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  • Writer's pictureJason Ten-Pow

The cost of high employee turnover in call centers

Updated: Jun 7, 2023


If you work in the contact center industry, you know that agent turnover is par for the course. With the upheaval of the pandemic, including the transition to a work-from-home model, the great resignation of 2022, and the ongoing trend of “quiet quitting”, contact centers are suffering from unprecedented employee turnover.


It’s no wonder that many industry leaders are now considering contact center turnover, alongside first call resolution (FCR) and customer satisfaction (Csat), as their most important KPIs. According to research by SQM, the average contact center agent turnover was 35% in 2021, and 38% in 2022 – and, most shockingly, 2022’s turnover was 58% higher than in 2020.


The biggest barrier to maintaining high Csat and FCR are these rising rates of agent turnover, and as the industry continues to navigate choppy waters post-pandemic, it’s expected that this tide will continue…or worse, rise.


But here at ONR, we believe that with the correct approach, there is always an opportunity to right the ship. Let’s take a closer look at how and why agent turnover has become such a challenge and discuss how churn can be minimized.


What causes agents to quit?

We wish we could report that agent attrition had a primary cause, but the truth of the matter is that churn is often considered as a given because there are so many reasons why agents leave. Often, people take on a role as a contact center agent as a sort of transitional job, while shifting between jobs or industries. New hires are typically entry-level, learning the ropes as they go, so it can be a perfect fit for someone looking for new or immediate employment. But as easy as this kind of work can be picked up, it can be abandoned, and if the job doesn’t offer the workplace culture or the opportunities for advancement that agents are looking for, they will be more inclined to move on.


In the wake of the far-reaching changes brought on by the pandemic, the great resignation has proven that employees are considering not just how their workplace measures up against others, but how their work culture does too. Linear career paths, from agent to supervisor, to program manager, may not offer agents the opportunities that they want to grow their careers or take meaningful advantage of their unique skills and experience. With the majority of employees now preferring a work-from-home or hybrid model, a move back to inflexible schedules or under-supported workplaces can be a deal breaker.


Contact center agents are the first line of contact for customers, often having to deal with their challenges, frustration, and sometimes, abuse. When a contact center’s operation is impacted due to churn, it’s felt by everyone; customers have to wait longer for the solutions they need, and employees have to deal with heavier workloads, disorganization, and crumbling morale.


The high cost of high churn

Let’s cut to the chase: agent attrition can be brutal for your brand’s customer experience and for its bottom line. Tandem with the operational challenges of interviewing, hiring, onboarding and training a new agent, Harvard Business Review researcher Keith Ferrazzi revealed that it now costs between $10,000 - $20,000 to replace a call center agent, an eyewatering number considering that the average contact center agent tenure is just 14.3 months.


Every employee that leaves ends up weakening the chain. Operational efficiency is impacted on a daily basis, leading to more challenges that demand attention, and more frustration as they take longer to be addressed, both for agents and customers. A workplace in constant flux can also impact employees’ sense of security and place; invaluable senior agents, tied up by supporting new team members and struggling management alike, are likely to experience burnout and resentment and may start to look for work elsewhere. Frustrated agents are more likely to be vocal about their workplace reality, and thanks to social media, people take notice; a known or publicized attrition rate might act like a “warning” and discourage other suitable candidates from applying.


The trickle-down of all of these factors? Serious repercussions for your contact center’s customer experience. Consistent agent turnover means new agents are more often connecting with customers, and their lack of experience, product knowledge and brand savvy could undermine their ability to create rapport on the other end of the line, ultimately impacting the customer’s trust in the brand and their continued loyalty.


The secret is to support

Reducing agent attrition starts with building up their success from day one. Agents need to be able to efficiently deal with the challenges of customer service while delivering the kind of experience that strengthens customer relationships with your brand. They need to feel recognized and appreciated for the effort, input and unique personality that they bring to the team, and they want a workplace culture that helps them achieve their goals. To lead this sea change, management needs support too: frameworks that allow managers and supervisors an immediate, accurate view of vital performance and operational metrics, contact center performance, and customer experience. When management has the ability to quickly assess and support agents and customers through challenges, the contact center team is empowered from the top down.


Management can make real-time improvements to CX right when they are needed, determine opportunities for training, recognize and fine-tune an agent’s fit in their current or potential new role, and identify and celebrate top-performing agents. When agents feel that their management team is committed to their ongoing success and well-being, improvements in company morale and customer experience go hand in hand.


BespokeCX gives contact center teams the framework, tools and perspective to deliver better customer experience while supporting stronger workplace culture. By maximizing operational alignment and performance, BespokeCX can help your contact center reduce agent attrition and improve consistency of performance by delivering the kind of customer experience that deepens relationships. Visit www.bespokecx.com to learn more.

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