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  • Eric Berg

Controlling Attrition in a tight economy

6 Questions to ask about retention

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current unemployment rate is the lowest in 48 years. Often with low unemployment, wages increase and attrition for those slow to respond can hamper your center’s success.

When the economy is strong and contact center jobs are plentiful, retaining your top talent can become a daunting task. Although paying your agents a competitive rate is essential to retaining your top talent; there are many other factors you should be aware of, and respond to quickly, in order to keep your best talent. In this article I will address common questions you should ask as well as things you can do to improve your retention now and into the future.

Are you hiring the right people?

I speak often and consult many companies on this very topic. Why? Because if you are not hiring the right people for your center, nothing else will matter. When I am presented a company that has rampant attrition, the first thing I do is review their current applicant intake process for new hires. Often the process is basic and not relevant to the unique characteristics and goals of the center.

I recommend you start by assessing the metrics, goals and mission of your center, then look at the personalities and behaviors of your top agents to create a profile for success that meets the needs of your unique center. This can be done several ways, and there are companies and tools available to help facilitate a good profile. I have my go to and encourage you to reach out to me anytime to learn more.

Once you have a strong Profile for Success you can create an applicant intake process that assesses the personalities and behaviors needed for success in your center and only hire those employees that meet your profile. Once you start hiring the right people you will see a quick improvement in meeting your center goals and achieving greater success in service, sales or whatever metric is most critical to your success.

What does your training say to new hires?

Now you have hired the best and brightest and they are starting training. Training’s goal should be to prepare the agents for success in the center. When reviewing a training program, the first thing I do is review the metrics goals and culture of the center to identify if the training is relevant to the goals and objectives. If your center’s success is based on customer service, does the training include modules on effective customer service, de-escalation techniques, voice coaching, listening skills and how these can affect the metrics of the center? If you are a sales center do you focus on overcoming objectives, excitement of voice, features and benefits and how to maximize the sales skills of your talent?

Often times the training is company overview, system overview and how to look things up, but if you are not focuses on training the positive behaviors you are looking for and relating them to the metrics and goals of the center you are missing the point and setting up your new hires for a slower ramp up time, decreased success and increase attrition due to agents feeling they are not good enough…mostly because the proper training was not provided.

Do you have a culture of retention?

Would you want to work as an agent in your center? Creating a culture of retention requires understanding the personalities and demographics of your agent population; then creating a custom culture that embraces those characteristics; finally using those attributes to improve the success of your center. Many contact centers have varying demographics, so creating a culture, incentives and motivation may need to be more customizable to different generation and types of people. There is more than one way to be successful in most positions and we, as leaders, needs to modify our processes and management styles to accommodate the agent, if we want the good ones to stay.

I recommend understanding the personalities and behaviors of your top talent, then creating policies, programs and management techniques that promote those behaviors and encourage those agents to be happier and more successful.

Front Line leadership are they trained to retain?

The number one reason for attrition is a poor manager/supervisor. As leaders we want to believe we are the best leader and everyone respects us and the way we treat people, but often this is not the case. Only 17% of contact centers have a formal training process for supervisors. This is scary to me as the front-line supervisors have the greatest impact on retention of top talent.

There are numerous training programs available for front line leaders including Benchmark Portal’s Certification program. But there are also great non-profit associations scattered across the US that provide amazing content and training events, often very close to you. Google “contact center association” for your state and you will likely find a group of like-minded people that are excited to share their successes and learn more about your successes. A network of leaders sharing best practices and what works can be one of the strongest. Please consider connecting with me on LinkedIn and I am always happy to facilitate introductions to other centers with similar issues or provide a contact center association in your area.

Are your agents happy?

Ultimately happy employees stay. As a great leader you should care what your agents are saying about their employment to their friend, families and coworkers. I always say you should create a culture where employees post on their social media about the great things happening at work, rather than complain. What have you done lately that would cause your agents to post about the amazing place they work? Things I have seen posted include: Contest winners (electronics, gift cards, cash, trips) events for employees (especially outside of Customer Service Appreciation Week) Meet a goal get a reward programs (like if we meet metrics this month the Director will go in a dunk tank, or have pie thrown in their face). These also make the senior leadership more approachable and likeable. And if your best employees are willing to approach you and talk to you about their happiness or complaints, isn’t that worth it.

Do you work to improve Attrition?

Finally, if you have attrition and do nothing, then you are getting what your worked for. I recommend you start by having exit interviews for employees leaving. You may also have pre-exit interview for employees that are a concern to leave (seeing increased absenteeism, or metrics falling… open your eyes, they are leaving) this allows you to proactively understand what is causing someone to be unhappy and consider leaving. It may be an easy fix, or a pattern on one of your teams, but at least you know the cause and can work to improve it.

One of my first recommendations to all centers is creating a voice of the Agent Committee. This should be a safe committee free from leadership where the agents are encouraged to get together once a month and discuss the issues of the center. Is there a supervisor that has too many bad days, or treats people poorly, is the new vending machine company failing? Should we have a different dress code? You will be surprised by the information you can gather from your agents, when you give the then chance to communicate in a safe place. BUT, remember to have your ego in check; if you get feedback and do nothing about it, or worse yet, retaliate on the agents in the committee, you are sure to further increase your attrition and cause your center to fail even more.

Key Takeaways:

Understand the personalities and behaviors required for success

Hire people that have the personalities and behaviors needed for success

Ensure training is relevant and sufficient to meet the goals and culture of the center

Understand what motivates your top talent then work to create programs that facilitate success

Create a culture of retention by focusing on change and improvement

If you are experiencing attrition issues that affect your budget or customer experience, Contact today to learn how we can shape your center to be an employer of choice and retain your best agents.

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