How much does agent turnover cost a call center?

Q. One of our top challenges in my call center is agent turnover. Do you have any statistics on the cost of agent turnover on the call center or the company?

Myra’s answer How much does agent turnover cost a call center?

The call center industry historically deals with extremely high turnover, with some outbound and telemarketing centers experiencing rates greater than 100% annually. More typically, a service or other inbound center may experience rates ranging from 10% to 50% or more annually. According to a recent poll of 1,000 call center managers, the average turnover is 19 percent. The highest were credit card centers at 46.9 percent.

There are more than three million customer service representatives (CSRs) working in North America. This means approximately 600,000 new CSRs must be recruited and trained each year. At an estimated cost of $5,000 each to replace each CSR, agent turnover can soon become a costly business.

How can we reduce call center agent turnover?

Looking for realistic tips for reducing agent turnover in a large call center.

Myra’s answer How can we reduce call center agent turnover?

Seven practices have been identified to reduce agent turnover.

  1. Turning Managers into ‘Retention Champions’
  2. Individualising the Customer Service Representative (CSR) Experience
  3. Provide Clear and Balanced Expectations
  4. Investing in CSRs/Training
  5. A Fun Place to Work
  6. Chance of Advancement
  7. Tools to do the Job

Much success to you!

What factors impact turnover for call center agents?

Q. We are experiencing turnover levels of nearly 300% and we’re at our wits end about what to do. We’re attempting to start by identifying what factors lead to turnover with call center agents. Can you advise on factors that lead to turnover in call centers?

Myra’s answer to What factors impact turnover for call center agents?

According to Brad Cleveland of the Incoming Calls Institute, there are twelve  typical causes of call center turnover, including:

  1. Pace of effort required
  2. Sense of powerlessness or lack of control
  3. Frustration of not being allowed to do a good job
  4. Repetition
  5. Daily physical confinement (tied to their desk)
  6. Over-regimentation
  7. The feeling of being spied on
  8. The feeling of not being appreciated by others in the organization
  9. Handling complaints and problems all day
  10. Odd work hours
  11. Pay
  12. Better opportunities elsewhe

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Help with attendance issues in call center

Q. My single most frequent and challenging issue with employees is attendance. I think your  7 Steps for Addressing Unacceptable Employee Performance (from your webinar) are brilliant and I’ll certainly use them. But while we’re on the subject of attendance I was wondering if there is anything else you’d care to share.

Myra’s answer to Help with attendance issues in call center

Thank you for that question…I’m sure several customer service and call center supervisors on this site can identify with you.

Let me give you some phrases that I think you will find helpful when addressing attendance.:

*Express both empathy and firmness during your dialogue with the employee with a statement like: “I can understand your mornings are hectic. But when you took this job you knew the hours were 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.” This type of statement shows that you are “human” and understanding, but also that you are quite serious.

*Put the responsibility on the employee with a statement like: “Getting here by 8:00am is YOUR job and YOUR responsibility.”

*And let me say, finally, that a lot of attendance issues are probably with Generation Xers. Your younger employees were shaped and molded by different times. These times were largely “flexible” in every area from the way they were parented to the attire they were allowed to wear in school. Flexibility is all they know and that’s why you will likely have “issues” with getting Xers to work on time, getting them to come in early for a mandatory staff meeting or getting them to work overtime. They are accustomed to being able to “negotiate everything and saying “no” at will. When they are tardy or absent, they are not usually being defiant, they are simply responding to your rigid rules with an assumed “rightof flexibility” the way they have all of their lives.

Am I suggesting that you should put up with the Xers flexibility needs and allow them to come and g o as they please? Absolutely not. You’ve got a business to run and compliance with company policy is a reasonable expectation. Here’s how you address attendance issues with the Generation Xer. 

First, establish crystal clear expectations about attendance. Saying “I need you here by 8:00am.” may not be effective. Instead, you’ll want to say “Your shift is from 8:00am – 5:00pm. This means I need you here, clocked in, in  your cube with your computer booted up and ready to take calls by 8:00am. Walking in the building at 8:00am is not acceptable.”

Second,  explain the impact on noncompliance on co-workers, customers, and any other relevant parties.

You must get the point across to the Xer that her or his actions g o beyond simply being late or tardy. The bigger picture consequences are much more likely to motivate positive performance change in your younger employee. Try this approach, “When you return from lunch 15 minutes late, it throws the entire lunch schedule off for your co-workers and results in even longer hold times for our customers. As I’m sure can imagine, this is frustrating for me, your co-workers, and our customers.”


And lastly, lay out the consequences of failure to comply with the policy.

Sadly, establishing clear performance expectations and explaining organizational impact, alone, will not be enough to get your Xers to comply with policy. You’ll have to clearly relay the immediate consequence of incompliance. An easy way to do this is “I need someone who can and will be here by 8:00am every morning.  I hope that person is you. If you can’t do that, I will be forced to take progressive action that may include termination.” I know it sounds harsh, but you cannot afford to leave room for misunderstanding.

Can you provide a list of job competencies for call center agents for use in screening and hiring?

Q. Can you provide a list of job competencies for call center agents for use in screening and hiring?

We are preparing to ramp up for our peak summer season and desperately need tools for screening and hiring call center agents. We currently require a typing test and a voice sample. What else should we consider as we hire not just to fill seats, but to retain employees? Also, can you point me to sample interview questions we might use?

Myra’s answer to: Can you provide a list of job competencies for call center agents for use in screening and hiring?

Here are 5 core competencies you should seek in consumer affairs professionals:

1. Tolerance for stress – Candidates must demonstrate a healthy response to stressful situations and an ability to maintain control in the midst of chaos.

2. Decision-making skills – Consumer affairs professionals must be able to work independently and make decisions that balance the interests of the company and the customer and make decisions that are cost-effective.

3. Creative problem solving skills – Tough challenges for customers demands quick and innovative solutions. Your employees need to be able to think out-of-the-box and think on their feet to find creative ways to delight unhappy customers.

4. Ability to effectively deal with difficult people – Customers can be demanding, and your employees need to be able to respond to challenging behavior with diplomacy and tact. Ideally, you’ll want professionals who are skilled at defusing anger, creating rapport and influencing behavior.

5. Little need for control – People who have a great need for power or rigid structure might find consumer affairs work challenging, as consumer affairs work is unpredictable, chaotic and in a constant state of flux.

Identifying core competencies positions hiring managers to accurately and quickly evaluate candidates against the requirements of the job and determine motivational fit for the position.

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How to Manage a Corporate Crisis

What You Can Learn from the Tylenol Cyanide Crisis

In the fall of 1982, the unthinkable happened. Someone replaced Tylenol Extra-Strength capsules with cyanide-laced capsules, resealed the packages, and put them on the shelves of at least a half-dozen stores in the Chicago area. The poisoned capsules were purchased and seven people died. Suddenly, Johnson & Johnson, the parent company of McNeil Consumer Products Company, maker of Tylenol, was in a catastrophic crisis.

Johnson & Johnson handled the cyanide crisis masterfully and the Washington Post said, “Johnson & Johnson has effectively demonstrated how a major business ought to handle a disaster.” Much can be learned from the Tylenol crisis on how to manage a crisis and restore customer confidence after a corporate disaster. Johnson & Johnson acted quickly to identify a crisis management team, took steps to prevent a future crisis, won sympathy from the public, and offered reparation.

Here are the 5 steps Johnson & Johnson took to successfully manage the Tylenol cyanide crisis.

  • Crisis Management Team – In any crisis situation, a small team of senior executives, including the organization’s legal counsel and public relations executives needs to be immediately formed to steer the actions and communications for the company. One of the first actions Johnson & Johnson’s CEO, John Burke, took was to form a 7-member strategy team. John had the team focus on two things: 1) How do we protect customers? and 2) How do we save this product?” The strategy team took swift action and Johnson & Johnson’s first step was to alert the public not to consume any Tylenol product until the extent of the tampering could be determined. The company pulled all Tylenol capsules from Chicago stores immediately and then pulled all Tylenol capsules nationally. The decision to withdraw Tylenol capsules from all shelves in the United States showed that Johnson & Johnson was willing to bear the short terms costs in the name of consumer safety. This move played a key role in restoring consumer confidence in Tylenol.
  • Rectification – Restoring customer confidence in the midst of a crisis requires rectification. Rectification is taking calculated corrective action to avert a repeat of the crisis in the future. When Johnson & Johnson created and immediately implemented the triple sealed packaging and developed random inspection procedures, they successfully rectified the crisis.
  • Sympathy Strategy – Rebounding from a serious crisis will happen much faster if an organization gains sympathy from the public. Johnson & Johnson brilliantly won support of consumers by depicting Tylenol as the victim of an external agent that acted maliciously to hurt customers. The company also gained sympathy when they pulled Extra-Strength Tylenol off of all shelves in the United States because they put consumer safety over profits.
  • Reparation – Reparation in the form of compensation to help victims after a crisis can help an organization restore equity. Johnson & Johnson provided victims’ families counseling and financial assistance even though they were not responsible for the product tampering. Not only did Johnson & Johnson’s reparation efforts help to restore equity with victims’ families, it also improved the company’s reputation with the public as the media showed the organization taking positive action to help the victims’ families.
  • Immediateness – Not only is rectifying the problem critically important, but an immediate rectification will enhance consumers’ evaluations of the organization. The longer it takes for the organization to provide a full rectification, the greater the public’s perception that the victims have been treated unfairly and the greater the threat to the company’s reputation. Johnson & Johnson acted swiftly in forming a strategy team, withdrawing Tylenol capsules from the shelves, keeping the public informed via the media, and working to rectify the situation.

Johnson & Johnson successfully managed the cyanide crisis by acting quickly, putting consumer safety above all else, and strategically restoring customer confidence through rectification, sympathy, and reparation. If ever your organization finds itself in the midst of a crisis, take a lesson from Johnson & Johnson’s text-book perfect response to crisis. But don’t wait for a crisis. Take proactive steps now to prepare your team to react and respond to crisis situations. When you prepare and plan, you’ll find that managing the crisis and restoring customer confidence is far easier.