The Great Resignation. You often hear that term used to explain the high rate at which employees quit their jobs in 2021. However, that term is not new to the contact centre industry. It has experienced a “great resignation” in the form of agent attrition for years.
Historically, contact centres have seen attrition and turnover rates in the 30-45% range; some are now seeing rates as high as 100% (and even higher).
COVID-19 bears some of the blame, but so does low pay, inflexible schedules, inadequate training, lack of career advancement, and stressful work environments that lead to burnout.
Suffice it to say, high attrition rates are tough on a contact centre’s bottom line and involve both direct and indirect costs.
Agent Attrition: Direct Costs
The obvious costs of agent turnover include recruiting, hiring, training, and onboarding.
Training alone is a major expense. While some centres require only a few training days, others involve weeks and even months. Add to that the ramp-up costs, speed to proficiency (the time it takes to make an agent 100% productive), and salary-related expenses, such as benefits and taxes.
The cost of replacing a frontline agent is estimated to be about 20% of their annual salary — a figure the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals puts at between $10,000 and $15,000. (A Society for Human Resources Management study lists that percentage between 50 and 75%.) Multiply any of those percentages when replacing 80-90-100% of agents annually, and hiring costs become astronomical.
With staggering expenditures like these, it’s easy to see why reducing turnover tops the contact center priority list. Lowering attrition by as little as 5% can save anywhere from $176,000 to $600,000, depending on the number of agents needed.
Agent Attrition: Indirect Costs
Direct costs are easier to calculate, and formulas exist for that purpose. Indirect costs are harder to quantify but can be equally severe.
The impact on customer experience is just one example. Think about the difference between a customer talking to a highly skilled agent instead of one who just left nesting.
When turnover runs rampant in the contact centre, institutional knowledge is lost, productivity drops, service quality decreases, and employee engagement and morale decline. These tendencies can snowball, resulting in higher call abandonment rates, dissatisfied customers, and lost revenue.
Also, consider employee lifetime value. The longer an agent stays with a company, the higher their worth. They have more experience, can solve customer problems quickly, and know when to ask for help — all of which positively affect metrics like AHT, FCR, and CSAT.
A survey by employee retention and engagement firm TalentKeepers found that experienced agents result in 86% higher customer approval and service quality ratings and have 77% greater impact on customer satisfaction.
Lowering Agent Attrition via WaH/BYOD
While contact centres will never see attrition and turnover reduced to zero, what can management do to curtail exorbitantly high rates?
Improving training, starting an agent reward and recognition program, providing better scheduling flexibility, and offering career advancement are often-used tactics.
An ideal way to retain agents and lower attrition rates and costs is to offer employees and prospects the opportunity to work at home. According to an Owl Labs study, companies that allow remote work have a 25% lower employee turnover rate than those who don’t.
Contact centres that decide not to offer a remote work option could land themselves in hot water with employees. A 2021 FlexJobs survey found that 58% of respondents said they would “absolutely” look for a new job if their current employer removed the choice to work remotely.
A work-at-home (WaH) operations model doesn’t just benefit employees but the contact center as well. A distributed workforce enables greater recruiting scalability, employees are more productive than those housed in-office, and infrastructure costs are significantly reduced.
However, working from home is not a panacea. Recruiting and onboarding can become more problematic due to the distributed nature.
Logistics and device procurement can be cost-prohibitive, and the current global GPU chip shortage limits scalability and delays onboarding. Plus, there is no guarantee that corporate machines are secure when operating in a WaH environment.
Bring your own device (BYOD) eliminates logistical and procurement costs, but it also presents problems, particularly where hardware specifications, operating system compatibility, and device security are concerned.