The Great Resignation: How to Retain Your Contact Center Agents
In spring 2021, roughly one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented change occurred in the workplace. There was a mass exodus. Quit rates skyrocketed as workers gave notice and set out to find greater satisfaction in their livelihoods, pursue higher wages, and discover their true professional purpose. In April 2021, a record 4 million Americans quit their jobs. In June of that year, another 3.9 million workers resigned. The trend persists. In February 2022, 4.4 million Americans left their jobs. Just shy of 3 percent of the entire working population in the U.S. woke up, had a cup of coffee, and didn’t go to work.
The sectors of the U.S. economy affected most by the Great Resignation, also known as the Big Quit, were in service industries, including restaurants, retail, and healthcare. But the trend also disproportionately impacted contact centers and customer support organizations. According to Salesforce, 71 percent of service agents considered leaving their jobs in the recent past. If every one of these agents acted on that thought, service centers would be gutted. Thankfully, that is not happening. But the Big Quit is still occuring, and the effects of the professional reshuffling are considerable.
One of the biggest challenges that contact centers have faced is that employees are demanding more from their employers. If they don’t get what they want, they will find another company that meets their needs.
This means you have to create a workplace that distinguishes you as an employer of choice. You also need to make sure that you continue to drive towards that goal, while creating opportunities within your organization for your employees to grow into roles that keep them on your team. This goes right to the heart of one of the biggest contact center trends for 2022: employee choice.
Why Employees Leave
The exit interviews and employee surveys taking place during the Great Resignation are revealing dominant trends among contact center agents. When asked why they are leaving or want to leave their current employer, the answers relate to a large number of internal factors that a company has some amount of control or influence over. These include:
- Not wanting to return to a physical office, instead preferring remote work
- Limited opportunities for advancement or low visibility for them as individuals
- Higher pay at another company
- Poor management oversight or leadership practices
- Lack of skills needed to excel in the role
- Weak company culture
- Stress and burnout
The one item in the list above that likely stands out to contact center leaders most is poor management oversight or leadership practices. And with good reason. Organizations that build processes and relationships with employees have lower attrition rates than organizations that do not invest in intelligent processes and meaningful relationships. This needs to be a focus area for leadership and management teams to make your company an employer of choice.
Related Article: 4 Smart Reasons to Offer Remote Work in Your Contact Center
How to Retain – and Hire – Great Agents
When approaching a big challenge like needing to hire and keep the best agents possible, it helps to first hone in on themes and then break those themes down into smaller actions you can take. These four themes provide a solid roadmap for successful retention:
81 percent of service agents say they do not have new or advanced tech tools to work with at their jobs, according to a Salesforce report. Outdated or inferior technology can have the unwanted effect of exacerbating stress or feelings of burnout on teams, since it generally means things take longer than they need to. When employees hear about workplaces where things are easy, they tend to make the jump.
Addressing technology gaps has a direct, positive impact on the agent experience in addition to providing a greater ROI for the organization. Beyond streamlining processes, advanced contact center technology removes friction around coaching and development opportunities, making agents feel like their managers have their best interests at heart.
2. Your Team
Call Centre Helper reports that less than 10 percent of contact centers have agents reaching proficiency in less than two months. With this in mind, we recommend that you conduct a study that reveals the costs for hiring and onboarding new agents. When quantified holistically, it becomes clear why agent retention is so valuable.
You can then use the information gathered in producing this report to determine how to invest in retention, instead of having to backfill as a result of churn. We recommend working with your HR team to develop a top-notch compensation program for employees. A well crafted comp plan becomes the foundation for employee retention and recognition.
3. Team Interactions
According to the same Salesforce report cited above, 71 percent of service agents have thought about leaving their jobs in the past six months. What’s more, 69 percent have considered leaving customer service roles entirely. Nearly three-quarters of your agent workforce are thinking about a major change. That’s likely a scary statistic for a customer experience center. To address this potential crisis, schedule time for team building. This means getting creative for distributed teams. Set up a virtual game room where employees can play games, such as trivia. You could have a virtual book group. Or allow employees to hang out online and chat about things that interest them, like cooking, traveling, or other interests.
Beyond socializing, employees also thrive on seizing opportunities to address their colleague’s challenges and then cheer them on when they find success. But don’t stop with agents. Extend opportunities to help each other and feel included with all levels of your contact center.
4. Career Paths
Gallup research shows that 87 percent of Millennials consider professional or career growth and development opportunities important to them in a job. This means it’s critical to have clear and navigable career paths in place for employees and new hires alike. Managers need to be able to have meaningful conversations with each of their team members to uncover their wants and needs to move ahead within an organization.
It’s important to use coaching time to help agents develop skills to move ahead. You can also consider publishing job descriptions for next level opportunities on an internal system or intranet. This gives your most motivated agents the chance to reach for what they most want to do and feel capable of doing.
All of these themes and related actions create growth opportunities within your organization and help retain agents during a time when nearly every one of them is considering a change that would take them elsewhere.
While turning the Great Resignation into the Great Retention is the goal, we know you’ll need to hire new agents as well, regardless of what happens in the job market. As you’re recruiting and hiring contact center agents to bring your contact center into the next phase of its evolution, Be sure to keep these 21 interview questions close at hand. They are designed to help you hire the perfect CX candidates and fuel performance.
We also invite you to watch the on-demand webinar on turning the Great Resignation into the Great Retention.