Labor is the single most important and expensive component in contact centers, supplying most of the customer care, service, sales, and billing, amounting to 65 percent-70 percent of operating costs. It pays to keep labor loyal i.e. minimizing turnover. Hiring new staff and bringing them up to speed can account for up to 50 percent of their annual wages. Customer loyalty can suffer from the inevitable slowness and errors.
Yet even in challenging times like these, contact centers still suffer from turnover that is often higher than that of other similar industries such as retail and hospitality. For many people contact center work, while it pays more, the hours are better, and the environment is nice is also confining and stressful. There is often little room for advancement.
Nina Kawalek, CEO, RCCSP Professional Education Alliance, points out that there is a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, both positively and negatively. Research such as the SQM study for Manpower is just one of many that make this point pretty clear. That paper, published in 2005 demonstrated that contact centers that have high employee satisfaction also have high customer satisfaction and contact centers with low employee satisfaction also have low customer satisfaction.
There are a wide array of methods and solutions that have been developed to curb turnover. Among them are awards/recognition programs such as ‘agent of the month’, graduated advancement i.e. ‘expert agent’, ‘agent leader’, improved facilities with amenities like daycare and gyms, performance-based cash/gift incentives, additional training, and work at home.
Yet before contact centers devise and deploy turnover-reducing programs and techniques, RCCSP’s Kawalek said they should focus on the reasons people stay at their jobs instead of the reasons people leave. They should also take heed of what research studies on job satisfaction have been saying. Not all factors that go into job satisfaction impact quality equally. For example, she points to a research study out of Ashton and Montclair State Universities, among many others, shows that financial rewards and recognition have far less impact on quality than supervisor, team, and co-worker support.
“If agent satisfaction or retention is negatively impacted by economic stresses or insecurity, so is contact center quality,” said Kawalek. “But before concluding you can’t control that, dig a little deeper into the factors behind job satisfaction. Just knowing exactly which motivational lever to pull can have a big impact on retention and quality. And, you don’t have to suffer through a lot of trial-and-error approaches that sap your time and money with little results to show for the effort.”
The best staff retention tools are among the most basic, and they don’t cost a lot of resources to obtain, set up, and manage. The RCCSP CEO points out that people stay at their jobs, even in the hardest of times, when they feel committed to their organizations; that they want to stay. Researchers from Concordia University the University of Montreal are specific: supervisory and peer support – in serving customers in particular, no less – can nurture that desire to stay committed.
“If you’re shaking your head thinking that sounds too fluffy to really matter in tough times, think again,” Kawalek points out.
She recommends that you train your supervisors and managers to apply agent satisfaction and retention methods that are backed by statistical truths. The science works every time, she points out, even under the harshest conditions. If you want to decrease attrition and increase quality at the same time, something as simple as peer monitoring, remote or desk-side coaching, mentoring, or holding participatory team meetings can have a huge impact.
The Resource Center for Customer Service Professional’s preparatory training courses for the Certified Call Center Manager (CCCM), Certified Call Center Supervisor (CCCS) and Certified Call Center Engineer (CCCE) designations impart industry best practices and processes. They also provide tactical skills, and 21st Century contact center science.
“Sure, job satisfaction impacts quality and as a result, customer satisfaction,” Kawalek said. “Knowing what’s worked before or elsewhere is part of the art of contact center management. It’s called experience. But, in unusual times like these, you can’t base all your decisions on an experience we’ve never had. That’s why your supervisory staff needs training in fact-based methods.”
Edited by Stefanie Mosca