Increasing Contact Center Agent Retention
According to North American labor statistics, employee turnover is at an all-time high in today’s workplace, and the implications for the contact center industry are significant, considering its reputation for being a volatile employment segment with a lower median employment age, high-stress work environment, and lower than average remuneration.
This workforce dynamic has created opportunities for applying the theories of game mechanics, or gamification, to the real-world problem of retaining valued agents. And at the epicenter of the contact center workforce is the agent.
Unique attributes and skills are required of agents in a contact center environment, e.g., infinite patience, finely-honed communication skills, and a superior ability to prioritize and organize their workload.
- How can contact center leaders retain and reward their agents?
- How can they ensure that they invest in the right talent?
- What kind of incentives will motivate agents to continue to perform in the long-term?
- What kind of financial and environmental factors can be positively impacted by increased agent engagement?
Attrition by the numbers
Overall attrition averages for the contact center industry range between 30–45 percent, with some sectors showing attrition rates in the triple digits!
In fact, according to Quality Assurance and Training Connection, replacing one front-line agent can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $12,000. And when you multiply that by the high numbers of agents who end up leaving their jobs within a couple of years—up to 45 percent—the costs become astronomical.
The process of replacing an agent necessitates recruiter fees/referral bonus, and newly-hired agents will start drawing a full salary well before becoming productive, as they navigate the necessary orientation and training stages that are part of any new position.
And how about those training costs!
Not only do new agents require formal training, there are colleagues that have to back-fill the departing employee’s workload, fill in-costs for overtime, as well as a noticeable productivity lag.
The less-quantifiable, but still very tangible cultural factors to navigate, such as getting to know the rest of the team, their work habits, and individual communication styles, should also be added to the equation.
But let’s take a step back – how can we prevent agent attrition in the first place?
There are so many surveys, polls and studies that have been published over the last few years on how to motivate, or engage, employees across industries. For the Contact Center industry, these are the factors that stand out, other than actual salary, which, somewhat surprisingly, ranks somewhere in the middle in terms of importance:
- Meaningful feedback
- Strong collaborative environment
- Possibilities for advancement
- Performance-based incentives
…and a sense of belonging, or team spirit. these are all factors that contribute the most to “Employee engagement”, which translates to prolonged retention and company loyalty.
The derived benefits are numerous for the employer, but front and center are the golden metric for any contact center: Customer Satisfaction.
How can gamification help retain agents?
Gamification is a proven performance management method that can improve how an employee interacts with their work in terms of collaboration, commitment and competition.
Training and Self-Assessment
Agents need to feel attached to their jobs to continuously improve their skills. Traditional training, whether by classroom or web-based, requires pulling agents from their assigned tasks, thereby reducing their efficiency.
Gamification introduces an alternative where agents can improve skills on their own time, and at their own pace, while being recognized for their efforts.
Traditionally, creating competition was done on whiteboards and through email. Such approaches are cumbersome and tend to becomes less frequent, losing momentum as other important and urgent tasks come into focus.
Gamification provides contact centers with multiple, continuous agent challenges. Research has shown that agents are motivated to work harder, and with an improved attitude, when they are directly rewarded and are able to gauge their own improvement.
Another successful game mechanic is automated team challenges. Agents who become high-performers are inspired to pass on their best practices to those who may require more encouragement, thereby assisting with a task that is typically reserved for managers. Working in teams creates a stronger sense of camaraderie, making the workplace feel more like sports team striving for the same objective.
In conclusion, Gamification in the workplace is an employee-centric interaction model with a higher purpose; there is a world of difference between playing games for fun (…and there is nothing wrong with that), and providing a gamified interface to a business application. The benefits are two-fold: the application is used to its fullest potential and intended purpose, while the agents using the gamified interface are more engaged and will develop a strong loyalty to both their employer and their customers.
Image credit: flickr