Attracting and retaining contact centre agents

Despite a decrease in the number of overall job vacancies in the period up to the end of December, competition for talent remains high with large swathes of disillusioned employees looking to change jobs. The CIPD’s Good Work Index 2022 found that a staggering 6.5 million people in the UK were planning to hand their notice in over the following 12 months.

The movement in the job market is leaving businesses with gaping holes in their workforce that they struggling to fill. According to CIPD research, 77% experienced difficulties attracting candidates – up from 49% the previous year with 26% of organisations surveyed finding it difficult to recruit low-skilled candidates.

For contact centres looking to attract and retain those who have just entered the job market from university or college as well as more experience call centre agents, the challenge is compounded by pre-conceived ideas about the role such as the lack of opportunities for skills development and career progression.

Attrition rates for contact centres are generally higher than the average of 15% with estimates ranging from 26% to as high as 85%. The fallout from the loss of experienced team members can be significant, in addition to hefty recruitment costs, team morale and employee satisfaction may suffer which, in turn, affects customer experience, brand perception and corporate reputation.

Why do people leave? While pay and benefits remains a key motivator, many also cited lack of development. Just 39% of lower earners (those earning up to £20,000 per year) said their job offers good skill development opportunities, compared with 72% of higher earners (those earning £60,000 or above per year). And only 25% of lower earners say their job offers good career advancement prospects, compared with 51% of higher earners.

For employers looking to retain experienced contact centre agents, a multi-faceted approach is needed. In addition to reviewing pay and benefits packages, employers will need to consider how they are investing in the growth and development of their contact centre teams.

Upskilling is both a response to hiring difficulties and an effective retention strategy. In large teams it is difficult for line managers to be able to invest sufficient time to monitor and coach on a 1-2-1 basis. Having the right tools in place can help with this, using a platform that can automatically assess call quality and provide real-time feedback to agents can take hours of workload away from team managers as well as empowering the agent to immediately put the recommendations into practice on their next call.

Having the right tech in place will also enable insight into productivity and other aspects, such as sentiment, product positioning and compliance, to be available to busy line managers at the touch of a button. Managers will be able to quickly identify areas of strength to showcase as best practice as well as aspects that may need additional focus and improvement.

Showing a clear career path and highlighting success stories is also key for businesses looking to retain their contact centre workforce. The skills acquired as a contact centre agent can be invaluable across your business including resilience, agility, compliance and communication. It’s important to showcase the value of these skills and how they can lead to a diverse range of careers in customer experience and beyond. Are there people within your organisation who started out as call centre agents who could talk about their journey?

In summary, although technological advancement continues to reshape the contact centre industry, the vast majority of consumers still prefer to speak to a human and with studies that indicate call centre enquiries are becoming more complex while consumer patience dwindles, the need for experienced contact centre agents has never been greater. The average business in the Call Centre industry in the UK now employs more workers than it did five years ago and as managers focus on retaining their top performers, more companies will be looking at how they can use technology to help them build a sustainable differentiator in the competition for talent.