Agent churn: It’s not you, it’s your employee engagement strategy

Jeff Gallino, CTO and founder of CallMiner

It’s no secret that contact centers are infamous for their high turnover rates, which average 45 percent year-over-year—more than double the average for all U.S. occupations. What most companies don’t realize, however, is that this doesn’t have to be the status quo. Identifying the signs an agent is about to check out and having solutions in place to change the outcome can dramatically reduce agent churn well before they decide to give their notice.

If retention isn’t motivation enough, research shows that an astonishing 77 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged, which, according to Gallup, can cost upwards of $605 billion in lost productivity per year. There’s incredible value in spotting non-engagement signs and addressing the lack of productivity that often lead to agent turnover early. This can ensure strong employee engagement and stop the turnover cycle. Not only will it save billions in lost revenue, it will promote better customer experiences through an organization’s No. 1 advocate—its employees.

Warning Sign 1: They go into silent mode

One of the primary indicators of an unengaged employee is silence. Silence is commonly caused by a lack of agent training, but this isn’t only applicable immediately after onboarding. Agents require extensive knowledge of your company’s products and services; however, many employees miss out on new product information because organizations neglect to offer continual education programs.

Employee silence can also happen outside of customer interactions, as managers of unengaged agents tend to notice an increase in the amount of time between each call. Although this doesn’t usually stem from a lack of company knowledge, it’s a telltale sign an employee is experiencing a lack of motivation. Distant employees are comfortable with doing the bare minimum to get by and will likely keep their heads down, and calls quietly recording, to purposely limit the number of customers they interact with.

Warning Sign 2: Under (but not terrible) performance

Decreased performance in areas such as average handle time (AHT), call volume, and following a script could all point to a lack of engagement that, if not fairly addressed, can lead to lower NPS scores, turnover, and even compliance risks.

Sometimes, however, quantifiable performance metrics aren’t the sole indicator of an agent’s performance—as agents aren’t at-fault for many of the disruptions that happen during the call. Companies need to take training, tools and technical factors into consideration when it comes to gaps in an agent’s performance and use contextualized scoring methods to accurately and thoroughly understand where performance issues are occurring and the root cause.
Warning Sign 3: Inconsistent feedback on their work

According to research by Gallup, less than 21 percent of employees strongly agree their employee implements fair evaluation processes. Contact center agents handle dozens of calls per day, but many outbound surveys and manual quality management reviews only account for three to five percent of an agent’s interactions—leading to ill-informed assessments of their overall performance.

In addition to being inaccurate and irregular, many legacy feedback systems are impersonal. Call center feedback usually only involves reprimanding, despite the employee’s desire to be recognized for exceptional service. The lack of effort put into celebrating successes usually causes agents to feel unappreciated and less likely to advocate for the business.

How to Stop the Cycle

Proper training—during and after onboarding: Before sending your agent out on their own, how do you know you’ve given them the proper training to handle the influx of problems they’ll face out on the floor? To keep up with the fast-paced environment of the contact center, they need to stay informed, especially if your products and services are constantly evolving. Each one of your employees is unique and despite what’s suggested by legacy employee education programs—their training processes should be as well. Speech analytics data can help managers offer personalized training programs in accordance with agents’ specific needs, even after onboarding.

Tools to optimize performance: Aside from training, contact center operators need to ask themselves whether their agents have the resources they need to succeed. While two-thirds of customers dial in with a problem, some caused by lack of self-serving options on other channels, they expect your agent to be able to solve, lack of resources is one of the biggest factors leading to job-related stress. It’s impossible to guide each of your representatives through every single interaction—but tools and customer engagement analytics software can take information in real time and apply historical data to provide your agent with better insight and guide them through the call based on the context of the conversation.

Real-time feedback: Agents should always know where they stand when it comes to their performance. A discussion a week, a month, or a year later about a specific interaction with a customer will not help anyone succeed. Having an analytics tool removes any sense of unfairness that’s usually associated with random selection by providing an inclusive and holistic view of your caller engagement data, ensuring a stronger voice of your employee. It also helps with coaching by automatically scoring 100 percent of your agents’ customer interactions to pinpoint the exact areas they need to both improve customer experiences in real-time and add business value in the long run.

While employee turnover is one of the biggest problems companies face today, employee engagement is just as impactful to your business’s bottom line, as those with highly-engaged workforces outperform their peers by nearly 150 percent. All problems associated with the warning signs of an unengaged employee point to a similar source—the company’s inability to fully understand the needs of their employees from both a personal and professional perspective. Similar to how analytics and artificial intelligence work to strengthen customer loyalty, these tools and concepts can help personalize your organization’s approach to agent management—offering a fully-developed employee engagement strategy that involves critical coaching and feedback procedures. In doing so, companies can foster a positive work culture and keep employees from feeling as though they are ‘just another number’.

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