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Agent Retention--Employee Satisfaction Breeds Customer Satisfaction

Living in the customer experience space, we’ve all heard the customer churn statistics – depending on industry, it can cost roughly 25 times more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing customer.

But what if I told you that the same – or even worse! – could be said for your employee churn?

While turnover rates vary from one contact center to the next, on average contact centers tend to see turnover rates as high as 30-45 percent. And all that turn-over is expensive! According to studies, employee turnover costs an organization at least 25-30 percent of the benefits and salary for the vacated position.

Employee Satisfaction

So while technology investments are absolutely critical to retaining and attracting customers, investment in the contact center’s biggest and most expensive resource – human capital – is equally as important to your bottom line. While there is no easy formula for agent retention, there are some important facets and actions to consider.

Understand why agents are leaving

It’s safe to say that most agents assume their roles with an intention to stay with the organization. A 2016 study found that 74 percent of current CSRs view their jobs as a long-term career opportunity. However, somewhere between the agent’s first and last day in the contact center, “something” happens – or maybe doesn’t happen – that triggers the agent to look for opportunity elsewhere.

It may seem obvious, but before you can put measures in place to retain your agents, you first have to understand WHY they’re leaving. If your organization isn’t conducting exit interviews with departing employees today, you should adopt this practice immediately. Once you gather ongoing insight into why employees are hitting the road, use that insight to make some meaningful changes within your organization to try to plug your employee leak.

Additionally, periodic employee engagement surveys provide you with insight related to employee motivation, your leadership’s effectiveness, and overall job satisfaction that you can use to guide changes to prevent additional employees from leaving.

Foster career growth

While some agents view customer service as their long-term calling, others view it is a front-line stepping-stone to other career goals. It is important that your agents have a clear understanding of possible career paths within your organization. Make sure your managers are having a frequent and open dialogue with agents related to their interests and growth goals, and provide agents with cross-functional opportunities and exposure to other departments. As development goals, some contact centers encourage their agents to spend time shadowing other functions. This not only promotes greater cross-functional collaboration and understanding, but also helps agents understand which other positions within the organization they may be interested in pursuing in the future.

You could even take it a step further. A simple, yet productive practice is to require employees to select which internal positions they are interested in as part of the quarterly or annual review process. Employees are encouraged to think beyond their current roles, and can select anything from a team lead within their own department, all the way up to the CEO! Follow-up discussions with their managers provide an organic mentoring strategy, where together they can work out a short and long-term plan to get that employee to their next dream role.

If your organization has a formal succession planning process, ensure that your agents are included and considered in that exercise. Too often, organizations overlook the rich pool of talent in their contact center during succession planning, doing both the organization and their agents a disservice. When agents know there are growth opportunities within the organization, they are less likely to seek out “bigger and better” opportunities elsewhere. You’ve already invested so many resources into onboarding and training – so fight to keep your employees within the organization, albeit in a different role.

Develop a culture of retention

We’ve all seen it happen – one agent jumps ship, followed by another, and then more and more agents start to wonder whether the grass is really greener on the other side. Proactively weaving retention as a characteristic of your contact center culture helps mitigate and counteract this potential domino effect. Some characteristics of a retention-oriented culture include:

  • Focusing on career growth starting in New Hire Orientation
  • Cultivating an environment of transparency
  • Openly celebrating and awarding work anniversaries and internal promotions (something my company, inContact, does really well!)
  • Making 360-degree coaching the norm, so employees feel safe providing candid feedback to their managers when they are feeling dissatisfied
  • Creating a collaborative team environment

Appreciate your agents

Being a contact center agent is often a thankless job. Especially considering roughly 30 percent of agents spend an hour or more with unhappy or rude customers per day! For that reason, it is your organization’s responsibility to make sure agents know their time and dedication to your customers is appreciated. Some ways to communicate this appreciate include:

  • Employee recognition – think formal and informal!
  • Gamification and performance incentives
  • Attainable opportunities for pay or merit increases
  • Robust benefits and paid time off
  • Internal networks promoting wellness, community, diversity & inclusion, and fun initiatives

People spend more time at work than anywhere else, and we don’t want to spend our lives somewhere that makes us unhappy. The concept of employee retention is straightforward – when employees are engaged, challenged, and appreciated, they stay with an organization. But while the concept is easy, turnover rates prove that the execution is incredibly difficult. However, spend the time and resources to retain your employees and you will experience significant operational and savings benefits!