Contact Center Attrition: Why Agents Leave

Seeking ways to reduce attrition in your contact center? Look to your supervisors to build employee loyalty and prevent agents from leaving “prematurely.”

But before discussing strategies your supervisors can use to reduce turnover, it’s a good idea to get handle on what’s causing it in the first place. According to a Call Center School survey, there are four main reasons why agents leave:

1) Compensation: Inadequate compensation is a reason often sited in agents’ exit interviews. This is a common factor for contact centers located in highly saturated labor markets, such as Phoenix or Dallas, where competition for qualified agents is high.

Contact centers should do periodic compensation benchmarking studies to ensure their wages are commensurate with the wages of nearby centers for the same type of work, particularly in highly competitive areas.

2) Job fit: Turnover can be reduced significantly by defining and advertising the position accurately and doing proper screening and assessment on the front end to make sure the job is a good choice for the candidate and vice versa.

More effort during the selection phase will pay for itself in improving retention. Part of this screening process will assess whether or not the candidate will be happy with the unique working conditions found in most contact centers: solo work, confined space, repetitive tasks, constant monitoring, and inflexible work schedules.

3) Limited job/career opportunities: If there are no or few possibilities for career growth or opportunities for advancement, good agents aren’t going to stick around. While some organizations have multilevel job ladders with numerous levels of agent positions and multiple career paths to many areas, others are severely limited in growth potential and see high turnover as a result.

In a survey conducted by contactcentercareers.com, 27% of people that had left one contact center job and were looking for another cited lack of promotional opportunities as their primary reason to leave. Redefining job levels and looking for career advancement opportunities within the contact center should be evaluated often.

4) Supervisory problems: Assuming compensation is in a reasonable range and there is at least a reasonable affinity for contact center work, the main reason agents leave the contact center is due to ineffective supervision. For the most part, the adage “people don’t leave companies; they leave leaders” is certainly true in the contact center environment. In the majority of cases, a properly trained supervisor can be the greatest contributor to staff retention — or the primary cause of turnover.

Agents who took the survey cited the following reasons for leaving their contact center positions:

–20% felt they were not recognized for their work
–18% felt bored and unchallenged by the job
–11% felt they did not receive enough training

Although high attrition is often regarded a human resources problem, your contact center supervisors actually have the greatest influence on agent attrition. They work with your agents every day – and build relationships. It is through these relationships that agents come to get what they want and need out of their jobs.

Next week we’ll take a look at some strategies your contact center supervisors can use to improve employee retention.

Penny Reynolds is a founding partner of The Contact Center School, a Nashville, TN-based consulting and education company.

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