Agent attrition is one of the biggest challenges call centers face today. The reasons are clear – in the current market conditions, when managers are required to cut staff while retaining high productivity and customer satisfaction levels, losing well-trained, skilled agents could have a serious impact on the contact center’s performance. In fact, the operational and financial implications of attrition could be dire, with labor costs accounting for as much as 80% of a typical call center operating budget, and recruiting and training new agents typically taking up to 6 months and costing as much as $10,000 or more per person.
However, despite the clear focus on attrition and efforts made to retain agents in call centers worldwide, many studies (such as the recent reports from UK Contact Babel and Dimension Data) show that agents are leaving centers in ever greater numbers. Common explanations for this trend include relatively low salaries, increasing levels of stress at work and limited opportunities for career progress. No doubt, all these factors have a major impact on agent satisfaction, however they cannot be easily changed.
So what can be done to retain agents? There is, in fact, another way to drive agent satisfaction and retention - through agent empowerment practices. Various studies, such as the one conducted by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), indicate that agent empowerment in areas such as training, quality management and coaching practices, can lead to increased agent satisfaction, engagement and eventually retention. The idea is to allow agents to have more responsibility, involve them in more processes and provide them with more knowledge and better tools. Do that, and they’ll be happier, more productive and more engaged—for longer—in their work.
Workforce optimization solutions provide a ready-made platform for agent empowerment practices, while still keeping managers in control. Sounds promising, but does it work? According to some NICE customers, yes, absolutely. Here’s what they’re doing to empower their agents:
- A leading financial services organization involves agents in the quality management process. The call center provides agents with personal dashboard, enables agent playback and self-evaluation of calls, peer-evaluations by experienced agents, and allows agents to review customer surveys that pertain to their interactions.
- A large healthcare organization enhances the agents’ training and coaching practices through a bi-directional, on-line coaching process that provides them with the most relevant information tailored for their individual needs. The coaching uses rich content - real examples of calls, evaluations and quizzes, and allows agents to be part of the overall process, as they can send their ideas and insights back to their managers or the training team.
- Companies are also starting to look into the emerging and exciting capabilities offered by real-time guidance tools. These tools provide agents with information based on the actual call flow and a simple, fast access to relevant data with which they can quickly resolve issues.
Following the adoption of these agent empowerment practices, each of the companies cited above made noticeable gains in agent satisfaction and retention.
Most people like to feel valued. And most workers prefer a career to a dead-end job. Empower your call center agents with knowledge and responsibility and they’ll likely stay with your center longer, and feel more invested in its results. Give it a try!