How to Improve Contact Center Agent Retention

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 other industries. According to data from on-demand pay company DailyPay, turnover rates for care/support roles in contact centers were reported as high as 87.6% in 2022. Leading causes 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 Zenerate, 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. An article (The True Cost of Contact Center Agent Attrition) in Call Centre Helper reports that 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. According to industry research firm Aberdeen Group, vacancies can cause a 35% reduction in overall team performance.

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.

Optimizing agent retention requires a strategic approach. Here are some best practices we see working with global brands:

Embrace Continuous Learning

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 feel they are on the leading edge of industry knowledge and customer care best practices. It both enhances performance and keeps agents fully engaged and highly motivated.

Foster a Supportive Work Environment

Customer care agents want to feel valued, respected, and part of a team. Creating 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, improves job satisfaction, reduces stress, and lowers turnover rates. Provide honest feedback and continuous training and recognition for excellence.

Make Learning Accessible and Engaging

Accessibility to online training that is simple to use is crucial to ensure 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 are crucial for contact center agents eager to grow and succeed. New AI-based training, from virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to simulation training, lets agents learn in a highly interactive and engaging environment. Practicing real-life scenarios instead of classroom or presentation training reduces the risk of dealing with actual customers. Immersive learning also addresses the need to learn more nuanced soft skills, like problem-solving, empathy and quick decision-making.

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.

Sweeten the Pot

With increasing demands and competition in customer care, competitive salaries and benefits packages are essential to retaining top talent. Beyond wage compensation, benefits like health insurance, paid time off, and retirement plans are perks that employees love. We also see more organizations offering unique benefits like wellness programs or tuition reimbursement, 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. Those employees working at the intersection of brand and customer are at the heart of great customer care and great business outcomes. Implementing the strategies I’ve shared in this article is crucial to a happier and more productive workforce that is vested in your organization and inspired to stay with the company for the long run.

The original article appeared on Forbes.

Visit our website; www.zenarate.com, to learn more about how Zenerate AI Coach is helping improve agent attrition in your industry.

Written By Brian Tuite, CEO & CO Founder, Zenarate.

As an experienced contact center leader, Brian understands how today’s automation is leaving agents with the most demanding problems to solve. Brian is the Cofounder & CEO of Zenarate, the world leader in developing confident top-performing agents through AI simulation training, live call analysis, and personalized simulation coaching.