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What are the most effective Retention Strategies to fight agent turnover in an inbound and outbound call center?

What are the most effective Retention Strategies to fight agent turnover in an inbound and outbound call center?

8/24/2008
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Question
What are the most effective Retention Strategies to fight agent turnover in an inbound and outbound call center?

Answer

Agents have one of the hardest and most important jobs in an enterprise — satisfying customers, who are not always known for being pleasant or patient. Unfortunately, agents often perceive that their role is not appreciated or respected. Contact center managers need to create a supportive working environment that continuously communicates a positive message to agents.

Respect, recognition and rewards are three fundamental components in motivating and retaining agents and building job satisfaction. Here are some best practices for managing agent attrition:

  1. Let agent candidates know what they’re signing up for – Provide candidates with full disclosure about the job, working environment and specific job information, such as non-traditional work schedules, shift requirements, weekend and/or holiday requirements, scheduled lunches and breaks, training requirements etc. Give candidates an opportunity to listen to simulated calls and experience the working environment.
  2. Coach agents frequently and on a consistent and timely basis – Agents really appreciate receiving individual attention from managers, to learn what they are doing well and targeting areas where they can improve. Coaching also demonstrates that both the supervisor and the company are deeply committed to supporting agents and lets them know that their contributions are an integral part of the call center’s and company’s success.
  3. Listen to your agents – Incorporate the “voice of the agent” into every contact center initiative. Agents know first-hand which processes work and which ones don’t. Involve agents in departmental decision-making and encourage them to share suggestions. Establish an employee satisfaction survey. Be prepared to implement action plans to address areas of employee dissatisfaction and communicate any changes to the staff.
  4. Recognize early warning signs of agent dissatisfaction – Excessive absences/lateness or a drop in agent performance metrics are often early warning signs of a motivation problem, a scheduling mismatch or another issue that is affecting agent performance and contributing to agent dissatisfaction. Address the situation early on by fostering open communication and try to work with agents to find solutions that address their issues.
  5. Reward performance excellence – Invite top performing agents to take an active role in departmental activities, such as coaching new hires, delivering an up-training session, becoming a subject matter expert on a new initiative, or cross-training on a new function.
  6. Use a variety of motivational tactics – Different things motivate different people. Make sure to use a variety of methods to recognize, communicate and reward excellence.
  7. Promote from within – Whenever possible, promote from within the contact center. Besides retaining excellent performers, this is a great way to show that management appreciates and respects the expertise of the contact center staff. Establish career development plans for agents and a process to help them acquire the skills they need to be ready for promotions.
  8. Establish a supportive environment – It’s critical for agents to believe that management is fully committed to their success. Contact center managers and supervisors must ensure that adequate training, systems, and support are available for agents to do their job effectively. They must also be readily accessible for agent assistance.
  9. Consider an at-home agent model – At-home agents have a lower attrition rate than their counterparts at on-premise contact centers. Other important benefits of the at-home staffing model include reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, and enhanced customer satisfaction.

For additional agent retention best practices, please see Motivating Agents: Respect and Rewards Make a Big Difference and Call Center Supervisor Best Practices.

The contact center should have well documented programs and policies to address career development, both inside and outside of the contact center. One of the reasons that agents leave an organization is because they do not see a defined career path in a contact center. Contact center managers should work with their human resource organization and build programs to help agents who have succeeded in the contact center find growth opportunities in other parts of an organization. Managers should also encourage their agents to attend training and development programs that will prepare them for promotions within the department and throughout the enterprise.

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