Historically, contact centers have primarily been dominated by the young, if you believe a 2008 YouGov survey, with many generally below the age of 30. With an increasingly tech-savvy and demanding consumer-base, one might interpret this as a benefit. After all, who better to meet the multi-channel habits of today’s needy customers than today’s tech-centric youth?
Unfortunately, the youthful age of the average contact center employee masks a significant hurdle many contact centers have yet to overcome: employee retention.
Here are a few facts regarding turnover rates within today’s contact center:
- According to a 2011 survey report conducted by Deloitte on Global Contact Centers, of the 140 companies that employ 500 or more agents, 31% have a 50% turnover rate (Deloitte – 2013 Global Contact Center Results).
- Strativity Group, a researching and consulting firm, conducted a Customer Experience Management global benchmark study, which revealed that only 29% of respondents believe their employees have the tools and authority to solve customer problems (Musico – Calling It Quits).
- Per 2010 Frost Sullivan findings, the average cost of hiring and training a new contact center agent is approximately $6,000 per rep. The Total Cost per agent turnover, factoring in indirect costs (i.e.: cost of lost productivity, cost of reduced performance, etc.) is 60-70% of the annual salary of a new rep (Frost Sullivan).
In a world where companies increasingly strive for superior customer service, the age of the relationship center is upon us, but who will man the helm if there is an endless changing of the guard?
Today’s younger generations live and breathe technology. Having grown up with cable TV, Internet, and cell phones, a recent Nielsen survey found that 74% feel that new technology makes life easier (Nielsen). And yet, recent studies suggest that 78% of contact centers still rely on legacy-based systems, despite the inability to meet today’s multi-channel requirements, flexibility needs, and the fundamental expectations of modern customers. In addition, with the advent and viral spread of social media and the importance of multi-tasking in a three-dimensional world, tomorrow’s workforce has its own expectations as it relates to what defines a good working environment. Factor in the added difficulty of retaining a workforce without tenured leadership and its no wonder the only constant within contact centers is the consistent change. Hardly a constant to strive for with any "client-facing" workforce.
So what’s the solution? Unfortunately it’s more an art than a science, but a few thoughts:
Use Technology to Foster Internal Growth: Technology is largely always seen as a means to improve the bottom line. How can I sell these widgets faster? Cheaper? For longer? But simple Business 101 concepts will teach you to realize that growth can be fostered by increased sales or by lowering costs. In this specific case, lowering employee turnover can significantly improve expenses and can be achieved by appealing to your employee demographic. If today’s younger generations thrive on technology, then give them the tools to be successful at doing what they were hired to do - giving the customers the level of service they expect.
No more on-premise solutions (everyone is moving to cloud these days). No more multi-user interfaces (there’s an app for that). No more complex training programs (just plug and play). No more two weeks notices.
Create A Dynamic Work Environment: Doing the same task repeatedly is boring, plain and simple. To help improve employee turnover, change things up and switch your reps roles and responsibilities to prevent boredom. Not only will it keep your workforce on its toes, but in the long-run it will make for a more experienced and well-rounded group to serve your customer base.
Foster Strong Relationships: By nature, working in a contact center is not exactly a team sport. Much like professional diving, each rep is responsible for their successes and failures. Unfortunately, such a work environment rarely breeds employee retention. Take the time to get to know your reps and focus on building a team in the process. Encourage collaboration and publicly share/reward successes as a group. If your reps enjoy the company surrounding them at work, they are more likely to be more productive and to stay.
Establish Opportunities for Growth: Today’s younger generations are driven, so give them something to chase after. Offer a clear promotional path for interested parties to aspire to. In the long-run, it will help your company create a tenured leadership team to help foster and mold the next generation of employees while improving retention and delivering on service-level requirements.
There is no silver-bullet to retaining employees. However, in an industry that has long accepted high turnover rates as the norm, it’s high time to do something about it. If your company doesn’t, another one will eventually.