Brian Tuite is cofounder & CEO of Zenarate, a leader in developing top-performing customer-facing teams through AI Conversation Simulation.
Having spent the majority of my career in the customer care industry, I’ve had the opportunity to watch the continuous advancement of new and smarter technologies that improve contact center performance. While this growth in tech has been highly impactful, there’s one constant we can all appreciate: Humans are still the heartbeat of any contact center and vital to delivering outstanding customer care.
Without skilled, dedicated and confident agents, the customer experience suffers, and poor retention can greatly impact a company’s bottom line.
Why Agent Retention Matters
The challenge of retaining top talent in a contact center environment is no small feat. Today’s customer care organizations continue to experience higher attrition rates than many other industries. According to a 2022 report from Cresta, turnover rates for care/support roles in contact centers were reported as high as 87.6% since the start of Covid-19.
Contributing causes often include high stress levels, inadequate training, lack of advancement opportunities and a more competitive job market. Add the shift to remote work environments, and we’re experiencing an unprecedented turnover that causes too many sleepless nights.
But here’s the good news: It doesn’t have to be this way. Over my years of experience and now in my role as CEO of a company that provides simulation training, I’m seeing more focus and effective approaches to help lower retention rates.
The first step to address the agent retention issue is understanding the drivers and impact of high agent attrition.
The Cost Of High Agent Turnover
It’s no mystery that high agent turnover comes with significant financial and operational costs. Replacing an agent can cost between $10,000 and $15,000. Beyond the direct financial implications, there are other hidden costs to consider.
When contact center representatives leave, it takes time to fill vacant positions. With fewer agents to handle increasing call volumes, productivity decreases and customer care suffers.
In addition, newly hired agents need time to be trained to reach required performance and best-practices standards. This lag in associated preparedness can diminish the quality of service your customers receive. There’s also the issue of how high turnover rates affect team morale when agents continue to see colleagues leave.
Best Practices For Boosting Retention
Optimizing agent retention requires a strategic approach. Here are some best practices I see working with global brands.
1. Foster a supportive work environment.
Customer care agents want to feel valued and respected and like they are part of a team. A positive work environment encourages open communication, collaboration and better performance.
To keep your representative feeling supported, it’s vital to understand their strengths and weaknesses and to help them grow personally and professionally. A supportive work environment—even when remote—can help improve job satisfaction, reduce stress and lower turnover rates. Provide honest feedback and continuous training and recognition for excellence.
2. Embrace continuous learning and make it accessible and engaging.
Continuous learning is crucial to professional growth, no matter the field. For contact centers, regular training and development programs ensure your agents have attainable goals for growth and help them feel they are on the leading edge of industry knowledge and customer care best practices. It can enhance performance and keep agents fully engaged and highly motivated.
Ensure your online training is accessible and simple to use; this way, agents can acquire new skills and knowledge, regardless of technical skills and location, while having a convenient time that works for them. In addition, immersive learning and training can help contact center agents grow and succeed. AI-based training, from virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to simulation training, lets agents learn in a highly interactive and engaging environment.
Make sure you also address the need to learn more nuanced soft skills, like problem-solving, empathy and quick decision making.
3. Encourage career advancement.
Career advancement is a key factor in job satisfaction and retention. Agents who see a clear path to advance through your organization will likely stay with it. In addition to customer engagement training, look to provide leadership training and offer mentoring programs that lead to career advancement.
Making career advancement a front-and-center cornerstone of your organization’s culture will help lower retention rates while helping to attract new hires.
4. Sweeten the pot.
With increasing demands and competition in customer care, competitive salaries and benefits packages are essential for retaining top talent. Beyond wage compensation, benefits like health insurance, paid time off and retirement plans are perks that employees love. I also see more organizations offering unique benefits like wellness programs or tuition reimbursement—things that were almost unheard of just a few years ago.
A comprehensive compensation package shows agents their contributions are valued, making happy associates more likely to stay with your organization.
Running a successful contact center is increasingly complex and challenging. The employees working at the intersection of brand and customer are at the heart of great customer care and great business outcomes. The strategies I’ve shared can help you create a happier and more productive workforce vested in your organization and inspired to stay with the company for the long run.
Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?