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Reducing Attrition in Contact Centers: Social Dynamics are Crucial

It’s challenging to work in a contact center. The expectations from management alone can be stressful, and when you add to that the stress of handling inbound customer complaints, this can lead to high turnover. In the article “Reducing Attrition in Contact Centers: It’s All About the Team”, Tom Marsden (CEO of Saberr) states that the average call center worker lasts around 3 years at a call center, with a turnover of 33%.

Marsden argues that while we have metrics that analyze employee attrition and get a good grasp on what’s going on right now, the metrics don’t generally give insight into the future. The analysis can be helpful, but it can also make things more muddled. In other words, all the data in the world won’t guarantee you’ll make the right decisions for your call center going forward. Turnover is a serious problem in contact centers, but there are other factors you can look at to get more helpful insight into your agents’ longevity, and that’s cultural fit. Marsden gives three ways to use cultural fit in your call center.

The first approach is to assess the cultural fit of your employees. While call centers normally focus on agent performance through exact, numbers-driven data, they often don’t measure the agent’s social well being. If employees enjoy being in their work environment and are happy with their co-workers and the company as a whole, they’ll have a far better chance of being satisfied with their work and are more likely to stick around longer and perform better for your company. Marsden believes that, contrary to popular belief in the call center industry, call centers are not successful based solely on the performance of individuals and social connectivity is a crucial factor in success.

If your call center is looking to hire new team members, it’s important to take a step back and determine the social climate of your call center. Determining your social environment can be accomplished by interviewing managers, agents, and employees on every level. Once you’ve analyzed the opinions, you can then formulate an idea of what kind of personality would fit best at your call center. Based on this profile, you can ask new-hire candidates questions based around cultural-fit as well as technical expertise.

The second approach Marsden presents is experimenting with team structure. Call centers are not as individualistic as often assumed, and call center employees need to be able to have a team environment in order to thrive to their full potential. Agents rely on their teammates when they need help with difficult calls or general advice on day-to-day tasks. Employee happiness ultimately determines how they perform in their role, which means that if your call center agent is happy, your customers will be happier with their service. If you want the best return on investment from your call center, it’s crucial to ensure agent happiness. This can be accomplished by daily observance of your teams and adjusting to issues when they arise.

Marsden’s final approach is allowing your employees to have downtime. Instead of forcing quick breaks, employees should be allowed to take breaks together to encourage social bonding. Marsden provides an example from an MIT study, “By ensuring that everyone on the same call center team took a break at the same time, a bank’s call center AHT fell by more than 20 percent among low performing teams, and fell by 8 percent overall.” Canada and the European Union have much better call center turnover rates than the United States, and this could be due to the their more relaxed work environments.

These ideas might not fit every call center, Marsden argues that call centers have a major attrition problem that is ultimately damaging to their fiscal goals. With the high costs of replacing call center agents, the attrition problem needs to be fixed. It’s worth the effort to study your call center’s social dynamics and experiment with various adjustments in order to increase employee satisfaction and ultimately make your company lucrative.

This blog post is based on an article by Tom Marsden. To read the original article, please click here.

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