a good thing.  This is bad attrition and usually involves breaking a few rules or going against a set of core values that can’t be forgiven.  You’re tired of looking at that person, much less spending time with them, and they have to go.  However when bad attrition comes around, you usually have no one to blame but yourself. 

The signs are usually there, but you chose to ignore them.  In relationships, your significant other seems distant, always keeps their phone on vibrate, or always goes into another room to talk on the phone.  This kind of a relationship is going nowhere fast.

It’s the same concept in the contact center, but it usually involves negative attitudes and behaviors.  For example, if a new hire representative shows up late for the first two days of training and throughout their probationary period, they’re not going to change their ways once you give them a permanent position, higher pay, and benefits.  In fact, they will probably get worse.

“Get Out” can have very negative impacts, especially if you let the relationship linger.  You will spend a lot of time trying to fit a square peg into a round hole when you could have been building up the rest of your team.   All of the energy you spent on someone who can’t, or worse, doesn’t appreciate their position will be wasted.

But there can be even greater costs. If you tolerate negative behavior and the rest of your staff doesn’t see you doing anything about it, it will spread throughout the contact center.  It will be seen as tolerable or even acceptable.  Can you afford to have all of your staff coming into work 15 minutes late? Telling someone to leave too late is bad, but not as bad as inviting them to stay.

Breaking up can be hard to do, but maintaining a bad relationship is even harder.  Know the differences between good and bad attrition and you’ll be able to see the benefits of knowing (and acting) when a relationship has run its course. 

Do you have experience dealing with positive or negative attrition? Share your comments below.