The everyday reality in the call center industry is that we work with customers, acquire new ones in telesales, build relationships and settle complaints. And until recently, nearly all the efforts of our agents were focused on acquiring new customers.
But now retaining customers, not merely acquiring customers, is a top priority. Companies seek to do this by providing solutions and adding value, continually improving customer service, enhancing quality, and conducting customer satisfaction surveys to see how it’s all working – “Are we keeping our customers? Is retention holding steady?”
So, what if we treated our call center agents as customers? Would we retain more of the good agents that way, as we would customers?
Relations between managers and call centers employees are very important in the agent’s “life cycle.”
Managers participate in this cycle from the moment of acquiring an employee (recruitment), through service quality (motivation, appreciation, awarding, atmosphere at work, career path) until the employee leaves, with management making attempts to retain the employee or not.
Recruitment experts, coaches, leaders, team heads, colleagues, superiors. They all have an impact on retaining the agent. What can they do to reduce turnover?
Let’s analyze four reasons why employees leave. It’s often a combination of factors, of course, but the following four are among the most common reasons for agents leaving:
Reason 1: Low renumeration.
Yep, the good old “I found a better-paying job.” Agents leave not only due to lower pay, but frequently due to a combination of low pay with an unclear grasp of the principles of remuneration – they don’t understand how they would ever get a raise.
Few remuneration systems are based on years of service. Now not everyone wants to be promoted in call centers, true. There are agents with ten years of service in outsourcing whose remuneration is at the market level per hour of what a new employee would earn for doing the same job. And some don’t have a problem with it, but in general, feeling like they’re just “standing still” is for most agents a reason to look elsewhere.
Solution: Each call center should have a well-developed system of remuneration explained to their agents which rewards efficiency, success and years of service.
Reason 2: Team management issues.There are a whole lot of stories of badly-treated agents out there. The poor treatment, which usually comes from their direct superiors, can include a lack of mutual respect, poor to nonexistent communication skills, and lousy team management. Superiors are often perceived as ignorant and rude in their behavior towards agents. Which is odd, since these persons frequently were agents themselves in the past.
The problem can in large part be explained by a lack of training for managers. Companies invest in training courses for agents, as it is a priority, so why shouldn’t training for management be an equal priority?
Solution: Provide superiors with proper training to contribute to the retention of employees, since poorly-trained ones are frequently cause for employees leaving.
Reason 3: Career limitations.
We all know how frequently it’s said that “there are no limitations on career paths.” Certainly many of us know people who started “with headsets,” and today manage major call centers. In fact, those of us in the business know that a call center is a place where a person may be promoted faster than many other places.
Which means that what we have here is a failure to communicate. The problem is a lack of awareness on the part of agents of the options for career advancement in call centers. In many cases there are no clearly defined avenues for promotion, and no clear explanations of what requirements need to be met in order to be promoted. In such call centers there is little awareness among agents of the skills necessary for job advancement.
Solution: Reliable information, clearly presented, on the opportunities and requirements for career advancement within the organization is key for retaining talented agents.
Reason 4: Alignment of a job to skills.
The market for good call center employees is competitive. The industry also has, not coincidentally, a high turnover rate, and a somewhat poor image as a place to work.
Some of the problem lies with recruitment. It happens that some companies lower their standards when fewer qualified people can be found to work, even temporarily, in call centers. It is sometimes difficult to maintain consistent quality, proper recruitment and selection of employees.
Proper recruitment and hiring does result in cost savings. Finding a good match between a candidate and a job reduces personnel turnover, and the costs of recruitment, training and orientation for an employee are reduced the longer the agents continue to work at jobs for which they’re suited.
Solution: Misinformation, or the lack of information, on the actual job requirements must be eliminated as it leads to unmet expectations and unpleasant surprises.