A 3-Pronged Approach to Contact Center Agent Retention

Nov 16, 2012 8:15 PM  By

Agent turnover is an inherent problem for contact centers and replacing agents is a major cost consideration. Recruiting and training costs can significantly impact a company’s bottom-line profit margin.

Experts agree that employee satisfaction contributes to agent retention. While agent retention will continue to be an issue for contact centers, implementation of proven strategies can reduce high turnover rates and increase agent satisfaction.

The value of contact center agents is indisputable; how to best retain your investment in them is more complex. Experts offer suggestions that range from an agent recognition and awards program to soliciting their participation in community service projects. While these suggestions may solve short-term problems, a long-term solution is needed to create loyalty and job satisfaction.

Here are three approaches you can take to help with contact center agent retention issues.

Use at-home agents
The use of at-home agents provides an attractive alternative to traditional brick and mortar models and offers agents more flexibility and autonomy which translates to lower turnover rates. At-home agent industry leader Michelle Rowan states turnover is generally 35% to 50% lower for at-home agents versus in-house.

While this is encouraging news for companies, not all agents fit into the at-home model. Contact centers need to utilize all available options for ensuring agents are not unnecessarily lured away to another center. The at-home agent model offers more than just improved agent retention. Additional benefits include lower contact center costs and improved customer service.

Companies experience bottom line savings through reduced contact center operating costs. Reduced operating costs associated with at-home agents include lower starting wages and reduced benefits, less need for brick and mortar facilities and support staff, increased labor pool with flexible scheduling options, and reduced training costs associated with increased agent retention. Additional cost savings are found with part-time agents who receive reduced benefit packages required for full-time employees.

Many companies are implementing the at-home agent model for purposes of improving customer service and increasing customer loyalty, as well as increasing retention through improved agent satisfaction. The At-Home Agent Model accomplishes these objectives.

Keep agents informed
Keeping agents informed is a good strategy for improving morale and conveying their importance to the company. Knowledge is power and agents who are kept informed regarding daily schedules, schedule changes, and adherence information are better equipped to perform their duties. Communication is critical in any organization. Tools that improve communication between supervisors and agents while reducing administrative burdens results in improved efficiency and productivity.

Sophisticated workforce management software offers real-time agent dashboards and notification tools that reduce administrative overhead and empower agents to perform many routine schedule related tasks while eliminating costly paperbound schedule distribution methods.

Creating a paperless environment frees supervisors from printing and distributing schedules or manually notifying hundreds of agents of schedule changes. Agents have easy access to important information in real-time.

There are also numerous message delivery options, including immediate, queued, scheduled, recurring, automated, and expiring. When agents know they will receive important information through one of the described methods, or they have immediate access on their desktop, it is easier to focus on customer service levels without worrying about administrative issues.

Flexible scheduling options
Do-it-yourself scheduling offers flexibility to agents and gives more control over life-work balance. An agent scheduling system should enable agents to view their work schedules, request modifications or vacations, sign-up for overtime, exchange schedules with other agents and report absences over the corporate network or the Internet through a Web browser.

A do-it-yourself agent schedule viewing and modification system dramatically reduces schedule-related overhead for contact centers and frees supervisors of the need to print and distribute agent work schedules. The system eliminates hours of administrative phone calls every week and increases agent satisfaction by giving them control over routine scheduling tasks.

Bob Webb is vice president of sales at workforce management software provider Pipkins.