Are Low Wages the Only Reason for High Attrition Rates?

Top reason for attrition poll graph cover

Staffing shortages and high attrition can cause massive problems for contact centres, but why are people leaving?

Chava asked our LinkedIn Community the top reasons for attrition and we’ve put the results together for you:

Top reason for attrition poll graph
Attrition Reason Response %
Low Wages 46%
Night Shift 5%
Limited Career Growth 39%
Other 10%

With 433 industry professionals responding to the poll, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see low wages coming out as the top reason for attrition – with 46% selecting this option.

However, it’s not the only factor, as this was closely followed by limited career growth – with 39% saying this was their top reason.

Overall, this means that 85% of respondents believe the top reason for attrition in their contact centre is related to low wages or limited career growth, highlighting that contact centre management teams need to be doing more to ensure their staff are paid fairly and that there are opportunities for progression.

Whilst this is a tall order, it’s promising to see that even those strapped for cash could put more time and effort into their in-house development – perhaps through buddying, mentoring, and showcasing progression pathways – to help retain their staff.


A number of respondents also left comments to provide further insights into their answer and additional reasons for attrition:

No One Can Easily Do Every Shift Pattern Imaginable

Historically, attrition is a result of pay, extremely high occupancy, and hiring for open schedules. Nobody has an open schedule.

With a good WFM and planning, you can project the number of agents needed at every level with shrinkage and attrition backed in.

Why contact centres don’t hire to fill a shift is beyond me. It’s not that hard. With a good WFM and planning, you can project the number of agents needed at every level with shrinkage and attrition backed in.

Everyone says “sure, I can work whenever you want – morning until night and both weekend days”, but it never works that way.

Thanks to Madeline

Create a Recruitment Strategy Targeting Specific Demographics

We are currently seeing a generational change in employment behaviour. Many types of employment (especially contact centre work) are no longer seen as a career unto itself, but rather as a stop-gap measure either between education towards a career, or people in the middle of a career change, amongst other significant reasons.

In the UK, the roles have also become increasingly “minimum wage” work in service work, with rewards and incentives for sales work becoming far less generous over the last decade in the large swing towards outsourcing that we have seen.

The only way to combat this is to create a recruitment strategy targeting specific demographics that are more likely to stick in roles – rather than relying on what comes through from job boards and company website applications mechanically.

This is not something new. Contact centres in the past have often targeted students as easy labour to fill gaps, but based on my view over the years, the backbone of “career” contact centre staff in service roles especially is diminishing.

Contact centre work has been and continues to be transitioning to a primarily gig economy-powered workforce. The high stress and low financial rewards also enhance churn.

Thanks to Tom

Working From Home Has Made It Easy for People to Change Jobs

Prior to Covid, work from home was a privilege. Now that it’s the norm, it’s driving wages up and it’s easy for people to change jobs as they aren’t limited to their local market.

I do believe that career growth is a part of culture. This change from brick and mortar to virtual is driving innovation in the marketplace, however.

Thanks to Rob

There Are Many Issues Driving Attrition

Many issues contribute to this, such as:

  • The expectations required of them not being clearly iterated at the start
  • Training can sometimes be off the mark – compared to reality on the phones
  • Shift patterns
  • Restrictions on when they can take annual leave
  • Boredom
  • Salary
  • Career prospects
  • Customer attitude
  • Immediate and second line management

Most contact centres also state absurdly low attrition and then, when digging into the numbers, you get “oh, we don’t count that group because of x, or that group because of y, etc.”

Thanks to Alun

A Lack of Good Leadership

Ultimately, my experience has shown me it’s the lack of good leadership. Generally good frontline associates get promoted into leadership roles with no real sense of how to lead.

Successful organizations really invest in leadership and development of their leaders, so they can build strong rapport with team members.

People will stay for a good leader. They will give their discretionary effort for a good leader. Of course, the other things need to be in place, like a reasonable wage too.

Thanks to Aaron

The Four C’s

I often refer to the 4 ‘C’s as drivers.

  1. Culture
  2. Competition
  3. Compensation
  4. Career

If you aren’t addressing all 4 and putting mitigation in place around these, you will never stem attrition.

Thanks to Steve

Career Perception Varies by Location

My experience in South Africa, interestingly enough, is that the call centre is seen as a career in itself. Sure, people may fall into it, but many businesses provide study bursaries to grow the staff. Because the sector is growing, there are so many opportunities for growth.

In more developed geographical regions, this industry is seen more as a stop-gap.

I imagine the real struggle in developing geographical regions is the competition for experienced talent and so people move around from one centre to the next. The moves I’ve seen here are due to shifts, higher wages, and more employee-centric cultures.

Thanks to Chava

Not Meeting Employee Expectations

It’s the expectations of employees that aren’t being matched by the organization.

Failure to meet these expectations (things like flexible shifts, progression, ownership, is my voice heard and acted on?) are all drivers of attrition.

Thanks to Nick

Lack of Purpose

Lack of purpose and belonging can be part of the reason. Customer service is a hard gig… serving others and doing it well takes a big effort.

A strong brand identity and a sense of community gives employees a reason to continue. Companies who are aware of the power of customer service are probably the ones with the least attrition.

You have to appreciate to be appreciated.

Thanks to Karen

Agent Experience Is as Important as Customer Experience

We all know this, but agent experience is as important as the customer experience!

Legacy systems do not give the agent or customer an enjoyable experience due to efficiency!

Legacy systems do not give the agent or customer an enjoyable experience due to efficiency!

Using gamification can help drive a fun and exciting environment with the call centre too.

Thanks to Cam

Boredom and Repetition

The boredom and repetition of the role certainly have a part to play.

I’ve been in this space for 36 years and every time I took over a new call centre, I was so disappointed with the lack of creativity, support and fun in the environment.

Businesses are too hung up on metrics and it sucks the personality and souls out of people. The best place I ever worked was Scoot! Targets and expectations were hard, but we nailed it with fun, openness, and allowed our teams to express themselves.

Thanks to Tara

For ways to make working in a contact centre fun, read our article: Ways to Make Working in a Contact Centre Fun

Poor Perception of the Jobs

Let’s face it, call centre jobs are seen to be easily obtained and therefore easily disposable in return.

More often than not, high demand for delivering service means that the hiring strategy is targeted on quantity rather than quality; this therefore means that many people hired are simply not good enough to do the role.

This leaves call centres with many agents not possessing the fundamental qualities required to carry out their role effectively.

When you have such people on board, they tend not to invest themselves in the role or buy into the company mission.

This contributes to poor culture, poor overall morale, and ultimately poor service. Such factors directly feed into attrition. Leadership can only lead so far when there are people unwilling to follow.

Thanks to Gérard

Companies Need to Recognize and Change

The biggest harm to a business right now is the phrase “That’s how we’ve always done it”.

The companies that are recognizing that change is a good thing, and embracing it, are the ones that will survive and have the first pick of the best talent.

There’s a fixation on delivering ROI from processes, from people and from technology.

The companies that are recognizing that change is a good thing, and embracing it, are the ones that will survive and have the first pick of the best talent.

Sometimes it’s just not measurable – but can have underlying positive outcomes. We need to become more OK with this and recognize it’s just simply the right thing to do.

Thanks to Nick

Blanket Solutions Don’t Meet Staff Needs

Some contact centre staff will be in their role for the flexibility, some for what they feel is a decent wage, some as it’s just convenient, and then some will see a potential career path through management or another specialized role.

But a very large proportion will never truly be emotionally attached to the role. And that’s absolutely fine. It’s always been the same, and we need to respect each and every employee along with their own reasons for being in the role. After all, try succession planning when you have 200 people with their heart set on reaching management!

A common mistake I’ve seen made is the obsession with trying to develop, or add more responsibility to, ALL their contact centre agents when a good percentage just don’t want it. Listen to each employee properly and appreciate their circumstances and ambition.

Sometimes your best performer(s) may not have any grand aspirations to manage the team or take on additional responsibility. They just want to do a decent job, and that’s it!

Attrition is expected so plan for it accordingly. Just try not to take actions that will disturb the “balance” and create an environment where agents start looking for reasons to move roles when they may not necessarily want to.

Thanks to Simon

Poor Wages and High Stress Drive People Away

Most call centres have sent their easier contacts offshore or have them handled by AI, leaving the most complex and difficult contacts to be handled by onshore call centre agents – causing severe burnout.

When they realize they can work somewhere other than a call centre making relatively the same amount and doing a job less stressful and taxing, they make the decision to leave.

Thanks to Corrine

To discover more great insights on staff turnover and attrition, read these articles next:

Author: Robyn Coppell

Published On: 8th Jun 2023
Read more about - Contact Centre Research, ,

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