4-Steps to Improving Employee Retention

The contact center industry has historically been plagued by high employee turnover. Particularly problematic (and expensive) is early agent attrition – new-hires quitting soon after the contact center has spent time and resources recruiting, assessing, training and preparing them to handle customer calls.

While some early attrition can be attributed to poor candidate selection, often rookie reps exit because they get rushed through orientation and initial training then thrown to the customer wolves. Or, in some cases, they receive plenty of coddling and coaching during orientation/training, and then wonder where all the love suddenly went once they’ve earned their headset.

During my call center management career I’ve seen call center leaders try many ways to reduce attrition including helping ease rookie agents into the challenging and dynamic customer care environment. Many top contact centers have implemented “extended on-boarding” initiatives. Such initiatives spread the transitional phase out over several weeks or months to help foster a strong sense of preparedness and belonging among new staff, resulting in higher levels of engagement and fewer incidents of them vanishing into thin air.

Following are several key components of successful “Extended On-Boarding” initiatives:

1. “Transition” training. After their trainees complete a couple weeks (or more) of classroom training, many contact centers send them to a special phone bay (or “nesting area”) to take basic calls while being closely monitored and carefully coached by a supervisor (or multiple supervisors, if the training class is particularly large). After a week or so in the bay, trainees may head back to the classroom to enhance their skills and to learn how to ignore the urge to punch customers. Following another stint in the nesting area taking live calls, successful trainees are moved to the official phone floor while their less successful peers are moved out or continue in the nesting phase.

“Transition” training, as it has come to be called, not only helps to shorten learning curves by providing plenty of practical experience, it works wonders in raising comfort levels among new hires, who love the extra care and attention they get before taking on much more complex problems on their own.

2. Peer mentoring. Effective agent on-boarding doesn’t end with initial training. Top contact centers continue to show new-hires the love after “graduation” by pairing them up with an experienced agent trained to assist and inspire. Having a peer nearby to help rookies through tough calls, peak periods and panic attacks is a surefire way to fend against early attrition and help new-hires thrive in what can be an overwhelmingly fast-paced environment.

In addition to raising the retention and performance levels of new hires, peer mentoring has the added benefit of enhancing engagement among the center’s frontline veterans (which can be infectious), who enjoy sharing their knowledge, taking on more of a leadership role, and having somebody to help.

3. Social events. Even with peer mentoring in place, feelings of isolation and alienation are common among agents, who must spend most of their time tucked inside a cubicle handling (or waiting to handle) customer contacts. Smart contact centers recognize this, and thus organize frequent events and gatherings aimed at strengthening relationships, elevating morale, and motivating agents to accept weekend shifts. Examples of such practical social activities include team luncheons, bowling outings and barbeques. During these events, managers and supervisors should introduce and encourage interaction with the center’s newer team members.

4. Specialized satisfaction surveys for new employees. Just because this isn’t a common practice doesn’t mean it’s not a good one. Administering an “on-boarding satisfaction” survey to agents after 60 or 90 days on the job enables the contact center to gauge the level of engagement among newbies and act quickly on feedback to help prevent early attrition and aggravated assault on supervisors. Agents’ input and suggestions also help the center to improve the overall on-boarding process to ensure high levels of retention. Many managers say that the very act of soliciting such feedback from new-hires helps to increase morale and retention, as it shows them that the organization truly values their opinion and is committed to improving hiring, training, brainwashing and other processes aimed at setting them up for success.

If your call center is struggling with retention, employee engagement, or creating customer loyalty, then contact Dave.Gregory@inspiredperformancesolutions.com or Lee.Pemberton@inspiredperformancesolutions.com to discuss how we might be able to help you achieve your goals.

Inspired Performance Solutions, Inc. believes call centers improve results when they apply the success formula: 

Alignment of Strategic Vision is critical to creating Employee & Customer Loyalty

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About davegregory

Dave Gregory, Chief Learning Officer for Inspired Performance Solutions, Inc., believes in the power of the strengths movement. During the past 15 years, Dave managed the Learning Solutions activities of Qwest’s Mass Markets Group, including call centers, retail stores, indirect retail, e-business, collections, alternative markets and the small business teams. Mr. Gregory graduated from Creighton University’s School of Law in 1993 earning a Juris Doctor. He completed his undergraduate education receiving a BSBA with an emphasis in marketing from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 1990. Mr. Gregory has more than 25 years experience in business development and consulting.

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