If you want to cut your agent churn rate, you need to think about improving your processes and being a bit more savvy when it comes to technology. Paul Scott reports.
According to Dimension Data’s “Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report 2007”, a massive 70% of the cost of running contact centres is related to the people who work there: the agents or customer services representatives. The report also reveals that the UK contact centre industry wastes close to half a million pounds every month as a result of its average 24% staff attrition rate.
In my view, there are six main areas to focus on if you want to improve performance and reduce staff attrition, and these are as follows:
1) Tighten up the recruitment process
Make sure the way in which people are hired ensures they have the right skills and competences for the job. Amazingly, many companies (27%) still don’t conduct a part of the interview or screening process for contact centre agents over the phone to see if they have the necessary communication skills.
2) Make sure the role expectations and career development opportunities are clearly mapped out
A growing proportion of contact centres – nearly 60% this year – are planning to up-skill staff to handle multiple query types, but less than 36% have defined career development paths for staff. No doubt this has an impact on a person’s expectations coming into a contact centre and is likely to play on their mind when considering the next steps in their career progression.
3) Streamline and simplify processes
Very often contact centre agents have to deal with multiple windows open on their desktop screens, and toggle between them during the call. This can be clumsy, time-consuming and very stressful.
Upgrading and integrating desktop systems improves agent performance and generally speeds up workflow. It also makes it far easier for agents to focus on satisfying customers.
Interestingly, although 77% of the organisations surveyed in the Dimension Data report say they have workflow solutions in place, only 32% have some form of decision support or case-based reasoning system to prompt agents with answers to customer queries.
4) Have the right people scheduled to answer your customers’ calls
Do you know how many people you need to achieve your service levels and create satisfied customers? Do you break this down per hour per day, and schedule staff with the right skills and experience accordingly? If not, you could be in real danger of over-staffing, leading to increased direct staff costs and bored agents and, in turn, to increased attrition with associated recruitment and training costs.
Alternatively, you may be under-staffed, resulting in high abandonment rates, stressed staff, reduced first call resolution and dissatisfied customers. Either way, getting it wrong costs. If you do calculate staffing numbers, do you use a spreadsheet developed by someone in-house a couple of years ago, who has subsequently moved on? Chances are this won’t be very effective for anything above a 20-seat operation.
Workforce management tools have now reached maturity and can deliver a rapid return on investment; the main issue today is ensuring the tool is set up correctly and managed by a trained scheduler. Implementing such a tool also enables your agents to take some control of their working patterns, resulting in improved motivation and employee satisfaction, which has been shown to have a direct impact on customer satisfaction.
According to the Dimension Data research, the top development strategy is customer satisfaction at 87%, with staff satisfaction close behind at 70%. I would therefore suggest there is no good reason for a mid-size or large contact centre not to adopt a properly managed, industry standard workforce management tool. And yet, despite this, only 26% of contact centres have capacity forecasting accuracy as a specific target.
5) Ensure your agents know how to handle calls
Poorly trained agents deliver a poor customer experience, leading to unhappy customers and, therefore, stressed employees who leave or go sick. Initial training is incredibly important, but it isn’t enough – agents often need help with complex or infrequent queries, which is where coaching comes in.
Coaching can be delivered by trained supervisors or specialist coaches, and it can be delivered by virtual coaching systems. The latter essentially provide step-by-step desktop assistance through processes, with a blend of specialist staff and virtual coaching providing arguably the optimum solution. Dimension Data’s research shows that an average of around 17 hours of coaching is delivered to agents per month. This can cost-effectively be increased using a real-time online virtual coaching tool delivered to the agents at their desktops, resulting in improved first call resolution and employee and customer satisfaction.
6) Ensure your agents know they are doing the right thing
Are your agents rewarded appropriately? Rewards provide a great feedback mechanism and agents will do what you target them to deliver, so you need to ensure you don’t reward skewed behaviours.
Also, rewards can be great motivators if applied correctly, and they don’t need to cost a great deal. For example, badges for full-time attendance cost almost nothing, but can create a highly motivational peer-led team spirit.
Absenteeism is currently running at 11%, but reward and motivation measures can successfully reduce this figure, thereby resulting in improved performance and reduced costs due to reduced staffing needs.
Read our article on the Top 20 Ways to Reduce Attrition in Your Contact Centre
With thanks to Paul Scott is line of business director at Dimension Data UK www.dimensiondata.com