The fifth annual survey on Contact Centers’ Biggest Challenges and Top Priorities was recently issued by Lori Bocklund, president of Strategic Contact, a consulting firm involved in contact center strategy, operations, and technology. This year’s study is themed “the year of the agent” due to a heightened focus on the contact center employee experience, the EX, which, as Bocklund notes, results in a better customer experience, the CX. While that sounds like a nice feel good story, her research found the #1 challenge - by a wide margin - is “attrition.”
The fifth annual survey on Contact Centers’ Biggest Challenges and Top Priorities was recently issued by Lori Bocklund, president of Strategic Contact, a consulting firm involved in contact center strategy, operations, and technology. This year’s study is themed “the year of the agent” due to a heightened focus on the contact center employee experience, the EX, which, as Bocklund notes, results in a better customer experience, the CX. While that sounds like a nice feel good story, her research found the #1 challenge – by a wide margin – is “attrition.”
The contact center executives surveyed did not cite reducing attrition as their biggest priority this year. Interestingly, though, tied at #3, a mere 3.3 percentage points out of the top spot, were “improve employee engagement and empowerment” and “increase focus on coaching/development.” As someone involved in helping contact centers motivate, train, and manage their employees so they can perform at their peak, I’m really glad to see this compelling need be recognized.
Nonetheless, the biggest investment contact centers make is in people. In a separate study, Strategic Contact noted fixed and variable labor costs represent between 67% and 76% of centers’ cost structure. Given that, it makes sense to go about the hiring and onboarding processes in ways that yield productive agents who perform well shift after shift. Otherwise , you’re leaving money on that table. Serious money.
Still, as I looked through the research report, I found myself wondering aloud: “What about attrition?” Was it not addressed directly because the industry I’ve been involved in for more than two decades just accepts mind-numbing levels of agent churn. Has the industry accepted defeat in this area. Does it live by the notion that annual turnover of 80% to 120% is routine for centers of just about any size or description?
I’d certainly hope not. Otherwise we’re going to hit bottom on the potential labor market for capable service agents, if we’re not there already, given the strength of the current labor market.
My take is there’s a desire to boost employee engagement and instill in them a real sense of empowerment plus help team leaders be coaches, not grouchy administrators who spend their days filling out forms and avoiding questions from team members. The hurdle, I believe, is finding and utilizing a system that does that. One that really delivers on employee engagement, learning, and performance.
Think that’s not possible? That systems blending microlearning and performance management with gamification don’t exist. Let me change your view by showing how such a platform effectively dealt with this year’s #1 challenge: attrition.
My example involves a big player in the BPO/Contact Center arena. It has multiple facilities, thousands of agents serving a wide range of clients whose customers are across the globe and speak several different languages.
In two of its larger centers this operator piloted a real-time employee performance management platform. More than 600 agents were involved in an effort that ran three months toward the end of 2019.
The platform used gamification to boost engagement and keep agents focused on their roles and goals as well as to make learning more enjoyable and less tedious. Along with that, they – and their managers – had real-time visibility into their performance which, not so incidentally, changed 1:1’s from awkward reviews of long-forgotten performance into useful coaching sessions drawing on real-time data.
Not surprisingly, agents fell into two groups; those who engaged with the system frequently and those who did not. The point being that higher engagement creates greater understanding of employees’ jobs, their place in the organization, and what their career path looks like. The split was about 25% engaged users, and 75% for the low/no engagers. And, yes, more engagement does yield better performance. But we’re looking at attrition.
The rate of attrition at the start of the program was 3.5% for the agents identified as engaged users. By the end of the three month pilot it was 2.0%, a 42.9% improvement in the annualized rate of attrition. Now I can accept a certain level of skepticism with that result as those who engaged with the platform were likely to be good, long-term team members who’d deliver solid employee lifetime value (ELTV). However, improving the likelihood those types of people don’t walk out the door is nothing to scoff at.
As to the low/no engagers, their rate of attrition was 21.0% at the start of the pilot. Three months later, even with limited engagement with the platform, it dropped to 14.0%. That’s a 33.3% improvement. You can imagine that a decent number of those people could go from being so-so employees to super, or something just short of that. And, after some additional data crunching, it was determined that the annualized attrition rate among this group could go as low as 12%. Suffice to say, the program has been expanded.
And to think there are people who seemingly accept an annual attrition rate of 120%. As you have read, it can get better. Much better. Just find the employee engagement and real-time performance management platform that can work for you.