In the contact centre industry, a lot is made of the importance of technology. ACD’s, Speech Analytics tools, CRM, WFM and Real-Time Automation solutions all figure heavily in everyone’s thinking when people are looking for the best solution for their contact centre. But, in my opinion, there remains another key factor that can make the difference between a good centre and a really great one: The people on the front line.
Those people who have been hired with great care to handle your customer interactions and to represent your brand are still a big differential between you and your competitors. But you already know this – after all you invest in recruiting the right people, putting them through resource-heavy training, providing them with a ‘gradbay’ period so they can hone their skills and give them development opportunities so they can further their career. You also spend time reporting on attrition levels, trends and reasons.
It can be heart-breaking to watch all that investment and skill get up and leave. And it’s expensive. Some leave for the right reasons – they’ve developed as far as they can and have moved on to bigger and better things. But not everybody leaves for such career-affirming reasons.
I’ve been reviewing research on the more common attrition reasons in contact centres in the UK and further afield. Here’s my view on the attrition risks in contact centres and some suggestions on how to manage these risks:
The Grass is Always Greener
Problem – Agents find a role with another company that offers more flexible hours or better working conditions, along with more money and better benefits. The key factor that was repeating in the research, though, was ‘more flexibility’.
Solution – Look at the schedules. Do you offer flexible working hours? Can agents request hours to suit their home life? How easy is it to get flexible working hours in your organisation? Find ways to offer flexibility that is fair and equitable across your organisation.
Inflexibility in work practices
Problem – Agents can feel excessively monitored or stifled by inflexible or unnecessarily complex processes. On top of this, they can feel that their requests for managerial support can go unheeded or answered with ‘That’s just the way it is around here’.
Solution – Of course it is right and proper that agents should be monitored but make sure that you are only monitoring where strictly necessary. Monitor for high performance as well as low performance to make it a positive thing for your staff. Look at your processes too – do agents really need to perform tasks X, Y and Z? Challenge the status quo. It could result in more efficient working practices and save the agents’ time and company money.
Problem – Agents can feel that they are unable to make inputs into their workplace environment – such as influencing goal-setting or KPI’s, or changing the processes they follow.
Solution – Tell agents exactly what they can influence and to what degree, and importantly, make sure they know why the things that can’t be changed can’t be changed. Encourage input on processes; could they be changed to improve the customer and the agent experiences?
Unsociable work hours
Problem – Agents can feel that their shift patterns are unsociable and/or unfair and that they have no influence over them. This can make people feel trapped in a situation or, at the very least, it can promote some negative behaviours.
Solution – If you need agents to work unsociable hours, is it always the same ones? Do you have fair policy to ensure these hours are allocated equitably across the workforce? If not, ensure those bearing more of the load are getting something in return so they don’t feel disadvantaged.
In many companies they often intend to address these issues but somehow they just don’t get to the top of the to-do list. In some cases, I’ll wager, senior management don’t even realise that these issues being experienced by their agents. Changes such as these will help empower your workforce to feel valued and in control of their lives.
Fundamentally, control of attrition in your contact centre is in your own hands. Make sure that you understand the risks that your own working and scheduling practices are placing upon your organisation and act on them. Before your skilled employees go to work for someone who already has.