The call center guide to agent retention

Issac Thomas

April 14, 20238 min read

Share this Article

Call center attrition, also called agent turnover, is a global customer service problem. Disengaged agents are 84% more likely to churn. Combining the expenses that come with it like recruiting and training new agents, it becomes a serious problem for contact centers. 

To resolve the issue of attrition, you need to get into the very root of the issue. Understand what causes it, how badly it impacts your business and what can be done to reduce it. But let’s understand first, do call centers really have high turnover rates?

An image showcasing the challenges faced by call centers and why employee attrition is the biggest challenge of them all?


Table of Contents

Do call centers have a high turnover rate?

Contact center attrition rates have always been high. Hearing complaints every day and making calls regularly does become monotonous and a hard thing to do. 

In fact, one in three contact center leaders (33%) say high agent turnover is one of their biggest pain points. 

Unfortunately, some contact centers end up experiencing more than a 100% attrition rate until the end of the year.

It’s a lot, a lot of loss for the business. Combine direct costs like recruitment and hiring expenses along with secondary costs like training time and overtime work remaining employees need to endure to keep the process running smoothly. 

Agents fail to build an effective agent-customer relationship when the tickets move around due to attrition. It further impacts the overall customer experience.

What is an acceptable attrition rate for a call center?

The average call center attrition rate is between 30% and 45%, as per QATC, but there are contact centers facing 100% attrition rates as well. That’s a lot of loss!

As per a Cornell study estimate, replacing an agent is equivalent to 16% of their gross annual earnings. 

Hiring new agents cannot solve customer support attrition every time. It will cost you a lot of money and time. 

Think of this scenario: a company spends $5000 for a new hire. They spend another $3000 in training costs. You lose all this investment when they leave your company. 

You also lose revenue during the training process, as your experienced agents are busy training new employees instead of taking calls. 

Why do call center agents quit? 

Call center attrition is almost always linked to how agents feel they are treated by their employers. Here are five top reasons for call center attrition:

  • Poor management style or a lack of empathetic culture in the organization.

  • Skyrocketing customer ticket volumes result in increased agent workload, burnout and little or no work-life balance.

  • Sub-optimal agent training and outdated tools and technology prevent agents from supporting customers.

  • Unclear career progression and lack of diversified options.

  • Low job security as call centers lean toward gig workers and outsource agencies with short-term contracts.

An image showcasing why lack of career development is a huge attrition trigger

While a moderate agent turnover is essential to keep the resource pool fresh and kicking, excessive contact center attrition can set your support strategy back.

How does call center attrition affect your business?

Call center attrition impacts almost every company's moving parts and customer-facing functions. Here’s how call center attrition can affect your business:

  • It increases hiring and staffing costs and affects your call center ROI.

  • It reduces agent productivity as many “learners” require product knowledge and operational training from skilled agents.

  • As new agents may not be able to answer customer questions sufficiently, call center attrition disrupts the overall customer experience. It adversely affects your contact center KPIs, including call transfer rates, first contact resolution, queue time, average handle time and call length. 

  • Customer support attrition depletes the overall team morale and leaves a negative employee perception, ultimately snowballing into a “leaving trend.” 

  • The higher attrition rate results in missed opportunities for cross-selling and upselling, as inexperienced agents are not trained to spot customer signals.

In short, agent turnover can cripple a call center’s ability to provide an acceptable level of service — creating a negative customer experience and placing massive stress on the remaining agents.

To foster a happier work environment for support agents, you need processes that declutter agents’ everyday tasks. That’s why organizations must deploy repeatable processes and SOPs (standard operating procedures) that agents can follow to make their work more productive and less tedious.

A day in the life of a support supervisor in 2023

9-step to reduce agent turnover in a call center 

Agent training might take a backseat with all the focus on hiring the best talent for your call center. And customer service coaching doesn’t only make your agents the best technical facilitators. 

It’s equally important to acquaint new hires with your culture and empower them with the right technology to speak your brand voice. 

Deliberate training and onboarding go a long way in creating a team willing to go the extra mile to delight your customers. 

Here are 9 actionable agent empowerment steps you can take to reduce attrition in your call centers:

Image showcasing a 9-step checklist to reduce contact center attrition.

1. Hire agents for their mindset, not just skill set 

Well-planned recruitment can alleviate the issue of early attrition. While evaluating applicants, apart from technical skills, look out for the following behavioral traits:

  • Customer-centricity: the emotional ability to think and act from the customer’s perspective

  • Stress-handling: the capability to keep calm during stressful times and find workarounds to reduce the recurrence of stressful customer scenarios

  • Collaboration: the willingness to collaborate with other agents and teams to make support easier for everyone, especially your customers

2. Set performance expectations with clarity

Set clear expectations for the agents. Discuss customer service metrics with your agents to help them prioritize. Also, discuss the process for performance tracking and how they can succeed.While measuring agent performance, provide meaningful and actionable feedback that helps them develop their skills.

Deploy a system that tracks agent performance in real-time so that the supervisor can give them continuous feedback. Don’t forget to incentivize your agents for their excellent work and make it exciting with badges and leaderboards for most FCRs, tickets handled and CSAT ratings.

While qualitative metrics like customer satisfaction, contact quality, and first contact resolution are essential if you lay too much emphasis on only these numbers, your agents’ only driving factor will be meeting these SLAs at any cost. Creating space for the agents to treat each customer with curiosity and patience will allow them to connect with customers better and make them feel valued. 

3. Empower agents to make independent decisions

Empower your agents to make customer-handling decisions with conviction. By authorizing your agents to make these decisions, you empower them to connect and empathize with customers and delight them. They are, after all, the closest to your customers. When done right, this will help agents take ownership of their decisions and resolve cases in the best interest of the customer and the company. 

4. Chart out a career development plan for your agents

For the vital job that they do, agents get little to no assistance in terms of furthering their careers. Unfortunately, managers spend little to no time teaching their staff career-focused skills,  contributing to call center attrition.

Support your team by creating individual goal-driven career progression plans. In some cases, depending on an agent’s strengths, you might suggest alternate career paths or roles that help them build on their support experience. 

For instance, account management and product success functions can be a progressive fit for their career aspirations, given the product knowledge they develop while handling customers.

5. Manage peak season demand by hiring contractual agents

Hire agents on a contract basis to avoid overburdening your workforce during peak seasons. 

For new agents, develop SOPs to refer to as a single source of truth when they find themselves in a volatile customer situation. 

Empower your agents to use a support script when a situation demands it. Set up a matrix to describe the workflow for special situations — such as escalations, to curb panic within the team.

6. Equip agents with WFH tips and tools

One way to simplify remote and hybrid working is by leveraging a mobile support solution so your agents can manage cases from anywhere, anytime. Your agents can respond to tickets on the move and keep delivering on their SLAs. Not only that, supervisors can monitor ticket queues and agent performance from the comfort of their homes.

Furthermore, you can automate mundane and complex tasks that drain your agent of their productivity. Set up ticket routing mechanisms, schedulers, macros and scenario-based workflows to put routine tasks on autopilot.

7. Deflect repetitive calls with self-serve 

Deflect customer calls by giving your customers self-service options such as:

Deflect customer calls by giving your customers self-service option

8. Use a unifying customer service solution 

Deploy software that enables your agents to unify customer conversations across all channels onto a single platform. If your agents are too busy paying attention to all channels and messages, they can miss warning signals from upset customers — who might decide to vent on social media. 

A unified care solution can help your agents tap into customer sentiment on different channels so you can manage crises before they impact your brand image and ROI.

While evaluating customer support solutions for your contact center, ensure they have AI-powered functionalities such as skill-based routing, scenario automation, agent assist and smart responses – which can make your agents’ lives easier.

9. Centralize your support with a workforce management solution

A robust workforce management tool ensures proper staffing in your call center at all times so your agents never feel overworked. By taking into account historical call volume data, the workforce management application can forecast the number of resources needed at any point in time to provide customers with the best service possible. It also allows call center managers an end-to-end view of agent tasks with comprehensive real-time dashboards and performance updates.

You can provide the best experience to your agents by making allowance for their preferred time schedules, vacations and personal commitments. All of this will eventually lead to better work-life balance and agent morale.

Customer service managers need to step in to reduce attrition rate

As a customer service manager, you have a front-row seat to treating agent attrition problems with care and empathy. Curb call center attrition by implementing transformative changes at the people, process and technology levels:

  • Cultivate a customer-first mindset in your agents.

  • Equip your agents with remote working tools and skills.

  • Give your agents ample opportunities for personal and professional development.

  • Use automation and self-service support options to ease the burden on your agents. 

  • Seek feedback from your agents to create a conducive work environment.

Start your free trial of Sprinklr Service

Find out how Sprinklr helps businesses deliver a premium experience on 13+ channels, using foundational AI so you can listen, route, resolve, and measure — across the customer experience.

Share this Article

Sprinklr Service
Live Chat Software

Related Topics

Top 13 Call Center Quality Assurance Best Practices50 Customer Survey Questions You Must Know AboutLive Chat vs. Chatbot: 9 Core Differences