8 useful tactics to improve employee retention in call centers

by Time Doctor
Employee retention in call centers

The pandemic led to the adoption of more remote and hybrid work options, which has helped unlock a global workforce. 

While BPO/KPO companies had unprecedented access to global talent, call center employees too had greater work opportunities. 

The consequence?

Outsourcing companies started finding it difficult to control turnover and retain their top talent. 

According to the 2021ICMI report, the average employee turnover rate in a contact center was 58% year on year. 

There is no doubt that reducing high turnover and improving employee retention are the key challenges for any call center or contact center today. 

So, if a high turnover is plaguing your contact center, we’re here to help you out.

In this article, we’ll share eight essential tactics to improve employee retention in call centers, from investing in agent training to improving agent engagement. 

Let’s get started. 

Table of Contents

8 best tactics to improve employee retention in call centers

Here are some of the key steps you could take as a part of an employee retention strategy for your call center or contact center: 

1. Follow the right hiring practices

One of the prime reasons why call center agents quit is that they feel they’re not fit for the job. Hiring the right candidate is an initial and easier way to reduce a high turnover rate and ensure employee retention at your contact center. 

Let’s go through some steps you could take to screen an agent thoroughly: 

  • Use creative channels like social media, podcasts, videos, or online forums to reach out to millennial candidates. 
  • Conduct pre-hire assessments to collect primary candidate data and cross-check all the information. 
  • Have an open-house event to give agents a feel of your company culture, office setup, and additional facilities. 
  • Include group interactions in your hiring process to gauge if the prospective agent is a team player. 
  • Ask situational questions during the interview to check their judgment and problem-solving skills
  • Analyze the prospective candidate’s voice and tone to see if they’re empathetic and gauge their confidence in high-pressure situations. 

Even though the whole interview process may seem time-consuming, going for quality over quantity will likely lead to a lower turnover rate in the future.  

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2. Invest in employee onboarding and training

Once you have your recruitment process in place, the next step for reducing staff turnover is to focus on training agents already on board. 

Today, customer expectations from a call center or contact center are incredibly high. When they reach out to a customer service representative, they’re looking for:

  • Quick problem-solving.
  • Personalized attention. 
  • Empathetic and skilled agent.

When your call center employees have the skills and understanding of the company materials and processes, they’re better equipped to offer exceptional customer service.

On the contrary, lack of training could lead to poor customer service, employee burnout, job dissatisfaction, and eventually high agent attrition.

In fact, according to the 2021 ASAPP research, 51% of the respondents who received poor training felt pessimistic about their careers. 

That’s why having high-quality training programs for your agents is critical for reducing the call center turnover rate. 

But how do you train a call center or contact center agent the right way? 

Training a call center agent is as challenging as hiring them in the first place. You want them to learn the tricks of the trade quickly, but at the same time, you don’t want to overwhelm them with information. 

Here’s how you can go about it: 

  • Introduce them to the company: While every new employee knows the company basics, you need to make them aware of the company’s vision, mission, and short and long-term goals. 
  • Introduce the team: To settle into the company culture and meet its objectives, every new call center employee should feel comfortable with the new team and their call center managers. 
  • Familiarize them with company rules: Start explaining the rules and regulations that a new call center employee at your BPO/KPO company must follow. While doing so, explain to them why those rules are in place. When agents understand the reason for it, they’re more likely to abide by them. 
  • Rope in top performers for help: Allowing a new employee to see how high-performers function can help you set an agent performance benchmark. Your new agents get an opportunity to see how you expect them to handle customer interactions, which will also develop their skills and confidence. 
  • Offer customized training: You must remember that every agent is different, so you can’t have a one-size-fits-all plan to train your new hires. Instead, you should try to develop training courses that focus on different call center skills like call handling, after-call work, using computer telephony software, etc.

Check out some of the best strategies you could adopt for call center training. 

3. Empower contact center agents with automation tools and AI technology

Sometimes handling large call volumes can become overwhelming for a customer service representative, leading to burnout and high attrition rates. An effective way to help your agents handle the additional call center work is to equip them with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and call center automation tools. 

You could enable automatic call routing and have AI and Machine Learning powered virtual agents to handle the extra customer demand during peak seasons. AI-powered virtual agents are also pretty easy to set up and don’t require additional training costs.

Moreover, that’ll help you answer customer calls 24/7 and free up your live agent’s time to handle more complex customer queries. 

Likewise, you could also implement tools that help simplify and automate repetitive tasks that every call center agent needs to complete pre and post-calls. This can help avoid human errors, improve work efficiencies, and save costs. 

4. Maximize employee engagement

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, total voluntary employee turnover stood at 4.4 million in April 2022, costing companies millions of dollars in turnover costs. 

So, for any top BPO/KPO company, employee experience should be as important as customer satisfaction. 

When the attrition figures are that high, employers must focus on employee engagement for greater call center retention. 

Here are the four significant ways to ensure maximum employee engagement and reduce turnover in your contact center: 

A. Notice signs of disengagement

To ensure employee engagement at your call center or contact center, you first need to spot disengaged employees. 

Lack of employee engagement can affect your agent retention in two ways: 

  • Disengaged employees are more likely to actively look for other work opportunities. Employees who feel unsupported are more likely to leave when given a chance. 

B. Invest In employee wellbeing

All employees should be provided with a workplace where they can feel safe and secure.

For this, you should have a wellness program that includes:

  • Health initiatives: Provide healthy snacks, make lunch breaks mandatory, set up a mental health resource for agents, and have an office space full of natural light and greenery. 
  • Social initiatives: Encourage walking meetings and informal meetups.
  • Personal development initiatives: Conduct team-building exercises, organize soft-skills training and arrange topical webinars. 
  • Work-life balance initiatives: Offer flexible working hours, start an agent volunteer initiative, and offer extended time off and sabbaticals.

If you have agents working remotely, the same initiatives could also be implemented for them, irrespective of their work location. For example, you could have virtual team building activities, offer them online mental health support, give flexible work options, etc. 

10 employee wellness programs for a healthy and happy workplace

C. Offer rewards and recognitions

Making a sincere effort to celebrate outstanding agents and teams can significantly increase employee engagement and agent retention

According to a 2022 Quantum Workforce research, when employees believe they’ll be recognized, they are 2.7x more likely to be engaged.

Likewise, an old Bersin & Associates study found that firms with effective employee recognition programs experienced 31% less voluntary employee turnover. 

Now, when it comes to rewarding your agents, you could do so by giving financial rewards like bonuses or gift cards. But you could also offer non-monetary benefits like days off, shorter work hours, or sponsored lunches. 

Even simple non-tangible things such as public recognition or one-to-one praise can make agents feel valued and appreciated. 

D. Provide growth opportunities

When you, as an employer, offer training and professional development opportunities to your agents, it shows that you’re invested in their future. 

In fact, according to the Work Institute’s 2021 Retention Report, the lack of career development opportunities has been cited as one of the top reasons for high turnover

An effective way of ensuring employee retention in your call or contact center is by offering them opportunities for promotion. This allows your agents to align their personal goals with your company and reach their next professional level. 

Additionally, you should give your employees periodic feedback as a part of your retention strategies. This way, your call center managers can help individual agents to improve their performance and achieve their goals. 

Furthermore, you could create a mentorship program and hold regular career path meetings where everyone can discuss what they seek from the company in terms of growth. 

Discover how to measure and increase employee engagement at your company. 

5. Use performance metrics to provide personalized coaching

Evaluating the performance of every agent can help you assess what’s working for them and what’s not to coach them accordingly. 

But to offer them such feedback, you need specific employee productivity metrics

For example, according to a lab study by Time Doctor, in collaboration with a major outsourcing company in Asia, keyboard and mouse activities tracked by the Time Doctor app were the second most significant performance indicators for its agents.

For a call center, some of the other key metrics could include: 

  • Service levels.
  • Attendance and schedule adherence.
  • Check-in and check-out times.
  • Average call handle time.
  • Web activity. 
  • Time spent on after-call work.

When you’re able to document these employee productivity metrics or KPIs (key performance indicators) and present them to your agents, it makes the conversations much easier and reduces the chances of agent turnover. 

Tools like Time Doctor can also help you set reasonable call center benchmarks for all employees based on real-time data. 

But what is Time Doctor?  

time doctor - better for the organization

Time Doctor is a popular productivity and workforce management software used by large companies like Verizon and SMBs like Thrive Market. 

With Time Doctor, you can:

Check out all the features of the Time Doctor app that could help you track employee productivity

6. Create a strong company culture

Your company culture defines how your agents interact within the organization and the type of customer experience they provide. 

A positive and growth-centric work culture could motivate your agents to put in extra effort to ensure an exceptional customer experience. 

On the other hand, a negative or toxic work culture could lead to unhappy or disengaged agents that offer substandard services, failing to achieve customer satisfaction. It’s also likely to push away the best talent in your company, leading to high turnover. 

The two significant factors that could help you build a positive work culture and reduce turnover at your BPO/KPO unit are: 

A. Communication

Encourage a workplace that prizes honest communication and be a company that listens. Employees are more likely to stay when they are valued and feel free to give and receive constructive feedback. 

You should also conduct regular meetings and surveys to understand what employees like and don’t like and the probable reasons why employees leave. Accordingly, incorporate their feedback in your contact center policies to improve employee retention. 

B. Management style

The management style of your team leaders should be a reflection of your company culture. Their words and actions should align with the company’s values and vision. 

Your leaders should be able to create a company culture where employees feel free to reach out to their leaders, even if the management may or may not implement their suggestions. 

7. Allow flexible or remote work options

Remote working is no longer just a trend but one of the most effective retention strategies. 

Like every other sector, the call center industry is migrating to distributed operations. 

If you give your agents the right tools and technology to do their jobs remotely and offer them flexible work options, it could significantly lower the turnover rate at your firm. 

A Time Doctor lab study reveals that 59% of its survey respondents were likely to choose an employer that offered hybrid or remote work options. The study also found employees to be 22% happier working from home than in an office setting. 

Time Doctor clients also saw an increase of 10% in the ENPS score (Employer Net Promoter Score) when they allowed their call center agents to work remotely. These BPO employees also performed better working from home. 

8. Conduct an exit interview

Let’s accept this – no matter how hard you try to retain top talent, some of them will eventually leave. 

However, you could still make the best use of their exit by conducting a detailed exit interview. 

When employees decide to leave and are no longer committed to your center, they feel comfortable sharing their feedback about the workplace. 

Utilize this opportunity and ask them to describe their experience at your call center and things you could have done differently to make them stay. 

Use their feedback to avoid similar mistakes in the future and to improve the work experience of your new hires. 

Wrapping up 

Agent turnover is certainly a pressing concern for the call center industry. 

A stressful call center work culture, long working hours, demanding targets, and the availability of ample remote work opportunities elsewhere are some of the probable reasons for high annual turnover rates or attrition rates. 

Moreover, high turnover costs can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. 

But if you take the steps discussed above, you can empower and motivate your agents and be well-positioned to maintain a stable and engaged workforce.

Moreover, a tool like Time Doctor can give you enough actionable data on employee productivity to help your agents improve their work habits and achieve greater job satisfaction. Being able to measure employees’ productivity and compare good performers versus poor performers can also give you an early indicator of employees who are less engaged, enabling you to take action early.

Sign up for Time Doctor’s 14-day free trial to experience the tool and use it effectively to reduce your call center turnover rate.

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