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Reducing Agent Attrition:
Ideas for Action

By Kevin Hegebarth

It is often said, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Many companies view employee attrition the same way and try to apply the same strategies to address all causes of attrition in the same manner. This thinking can result in uneven, unpredictable results and may, in fact, exacerbate the attrition problem. Identifying the different types of attrition, examining its causes and taking a prescriptive approach to its treatment yields significant reduction in its effects.

The following are ideas for taking action to reduce attrition in your contact center.

Measure separately. Not all attrition is created equal and it’s misleading to treat them the same way. Identifying the causes of attrition will help to pinpoint the right prescription for curing it, or at least managing its symptoms. The strategies used to manage unavoidable attrition may not work well for avoidable attrition and the other way around.

Measure often. Newly hired employees who leave within 90 days rarely return the investment made in their recruitment and training. Measuring agent retention and performance at key milestone dates—immediately after training, at 30, 60, 90 days post-training and at six months and a year—will provide insights into process improvements that can increase retention.

Offer Variety. One of the leading reasons for avoidable agent attrition is that the job is generally monotonous with little diversity in the average daily routine. Offering alternative work content not only provides variety, but also enables these agents to expand their skills, thereby increasing their overall value to the organization and improving the likelihood they’ll stick around a bit longer.



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IQ Services provides customer experience quality assurance services for contact centers. Services include performance testing, monitoring and related professional services for self service (IVR) and agent supported customer interactions. Our mission is to provide flexible and cost effective approaches giving customers confidence their business solutions deliver the required customer experience before they are deployed and in production.

SNAPSHOT:
Stream Energy

While getting rid of call center scripts may improve customer and employee satisfaction, it’s not a step to take lightly. Unscripted interactions call for a certain level of empowerment at the agent level, and additional training is generally needed. Stream Energy’s contact center leaders felt that a better customer experience would be one in which agents have the freedom (and time) to be genuine on the phone by asking customers about their day, be empathetic to their concerns and offer different types of payment assistance. Of course, management realized that going unscripted meant that agents needed better access to knowledge and the appropriate skills to handle various types of calls.

After evaluating the training program that had been in place since the call center’s launch, management decided to scrap it and make a fresh start. They developed a new program comprised of different modules, based on the Kirkpatrick model. The revised call center training also includes “empathy and engagement” modules. Along with the enhanced training, the center has examined and revised certain policies and procedures to help their empowered agents provide a better customer experience.

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Contact Center Pipeline is focused on driving success through effective contact center management. Each issue features in-depth perspectives on the call center market, best practices and trends, technology and people issues that impact the customer experience. Draw upon CCP's incisive analysis to help you make better decisions about your career and your center. Visit us at www.ContactCenterPipeline.com
   
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...Feature Article Continued

Ask. Formalize an anonymous employee survey program and include exit interviews in this process. Use this as a vehicle to collect what employees like—and dislike—about their jobs and what suggestions they have to make the job more palatable. Face-to-face exit interviews are uncomfortable for the former employee and employer alike and rarely uncover the real reasons for someone leaving. Identifying and addressing issues before they become acute enough to drive employees out the door is one of the most effective ways to combat attrition.

Innovate. Find innovative ways to motivate agents and encourage them to stay. These programs need to closely map to the causes of attrition (see “Ask”), otherwise they won’t deliver the desired results. One example might be job sharing or at-home work for those agents who might otherwise leave due to a changing family situation. A valuable employee is retained and the cost to replace him or her is avoided as a result.

Reinvest. Or perhaps, more accurately, invest differently. Once the causes of attrition have been identified, spend some of the money that would otherwise be spent on recruitment, hiring and training on retention programs.

Think differently. Not every employee can be prevented from leaving, but if every employee who considered leaving stayed one extra pay cycle (two weeks for most organizations), attrition would effectively be reduced by 4%. Find ways to extend the tenure of those who might be flight risks to “buy some time” to recruit, hire and train their replacements. This doesn’t solve the attrition problem, but it helps mitigate some if its effects.

Agent attrition will probably never completely be eradicated and, for most organizations, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Organizations that actively seek out the root causes of attrition and implement innovative programs to combat it will be rewarded with less unwanted and undesirable turnover, reduced hiring and training costs, and improved overall operational performance.

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