How BPO & outsourcing leaders are using technology to reduce employee attrition

by Liam Martin
reducing attrition in BPO

These are difficult times for business leaders. Challenging situations are nothing out of the ordinary for the people responsible for overseeing organizations, with topics such as cash flow, digital transformation and productivity always on their radars. However, the past year has seen a unique concern dominate boardroom conversations around the world – employee attrition.

Having navigated the challenging landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses now find themselves facing a world where there are not enough available workers to meet the demands of employers. In the US alone, there are nearly 11 million job vacancies but only 6.5 million people listed as unemployed. It is a similar story across the Atlantic, with European businesses facing more than 1.2 million job vacancies, while employers in Australia are battling to fill more than 470,000 vacant positions.

The situation does not look like easing any time soon, with studies showing there will be a global labor shortage of 85 million people by 2030. The current crisis is being exacerbated by the phenomenon that has been dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’. The number of people who quit their jobs across the world soared during the pandemic, hitting an unprecedented 48 million people in 2020 and eclipsing the previous record of 42 million people set a year earlier.

Labor shortage taking a toll on contact centers

Such findings are a serious concern for the outsourcing sector and particularly call centers given they have some of the highest employee attrition rates in the entire workforce. The industry averages a 30-45% attrition rate and many call center agents only remain in a role for a maximum of one year, which is much lower than the US national median of four years.

Given such statistics, it is little wonder addressing employee attrition has skyrocketed to the top of many business leaders’ priority lists and many innovative firms are developing and deploying technology to help them do so.

Impact of employee attrition in the outsourcing industry

Employee attrition or turnover is when a staff member leaves a company, whether voluntarily or not, and is often calculated as a metric to help identify workplace issues that need to be addressed. While many organizations can withstand minor employee reduction or turnover, a constantly changing workforce can take a significant toll and every effort should be made to reduce such rates.

Employee attrition rates have traditionally been high in the call center sector, largely due to a combination of the repetitive nature of the work, low employee engagement and staff being asked to handle too many calls. With the industry average so much higher than that of other occupations, it poses significant headaches for outsourcing leaders including:

·        High recruitment and training costs

·        Reduced customer service quality

·        Lower team morale

·        Key performance indicators (KPIs) and cross-selling issues

·        Difficulty in implementing new technologies

Given the negative impact of high employee attrition, outsourcing leaders are increasingly searching for strategies to help reduce staff departures and that includes investing in technological solutions across a range of business areas.

Why are BPO leaders using technology to help reduce employee attrition?

The response to this question can be summed up in two simple words – it works. Just as technology has changed the face of the modern workplace, it has played a key role in fostering environments that make it easier for outsourcing managers to identify potential concerns among their staff and for those staff to be less likely to want to hand in their resignation letters.

Specific benefits include:

A. Streamlining repetitive processes: a survey by McKinsey found more than 40% of workers say they spend at least a quarter of their work week on manual, repetitive tasks and this figure would likely be higher for call center agents. The monotony of such tedious processes can be a drain on staff and lead many of them to search for opportunities elsewhere. Leveraging the likes of automated technology removes such tasks from employees, allowing them to spend more time on more productive and fulfilling work such as meaningful interactions with customers.

B. Enhancing remote work opportunities: the pandemic has given many workers a taste of remote work and they have liked what they found. To comply with public health orders, organizations rushed the roll-out of work-from-home procedures at an unprecedented pace and scale, with a majority of employees working remotely at least some of the time. While the vast majority of companies have reopened their offices, 68% of employees say they want a hybrid environment that mixes remote work and the office and it is technologies such as the cloud and online meeting platforms like Zoom and Skype that are allowing such opportunities to be realized.

C. Increased productivity and morale: imagine overseeing a team that has less absenteeism, more productivity and generates more sales and better customer experience. Employees that have access to the tools and technologies they need to do their jobs tend to be more efficient and engaged, which leads to the above benefits. Better still, happy employees are also more likely to commit to their employer long-term as opposed to looking to work for rival organizations, which delivers big savings on turnover costs.

D. Better service: technology has changed the game when it comes to providing faster and more personalized customer service. There has never been a greater opportunity to gather and leverage data about the customer journey, which makes it easier to determine how to target specific demographics or individuals and uncover potential pain points. Likewise, live chat bots and automated emails are enhancing customer experience by providing immediate service. By creating streamlined processes and reducing frustrations, technology has the ability to foster happier customers, which inevitably helps nurture happier employees.

E. Support professional development: companies that show a commitment to investing in the training and development of their people regularly appear on lists of ‘Best Places to Work’ and technology is playing a significant role in making it easier for employees to access and benefit from training opportunities. Training software that allows staff to self-select their training modules empowers them to guide their own career development, with HR leaders also able to keep track of their progress, complete performance reviews and see where gaps need to be filled.

What technologies are BPO leaders using to reduce employee attrition?

Not so long ago, technology giant IBM took a futuristic step in a bid to identify employees most likely to leave the company. Using its India unit as a test case, it rolled out an artificial intelligence-based pilot program that it claims can predict with 95% accuracy which workers are about to quit their jobs. While the results of that investment are yet to be seen, it is just one example of how outsourcing leaders are embracing technology in the battle to reduce employee attrition.

A. Recruitment: nurturing a happy team starts with recruiting the right people, hence why it is crucial to identify candidates who will be more likely to enhance community among colleagues rather than have them looking for the exit. Various technologies and AI-powered tools can provide informative data about prospects, while apps such as XOR feature chatbots that automate screening processes. Another challenge for HR leaders is highly credentialed talent can be deterred if recruitment takes too long, which is why technologies that speed up processes are hugely beneficial. Applicant Tracking Systems and Candidate Relationship Management Software also help compile candidate databases for future reference.

B. Onboarding and training: once a candidate has been hired, the focus turns to onboarding and technology is helping companies put their best feet forward in the early stages of recruit/employer relations. By digitizing the onboarding process, AI can provide a personalized service to new employees and incorporate experience and emotion mapping. It can also help ensure effective training, which is a vital part of fostering happier employees and higher retention rates. With more staff working remotely, it can be increasingly difficult for managers to supervise employee development but technology is helping overcome such hurdles. Gamification is also being integrated into the education and training process, with the likes of simulations and rewards incentives making learning more enjoyable.

C. Employee monitoring: a recent survey highlighted the top reason people leave their jobs is uncaring leaders but, as many managers know, it is not necessarily a matter of being uncaring as being overwhelmed. With only so many hours in a day, managers often find themselves unable to dedicate the time needed to make employees feel heard and valued. Consistent AI surveys and automated feedback chatbots are helping counter this by identifying issues and fostering supportive communication with employees. Likewise, AI can combine activity data (eg: log-on times, number and length of phone calls) to help identify whether call center agents are being overworked and at heightened risk of burning out – and walking out. Surveys have found 20% of new hires leave within the first 45 days and technology that supports training and performance can help stem that flow.

D. Productivity and efficiency: AI and call center automation tools are an effective way to handle large call volumes and allow agents to focus their attention on areas they are most needed. Automatic call routing technology connects incoming calls to suitable agents in the least time possible, along with offering features such as call queuing and voicemail for boosting efficiency. There are also various tools that help simplify and automate repetitive tasks, which can ease the monotony felt by some agents that often leads them to look elsewhere for job opportunities.

E. Employee engagement: organizations that boast positive cultures have less to fear regarding employee attrition, which is why many companies are looking to embrace engagement tools and solutions that promote workplace interaction. This is especially beneficial when teams work remotely or are spread across various sites, with engagement solutions such as JUNO and culture-building tools like online quizzes and games helping break down virtual barriers and give staff further reason to say “This is a great place to work”. Culture Amp is another highly regarded solution for delivering the employee engagement tools and insights needed to build “a category-defining culture”.

How BPOs are leveraging Time Doctor to address employee attrition

It is one thing to want to discuss an agent’s performance with them. It is another to have a suite of productivity metrics at hand to support one’s case. Sourcing, collating and presenting such metrics or KPIs reduces the chances of agent turnover by putting facts at the heart of such conversations. Tools like Time Doctor can help managers and HR leaders set reasonable call center benchmarks based on real-time data, with one study showing key and mouse activities tracked by the app were the second most significant performance indicators for agents.

Used by large companies including Verizon and SMBs like Thrive Market, Time Doctor is a productivity and workforce management software that can track the time agents are on a task, create and manage automatic work schedules, track sites and apps accessed during work hours and create comprehensive reports to understand agent productivity. 

One of Time Doctor’s greatest strengths is helping teams focus on what matters most by simplifying project management. Productive employees are invariably happy employees and the software gives managers the ability to analyze project reports and easily see what is taking up the most time for agents and help them improve their efficiency at every level. Crucially, employees can also view their own time-use stats to quickly self-correct any time-wasting behavior and use distraction alerts to let them know when they have spent too much time on personal or non-work related sites.

Burnout is also a leading cause of employee attrition, with overworked employees at risk of looking for job opportunities elsewhere. Time Doctor’s Timeline and Attendance reports break down daily activities to create more visibility into work patterns and allow managers to help agents develop better work habits and help prevent burnout and disengagement. 

In a world where agents are more susceptible to moving jobs than ever, Time Doctor has been proven to help employees achieve a better work-life balance by facilitating work-from-home and remote work arrangements, make the most of the time they spend at their computers, be more effective and avoid distractions.

Summary

While technology has already played a significant role in helping business leaders address employee attrition in call centers, the exciting thing is there is still so much more to come. With almost 75% of businesses planning to increase spending on HR technology, it is little wonder established tech firms and start-ups are searching for the next great solution, while the likes of Time Doctor continue to invest heavily in enhancing and finetuning their existing products.

From easing communication and identifying emerging issues to increasing productivity, technology is helping improve the working experience for call center agents. Furthermore, it significantly boosts the sense that they are recognized and supported by their organization, which ultimately leads to them being more engaged and less likely to walk out the door.

When COVID-19 forced Eufonie, a leading BPO company headquartered in Madagascar, to quickly shift to a remote workforce, its clients understandably raised security concerns and questions about the work output agents would be providing. Discover how implementing Time Doctor allowed the company to give clients more control and visibility than they were previously able to in-office, so much so that Eufonie CEO Johan le Bail says: “Without Time Doctor, we would not have survived the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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