Employee retention is a challenge in most industries, but few industries have a worse attrition rate than the contact center industry. In American contact centers, the average turnover rate in 2016 for was 29%, according to the US Contact Decision Maker’s Guide. Pipeline found that contact center leaders overwhelmingly cited agent turnover as the number one challenge for the industry in 2017.
Agents have to deal with a daily grind of irate customers, a limited work environment, and new challenges on a per interaction basis, all while keeping a smiling face.
It’s inevitable to experience burnout, but is this something that we simply have to live with, or can a supervisor do something about it?
The answer is yes!
Remember the old adage: “Employees leave bosses, not companies.”
Here are some strategies for a supervisor to reduce churn and keep employees happy.
Become a Great Coach
The number one reason contact center agents leave is a lack of development opportunities. A study from Culture Amp shows that 52% of employees leave a company due to this reason. Let’s define what we mean by development opportunities.
While getting a promotion and moving up is the ultimate opportunity, from a supervisor’s perspective this is something that is out of his direct control. But a good manager can develop an employee into someone who is highly-desirable in any job market.
General Electric is famous for focusing on an employee’s development. GE’s legendary CEO Jack Welch once said, “You can give lifetime employability by training people, by making them adaptable, making them mobile to go other places to do other things. But you can't guarantee lifetime employment.” You can leave large development programs to leadership and HR, but the key takeaway for supervisors is to develop your people on a personal basis.
Learn to coach your people during your weekly one-on-ones. Their career is in your hands, and encouraging their growth by teaching them new skills and a proper mindset is the single most important thing you can do for them as a direct supervisor. Find the right balance of teaching them how to do things, avoiding complete spoonfeeding and guiding them to solve problems proactively.
Even if a supervisor isn’t running the career-pathing programs, you can help an agent assess where they are today, and guide them to figure out the steps to get to where they want to be.
Show the Team you Care
Transitioning into a great coach is one thing, but the underlying message beneath all of that has to be, “we care about you.” People are happier when they feel valued and appreciated.
Take an overall approach that solicits your people’s input, and work around that. Ask people for their preferences on simple things like one-on-ones, use open-ended questions to inspire meaningful responses, and use personal anecdotes and discussions to inspire a deeper personal connection. And above all, make yourself available: if an employee needs to talk to you, make sure the door is open to talk to you at any time.
An approach like this tells your agents that they are being valued as people and not just as productivity cogs in the machine. Top it off with proper recognition in public and rewarding good work, and you have a great recipe for keeping morale high and disengagement low.
Focus equally on Quality Metrics and Productivity Metrics
Lastly, it’s important to look at the key metrics and expectations you set for the team. The single most important task of a supervisor is setting proper expectations.
When doing so, focus not just on quantity, but also quality. Handling time is an important metric to ensure your center is productive, but over-emphasizing productivity sends the message that phone time is more important the customer’s feelings. It’s not just a detrimental effect on the customer experience, it reinforces that the agents are just parts of the machine instead of people.
Having a customer-centric approach that values the quality of the interaction with the customers has the double benefit of assuring agents that your company also values its people. Your corporate culture walks the talk, so to speak. While handling time is important, so are things like call quality, voice of the customer, and other KPIs that focus on the customer experience. Keep this approach in mind and develop the right team experience for your agents.