There are many reasons why turnover is so high in the call center industry. Some of the reasons are under your control and are “fixable”, while some must be chalked up as simply costs of doing business. One of the responsibilities of the managers and supervisors in the call center is to consistently assess the reasons why people leave the center. Perhaps more importantly, it’s also critical to talk to happy staff and find out what keeps them there.
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The Call Center School has conducted a study to find out exactly why contact staff leave or stay. A summary of the results can be seen below.
It’s interesting to note that job fit is the top reason listed both in terms of why people leave as well as why they stay. Either they’re a fit or they’re not, and getting people matched to the right job in the first place is one of the top things you can do to improve long-term retention. While compensation is an issue for people that leave a place, it is generally not mentioned in the top reasons of why people stay. If people truly enjoy what they are doing and find other advantages in the job, compensation is less of a factor.
Factors under control of management
Some of the reasons that employees leave fall into a category that may not be under the direct control of a supervisor, but are surely under control of the contact center management. These reasons are compensation, job fit, and career path.
Compensation. Inadequate compensation is a reason often cited in agents’ exit interviews. This will be a common factor for call centers located in highly saturated call center labor markets such as Phoenix or Dallas where competition for qualified call center staff is high. Your call center should do periodic compensation benchmarking studies to ensure your wages are competitive with the wages of nearby centers for the same type of work, particularly in highly competitive areas.
Job fit is the top reason listed both in terms of why people leave as well as why they stay.
Job fit. Many times the reason an individual leaves the center is simply due to poor job fit. This type of turnover can be reduced significantly by better defining the job, widening the advertising process to attract a bigger field of candidates, and working harder at the screening and hiring for a proper fit. More effort during the selection phase will pay off for itself many times over in improving retention. The key element for change here is taking time to assess motivational fit and ensure that the candidate will be happy with the unique working conditions found in most call centers: solo work, confined space, repetitive tasks, constant monitoring, and inflexible work schedules.
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Stressful work environment. The job of an agent can be stressful at times, with a high workload and angry customer yelling at you. It would, however, be shortsighted to put this away as "part of the job". There are many things that can be done to reduce stress levels for agents. A relatively easy initiative would be to prepare agents for difficult conversations with customers. The Call Center School has an excellent e-learning course for that. Another way to manage stress levels for your agents is to manage their workload better. By focusing on improving your forecast accuracy, you can create more aligned schedules that can significantly reduce workload and stress for your agents.
Limited job/career opportunities. Many individuals leave the call center due to limited possibilities for career growth or opportunities for advancement. While some organizations have multi-level job ladders with numerous levels of agent positions and multiple career paths to many areas, others are severely limited in growth potential and see turnover as a result. After 15 years in the industry I’ve certainly seen my fair share of people leave one call center job who were looking for another because of lack of promotional opportunities as their primary reason to leave. Redefining job levels and looking for career advancement opportunities within the call center should be evaluated often.
All these factors contribute to the turnover and should be examined by the call center management team and perhaps senior management to address needed changes and strategy. Some of the other reasons that employees leave may fall under realm of control as an immediate supervisor.
Factors under control of supervisors
Assuming that compensation meets local standards and a thorough job has been done in recruiting and hiring so that these two are not a factor, it’s time to look elsewhere to fix the problem. Most of the other reasons that employees leave a call center are directly under the supervisor’s control.
People don't leave companies, they leave leaders.
For the most part, the adage “people don’t leave companies, they leave leaders” is certainly true in the call center environment. In the majority of cases, the supervisor can be either the greatest contributor to staff retention or the primary cause of turnover. More specifically, factors that supervisors can influence include:
- Not feeling recognized for their work
- Feeling bored and unchallenged by the job
- Feeling they did not receive enough training
These are items that call center supervisor can, and should, control.
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Originally published on Oct 06, 2016, updated on May 24, 2021.
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