Attrition is often seen as a health check for any business. If a high number of people are leaving then something is wrong.
So, the question is why, and what can be done to reduce it?
Here Steve Woosey of the The Forum shares his thoughts on how to control attrition in BPO, before we take you through our own fifteen tips to further reduce and control attrition.
The Top Five Ways to Reduce Attrition Issues
Contact centres are no different from any other business, and with the negative images portrayed by the media, it is perhaps even more important that any issues around attrition management are dealt with.
At The Forum, we believe that a contact centre can be a great place to work and our research into attrition shows some of the key areas for improvement.
So, research suggests that the top five ways to improve attrition are:
1. Skills Development
4. Management Style
5. Work–Life Balance
But what can you do differently?
1. Skills Development
When we look at attrition and how to improve it we are asking “how can I keep my staff motivated?” If you refer to any motivational theory, personal development is always a high motivator.
So, why would a contact centre be any different? Looking for ways to enhance the skills of your employees is good for the business, the customer and the employee.
Many centres use multi-skilling as a way to be more efficient. Used correctly, this can also be seen as a development tool. Employees would be trained in new skills after certain periods of time and/or reaching a certain performance level. If communicated correctly, this gives employees a sense of achievement and creates variety in a job.
This can be achieved without the need for financial reward, resulting in motivated staff, who will stay with the business longer as they move along the skill path, whilst meeting the business need for efficiency.
Communication is key to any successful business! In contact centres there is a need for everyone to understand the goals of the business. It is important that employees feel part of the plan and understand what the business is striving for and the part that they have to play in making it happen.
Attrition rates are high in centres when employees feel disengaged, “nobody listens to me”. There have been a number of good communication examples where employee focus groups are used to make change happen, and employee champions are used to drive change forward and give the employees a voice.
Targets need to be aligned and communicated effectively. Results need to be reported and discussed.
Many centres now have web-based technology to display performance stats and working patterns. The use of intranet sites to display information can also be very effective. We must use all the communication media we have available, and remember that what may not seem important to a manager may be crucial to an agent.
3. Promotion and Progression
Many now view contact centre work as a career, and with the varying roles available, from the traditional path of Agent, Coach, Team Leader or a support role in HR, Resource Planning, or Finance, there are many opportunities.
It is important, therefore, that at least some of these vacancies are filled with internal candidates. This gives employees the knowledge that if they work hard and do well they have a chance to progress.
It can also be useful to give people opportunities to try out new roles; “try before you buy”, if you like. This can be done through secondments, day-in-the-life or development programmes.
Many centres have development opportunities designed at finding the next team leader from the agent population; these schemes could be extended to include the many other support roles available in today’s contact centres.
4. Management Style
This area is closely linked to communication. Does an employee feel valued? Do they want to come to work? There is an old adage: “you don’t leave the business, you leave your manager”.
How many times have you heard someone say “the job’s ok but the people are great”? This shows how important management style is to employees.
The contact centre should be a great place to work, with an element of fun and hard work. The management approach will go a long way to achieving these goals.
5. Work–Life Balance
Work–life balance is not easy to achieve. Employees have to understand that the business must meet its customers’ demands, while the business must understand that employees have external pressures as well and do all it can to help them.
The introduction of family-friendly legislation has forced many contact centres to look at how they schedule staff.
Contact centres have then taken this more flexible approach and developed it for all employees, creating a number of lifestyle schedule options that give employees more choice, whilst still meeting the business needs.
These schedule choices are often created by the employees through focus groups, always bearing in mind that the business needs must be met.
Every employee is different and it would be wrong to assume we know what everyone wants or needs, so providing options is a great way of finding a suitable solution for all.
Steve Woosey, Director of The Forum.
More Tips to Further Guard Against Attrition
6. Plan Internal Attrition Interviews
Many contact centres run exit interviews to gather information on why an advisor is leaving and to learn how they can stop future employees from leaving under the same circumstances.
But why not conduct these interviews earlier, to stop a member of staff leaving in the first place?
Conducting internal interviews, after an advisor’s first few weeks on the contact centre floor, will allow you to tackle their grievances before it is too late. Also, these interviews show that you support and care for each advisor, which can boost morale and job satisfaction.
Find out more on improving contact centre spirits by visiting our page: Use Your Imagination! 11 Creative Tips That Will Boost Morale in the Contact Centre
7. Beware of Hiring Advisors Who Left Their Last Job After 6-9 Months
If someone left their last role as a contact centre advisor after six to nine months, the likelihood is that they will leave again, unless you have a good leadership programme in place.
This is because advisors who leave after this time often do so because they realise that there was not much room for job progression in their previous role. So, keep an eye on these advisors and make sure that they are aware of possible routes of development within the contact centre.
8. Make Swapping Shifts Easy
One of the greatest problems contact centres face is the rigidness of the schedule, which can often result in staff missing important external events and consequently lowers job satisfaction.
Often contact centres are hesitant to allow shift swaps due to the negative impact it may have on workplace cohesion, contact between supervisors and advisors and service quality.
However, this does not mean that it cannot be done successfully, and by giving it a go you could greatly enhance advisor morale and reduce attrition.
Find out more common shift-swapping struggles, along with an effective way to run them, by reading our article: The Trials and Tribulations of Shift Swaps
9. Coach Resilience in Training
Whilst training is often too short to teach everything that you wish, coaching resilience is important, so new advisors are not overwhelmed by dealing with angry customers, for example, when they begin full-time work.
This could have a big impact on reducing attrition in the first three months of being in the role and resilience is an important quality for any advisor to have.
10. Have a Coach Alongside a Team Leader
As touched upon earlier, attrition often comes down to the lack of job progression opportunities. But, what about if you promote a highly skilled advisor who you are afraid you may lose to take on the role of a coach, working alongside the team leader.
Whilst this will not be a big promotion in terms of pay, by offering them the opportunity to coach, they can help to promote quality service around the contact centre and the role would also offer a more palpable route of progression.
If the advisor can visualise these routes, they will be more aware of the opportunities that surround them, which could be a factor in building motivation, as well as lowering turnover.
11. Don’t Promote Advisors on Just Being Good at Taking Calls
Taking great advisors off the phone to move them into a team leader position could be a mistake. Just because they are good at taking calls does not necessarily mean that they are good at managing people.
However, you also don’t want to keep them in the same position for too long, as they may get frustrated with the lack of progression and move on. So, you need to find the right balance.
To try and strike this balance, develop leadership in the contact centre to find advisors who have the right leadership capabilities, such as organisation, influence and motivation, and ensure you don’t make the decision based on call handling alone.
Also, if you are seen to be helping advisors progress their skills by developing their leadership, you can lower attrition as advisors will interpret your actions as preparing them for future opportunities.
12. Get Involved with Community Projects
If you can create a good link between charity projects based in the community that most of your advisors call home and the contact centre, you can form a tangible connection for advisors between their working and domestic lives.
Also, advisors are likely to recognise and appreciate the work you are doing in their community and, by maybe giving them a couple of days’ paid leave a year to work on these projects, you can build in positive experiences for your advisors.
These positive experiences later turn into positive memories, which, when associated with the workplace, can help to lower attrition rates.
13. Present Rewards and Recognise Achievements
According to a recent Cactus report, “over two thirds of advisors said that they based their decision to stay in a contact centre on the quality of its reward scheme.”
“Everyone in your business will have different priorities in their personal lives, from wanting to spend more time with their children to saving up for a deposit for a house.”
“With this in mind, your reward scheme should be flexible enough to offer extra holiday to advisor X and a cash bonus to advisor Y.”
In addition, don’t forget to make sure you recognise the achievements of your advisors, even if it’s just with a quick “thank-you”. Make sure you gather a crowd to reward an extravert advisor, whilst a private conversation would work for quieter employees.
For examples of good rewards, visit our page on: Top 10 Call Centre Incentive Rewards
14. Benchmark Against Good Advisor Skills
Benchmarking the skills of new advisors against their well-skilled counterparts may not only benefit the quality of calls but also provide guidance so individuals are less likely to feel stranded.
This isolation can cause frustration that builds to give a negative impression of the job and is likely to boost attrition levels.
So, instead of or alongside metric-based targets, benchmark advisors against their colleagues and suggest what to pick up from them in call quality monitoring sessions so they receive adequate levels of support.
15. Ask These Two Questions in the Recruitment Process
Recruiters in the contact centre field often prefer real-life experience over contact centre experience, as those with the former can be more skilled when creating an emotional connection and rapport with customers.
So, in order to filter through those to see if they have this experience, you can ask the following two questions:
– Tell me a time when you let someone down?
– How did it make you feel?
These two questions will give you an idea of how your advisors handle situations in which they have to show empathy and will provide you with a good gauge on how well suited they are to the role.
This can help to lower contact centre churn, as it lowers the chance of recruiting unsuitable advisors who will not be as comfortable in the role.
Follow the link to find out: How to Write a Successful Recruitment Strategy
16. Ask Advisors Where They Want to be and How They Want to Feel
Whilst asking the “where do you want to be?” query might be overlooked as just a common interview question, such as: “Where do you want to be in five years’ time?”, it can help you to determine if the advisor’s future goals align with those of the company.
If the recruit answers that they want to be somewhere that has little in common with your contact centre, then they can be considered to be at risk of moving on fairly early into their tenure. So, pay special attention to these advisors!
Also, by asking the potential advisor how they want to feel, you can target rewards, incentives and so on to fit their preferences, which may boost job satisfaction and prolong their stay in the role.
For more interview question suggestions, read our article: Top 50 Customer Service Interview Questions – with Answers
17. Provide Job Familiarisation Before Advisors Are Hired
Making new recruits fully aware of the challenges of the role may increase “drop-outs” from training, but it will likely reduce short-term attrition levels, as they will know what to expect.
So, as well as letting potential advisors listen in on calls, bring in current advisors from the contact centre floor to partake in Q+A sessions. But make sure that managers and any senior staff leave the room at this point, so advisors don’t shy away from voicing their honest feelings.
18. Remember That Long-Term Workers Have Different Priorities
In this piece, we have often discussed incentives such as rewards and shift swapping, but it is worth remembering that advisors have different priorities that generally change depending on how long they have held the position.
According to RED Recruitment, advisors who have worked in the contact centre for more than six months have these top three priorities, in the following order:
- Nice environment
However, the top three priorities for those who have been in the role for less than six months instead look like this:
- Nice environment
- Company culture
So, when you plan incentives to lower attrition levels, bear these priorities in mind so that you can gain the most out of the rewards you present.
19. Look at Salaries for Suitable Job Fields
As stated above, the main priority for advisors who have been in their role for over six months is to receive a competitive salary.
You may think a competitive salary involves just comparing with other contact centres, but the reality is that advisors can now easily transition into other fields with similar skills required.
Often, advisors change professions and move into a sales-related field, or the communication profession, and so on, so the salaries that you offer may also need to be compared to these kinds of jobs.
So, focus on the salaries of jobs which require similar skills to the advisor role and are in the same region as your contact centre to determine if the rates of pay that you offer are competitive.
20. Build an Attrition Action Plan
Advisors with high rates of absence are in danger of leaving, so take this as a warning sign and talk to these individuals. You can then build this into an Attrition Action Plan.
Not only will this help you to find out if your contact centre environment is up to scratch, it will also act as a protection blanket for you to support advisors before it is too late.
For more on this topic read our article: 3 Ways to Reduce Absenteeism
Do you have any more tips to reduce advisor turnover in the contact centre?
If so, please share them, and any other thoughts you may have, in an email to Call Centre Helper.
Originally published on 14th May 2008. Recently updated.