What to do about the call center attrition rate.

Anyone who manages a call center knows that the attrition rate in the call center industry is a huge problem and always has been.  According to some research the attrition rate in the United States is 50%, nearly 35% in the U.K. and a whopping 80% in India.  This is a huge problem for call centers because hiring and training a new agent is expensive and each time you lose an agent and have to train a new one. This is affecting the bottom line, and with high attrition rates, this is a huge financial burden for any call center.

What exactly is the problem in call centers that cause such a high turnover rate? Those that have never worked in a call center think it is a pretty cushy job, I mean think about it, you get paid to sit at a desk and talk on the phone all day, what exactly is the problem?   The problem is call center agents actually have a fairly stressful job because they are dealing with the public and customer service on a daily basis, and many agents receive a fair amount of abuse on the phone,  plus having to deal with quotas and the stress of “making the numbers”, and the same ole same ole day after day creates a high burnout rate.   Another big issue, and in my opinion the biggest issue, is agents getting credit for doing a job well done; in my experience agents like to be acknowledged for their accomplishments and the best thing a supervisor can do is to publicly acknowledge a job well done in front of the rest of the team.  People like to feel important and like to know that they made a worthwhile contribution and that it was recognized.

Another big issue in call centers is the lack of opportunity.  According to research done in 2008 by ICMI the biggest reasons for agent turnover is:

1)      Better opportunities outside the organization

2)      Better opportunities inside the organization

3)      Repetitive work

4)      Low pay

5)      Dislike handling complaints and problems

So giving agents the opportunity to advance in the company is a good way to help keep them, plus in my opinion agents make the best supervisors and managers because they have practical and hands on experience and can relate to the agents under them.

One of the best ways to find out what your agents like and dislike about their job is to simply ask them and by creating an anonymous questionnaire with specific questions aimed at taking the collective temperature of your call center agents can be extremely effective, assuming you are willing to change what needs to be changed in order to drive your attrition rate down.  I have found in my experience that the agents on the phone are the greatest resource of information available and this resource is often overlooked.