7 Steps to Increase Contact Center Agent Retention and Engagement
November 15, 2018
By: Jason Sterns
There are many reasons to retain good contact center agents. For one, they achieve higher performance metrics, such as AHT, FCR, and CSAT. Engaged employees also stay longer, reducing attrition and the costs associated with it. Highly-engaged employees go the extra mile to drive your business forward. Best of all, happy employees make for more satisfied customers.
A recent survey from TalentKeepers, specialists in employee retention and engagement, revealed that engaged employees result in:
- 86% higher customer approval and service quality ratings;
- 77% greater impact on customer satisfaction;
- 68% recommending their company as a good place to work;
Engaged agents are also 87% less likely to leave the organization voluntarily, contribute to 44% higher profitability for the company, 147% higher earnings per share compared with the competition, and 2.5 times more revenue growth than companies in the bottom quartile of engagement.
Cost of Agent Replacement
Do you know your agent attrition costs? The average in the U.S. is $8,780 per employee, according to TalentKeepers.
We all know the direct costs of replacing well-performing agent — advertising, screening, interviewing, onboarding, and training — but what is harder to factor are the indirect costs, which are equally important.
These are represented by lost productivity, the financial value of time used to find and hire the replacement employee, and the negative impact on colleagues and customers when a valuable employee leaves.
Think also of the effect on the customer. What is the difference, for example, in CX from a customer talking to a veteran agent as opposed to one that’s just left nesting? There is a difference, but it’s not always easy to estimate.
Four Drivers of Engagement
According to the TalentKeepers survey, four drivers matter most to employees when it comes to engaging them to give their best effort:
Employees want a leader who is competent in her work and the work she is asking the agent to do. They also want a leader who can coach and develop them, is flexible, makes work fun, and is an advocate who has their back.
This driver is a nod to millennials. In 2015, millennials became the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. They expect to work in teams with like-minded co-workers who support them and help them achieve their career goals.
Job and Career Satisfaction
Agents want to do work they are good at. They also want to see a path forward regarding career growth and either climb the organizational ladder or gain more responsibilities while staying in the same role. Lack of job growth or career advancement is the number one reason employees leave their jobs (regardless of tenure) so providing such opportunities is critical to reducing attrition.
Agents want to be proud of the organization for which they work. They want to do socially desirable work in a company led by honest senior leaders who demonstrate concern for the workforce.
When these four drivers are in place, they lead to an engaged workforce consisting of committed, high-performing employees, a productive and profitable organization, and satisfied, loyal customers.
Steps to Retain and Engage High-performing Agents
What steps are you taking to retain high performers? Here are seven you can implement in your contact center right away:
1. Size the Problem
You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. That means you should know the attrition rate and quantify the direct and indirect costs associated with turnover and low engagement.
2. Establish Relevant Metrics, Goals, and Accountability
Work from data. As with all key business strategies, estimate the core engagement and retention metrics, set goals that have teeth, and hold leaders accountable to meet them.
3. Re-engineer the Onboarding Process
Onboarding and retention begin the moment someone says “yes” to the job offer. If attrition is significant, you should examine and, if needed, re-engineer your recruiting and hiring functions. You need a systematic onboarding process that helps new hires understand the expectations and duties of the job. Set such expectations correctly, however, so that you don’t oversell the good and underplay the less positive.
4. Fully Leverage Your Leaders
Your leaders are the greatest asset you have in creating a retention and engagement culture. That’s why you should view leader selection, training, goals, metrics, and incentives through engagement and retention lenses.
5. Make Leaders Accountable for Improving Engagement
You’re already paying them, have entrusted them with a leadership role, trained them, and hold them accountable for a variety of metrics. Engagement and retention should be no different. Make it a basic expectation in their performance.
6. Be Proactive on Job and Career Issues
Focusing on growth and providing agents with opportunities to learn new skills is critical to energizing employees. Increase the frequency of leader and employee dialog, ensure transparency in job changes and career moves, and communicate the view beyond the horizon.
7. Formalize a Roadmap that Works within Your Culture
Understand the core elements and values of your culture and design strategies you can execute, reinforce, and sustain. Weave engagement into the fabric of your culture, so that it is not merely a series of initiatives but native to how the organization function. Then, tie all engagement activities together under one umbrella.
Some other tips to consider:
- Implement stay interviews as well as exit interviews;
- Listen to employees – it’s not less important than listening to customers;
- Let teams that are doing well provide ideas and tips for those who aren’t;
- Give agents a path to growth that is clearly understood.
Agents are the lifeblood of any contact center, and so much rides on their ability and willingness to perform well. As such, it makes sense to keep them engaged by providing trustworthy leadership, a pleasant work environment, career advancement opportunities, and a company they can be proud of.
Employing these seven steps will help you reduce agent attrition and increase retention and engagement across the enterprise, thereby cutting costs and growing profits by discernable margins.
Refer to TalentKeepers to learn more about how to create an engaged workforce. The company has more than 18 years of experience helping contact centers improve retention and engagement. For the past 14 years, TalentKeepers has also produced a highly-regarded report — Workplace America — that uncovers new tactics and emerging retention and engagement strategies used by organizations across a range of sizes, industries, and geographies throughout the United States.