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How to reduce call center attrition with agent empowerment

Krishna Charan

July 18, 20226 min read

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Call center attrition, also referred to as agent turnover, is a global customer service problem. Only 1 out of 3 customer service reps feel engaged with their contact center; disengaged reps are 84% more likely to churn

To add to the existing call center attrition woes, the ongoing “great resignation” has only piled on to the problem. As of February 2022, more than 50% of U.S. employees were open to resigning their job in search of better compensation, employee benefits, and work-life balance.

Agent turnover in call centers is a culmination of poor management, excess workload, bad tools, and lack of training.

Source

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. To control call center attrition, you must first identify and address its drivers and root causes.

What are some of the significant causes of call center attrition?

Call center attrition is almost always linked to how agents feel they are treated or empowered by their employers. Here are some top reasons why call center attrition is prevalent:

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

  • Skyrocketing customer ticket volumes resulting 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  • Sub-optimal agent training and outdated tools and technology prevent agents from supporting customers.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.

A pie chart showing the reasons for agent attrition.
  • 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 procedure) that agents can follow to make their work more productive and less tedious.

How does call center attrition affect your business?

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

  • Agent turnover increases hiring and staffing costs and takes a toll on your call center ROI.

  • It reduces agent productivity as there are so many “learners” who 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. 

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

  • It 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. 

9 Proven ways to reduce attrition in a call center

With all the focus on hiring the best talent for your call center, agent training might take a backseat. And the training isn’t meant to just 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 that’s willing to go the extra mile to delight your customers. 

Here are some actionable agent empowerment steps you can take to reduce call center attrition in your company:

1. Hire agents for 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

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

2. Set performance expectations with clarity

Every agent should know what is expected of them. Create and explain call center metrics to your agents, so they understand what to prioritize. Also, discuss how their performance will be tracked and what they need to do to 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 the excellent work they put in 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 FCR 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 individual-level decisions independently 

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. The end result: 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 on how to use a support script when a situation demands it. Set up a matrix for special scenarios such as escalations so that they know what workflow to follow without any anxiety or panic.

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. Using it, your agents can respond to tickets on the move and keep delivering on their SLAs. Not only that, supervisors can monitor ticket queue and agent performance from the comfort of their homes.

Furthermore, you canautomate 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 auto-pilot. 

7. Deflect repetitive calls with self-serve 

Deflect the contact volume on the voice channel by giving your customers self-service options such as:

An image listing the types of Self-service options.

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 just 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 tool can forecast the number of resources needed at any point in time to provide customers with the best service possible. This will also give 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 call center attrition

As a customer service manager, you have a front-row seat to treat agent attrition problems with care and empathy. Call center attritions can be curbed if managers implement 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.

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