Contact center turnover isn’t just bad for morale, it is a costly problem for any company to have. There’s the cost of recruiting, training replacements, and ramp up time, not to mention lower quality work, missed days, and decreased productivity. Add to that the negative impact it can have on your customers’ experience and you see why CX leaders named employee retention their number one challenge.
Twenty-twenty ushered in a whole slew of new challenges for contact center agents like working remote for the first time and higher call volumes from equally stressed-out customers. Well before that though, contact centers experienced 30-45% turnover per year, which is double the average for all other occupations. It deserves attention and in this blog we examine agent turnover, including the hard and soft costs to your company, and how to use technology to support your agents to decrease the agent attrition rate in your contact center.
What Agent Burnout Does to Your Contact Center
The year 2020 will forever be known as the year of stress. Everyone has felt stress on all fronts – both in their personal and professional lives. Agents are no exception.
The pandemic has brought on heightened levels of stress with unprecedented call volumes and ever-growing demands. Disconnecting from that stress is even harder now that many companies are working from home and can’t leave work at work. Increased pressure on call center agents to continue to be empathetic while managing a spike in calls from emotionally charged customers causes immense amounts of stress that ultimately leads to burnout.
According to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), employee burnout is a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It’s characterized by three distinct outcomes:
- Feelings of exhaustion or lack of energy.
- Feelings of negativity or cynicism related to the workplace, or a feeling of increased mental distance from one’s job.
- Reduced efficiency in the workplace.
According to Gallup research employees who say they very often or always experiencing burnout at work are:
- 63% more likely to take a sick day
- 13% less confident in their work performance
- 6 times more likely to leave their employer
On average, 74% of your agents are at risk of burnout. It’s unsettling to consider how much of your contact center workforce teeters on the edge of being overwhelmed to the point of quitting.
The Cost of Agent Burnout
A certain amount of turnover should be expected. Employees will come and go, get promoted, or make lateral moves to other departments where their experience can add value to the organization. No matter what, attrition costs your contact center.
Agent turnover costs more than just the time and training required to backfill the position. There’s the operational cost of recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding. Then there’s the productivity costs of ramping up the new agent to reach the productivity of more seasoned agents.
It’s important that the true financial impact of attrition isn’t undervalued. From the point that an agent leaves the company to the point that the resulting empty seat is filled and fully productive can cost thousands of dollars per employee.
Why Digital Engagement Reduces Stress
There’s just no way to sugar coat it. Working in a call center is a stressful job. The majority of your agent’s time is spent engaging with customers and it takes a lot of emotional labor. The work is fast-past, results-driven, monitored, and as mentioned above, things have only gotten worse since the pandemic. It’s no wonder that companies are looking for more ways to optimize agent workflows to reduce work related stress and improve agent retention.
Many companies are solving this problem by adding digital channels such as SMS/text, web chat, Apple Business Chat, Google’s Business Messages, and social media direct messages. Contrary to what you might think, adding these to your channel mix can actually help reduce agent stress and workload.
Here’s how digital engagement improves your agent’s experience:
Minimizes emotional drain
It’s much easier to get yelled at in text. A message in all capital letters or containing profanity doesn’t have the same emotional drain as being on the phone with a screaming customer. Empathy is required by text and phone agents, but showing empathy is much easier when you’re not being verbally abused.
Keeps the conversation on task
Compared to a phone call, messaging is concise and to the point. There’s no chatter about how your day is going and the weather like there is on a phone call. Messaging allows an agent to avoid the chit chat and get down the business of solving the customer’s issue without a lot of irrelevant conversation.
Avoids awkward silence
Since messaging is asynchronous, agents have more time to think, do research, and respond. If an agent is on the phone the customer expects a response immediately. If the agent needs to consult a manual to get the answer, there’s an awkward silence and the agent is under pressure because the customer is sitting on the phone waiting. In messaging, customers can go on with their daily lives, allowing the agent more time to respond.
Affords agents more relaxed support
When an agent is on a phone call and needs help they have to put the customer on hold. In messaging, agents can collaborate with their manager and other team members to get advice without the customer being aware that the agent is struggling to solve the issue.
Reduces repetitive tasks
Answering frequently asked questions can simply become monotonous and repetitive which adds to agent stress levels. Digital channels enable companies to create pre-built responses for common questions with snippets. This reduces agents typing time with keyboard shortcuts to make repetitive responses fast.
A lot of these questions, such as “what’s my order status?” don’t necessarily need human agents to intervene. Contact centers that use bots and agents to manage their messaging channels realize even better results. Bots help customers get answers to questions like “How do I reset my password?” or “Where’s my order?” without waiting for an available agent. For more complex situations human agents can provide the knowledge, expertise, and creativity that only they can deliver. When call center reps feel that their labor, knowledge, and time is respected, they will be less likely to burn out.
Takes some of the surprise out of speaking to the customer
One of the reasons phone calls can be so stressful for agents is that they never know what they’re walking into. Is the customer angry or just in a rush and frustrated that they had to sit on hold?
With messaging, you can collect intel on the nature of the customer’s inquiry prior to transferring it over to a human agent. Whether you use a bot or a form to understand the customer’s intent, you can arm the agent with information they need to quickly resolve the inquiry.
Digital engagement also allows you to use sentiment analysis to monitor conversations. Agents can easily detect shifts in customer attitudes and behaviors during conversations. Quiq’s visual sentiment analysis feature helps agents and managers understand which messaging conversations may need extra attention.
Support Agents with Digital Engagement
Agent turnover is expensive, especially within a functional area that heavily relies on human labor. As unpleasant as it is, attrition is a workplace reality no matter where you work and regardless of the function. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the causes or costs associated with high levels of agent turnover
Adding Messaging to the list of channels you already have is an investment in the agent experience. So much of contact center efficiency and agent productivity hinges on equipping agents with the right technology. Quiq Messaging gives your employees what they need to access information and solutions quickly in one simplified platform. Ready to support your agents and contact center with digital engagement? Schedule some time with one of Quiq’s conversation experts to get started.
Guest post written by Marciela Ross, Sr. Manager, Content Marketing Marketing at Quiq
As you set off to undertake projects with the intent of being more customer centric, think of the technology that your customers use to connect and engage with your brand. Quiq helps brands present their customers with consistently jaw-dropping customer experiences across SMS/text messaging, rich messaging, web chat, and social channels. With Quiq’s Conversational Engagement Platform, companies can easily orchestrate commerce and service conversations involving both bots and humans.
If you’re ready to get started, schedule some time with one of Quiq’s conversation experts. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how your business can use messaging and bots to provide customers with a seamless digital engagement focused on delivering a world-class customer experience.
To learn more about digital transformation go to: www.quiq.com.