Contact centers have long emphasized a strategy that is customer first, and for good reason. Delivering an outstanding customer experience is essential to driving brand loyalty and equity. Often neglected however, was the agent. But their voices can no longer be ignored.
Employers are losing talent at an incredible pace, and the Great Resignation shows little signs of slowing down. The US Labor Department reported 4.53 million workers left their jobs in November 2021, the highest number of resignations for any month on record. December saw another 4.3 million people quit. That same report shows the number of available job openings greatly outpaces the number of workers out of work looking for a job. What does this mean? People aren’t just leaving their jobs; they are reshuffling into better ones. With this in mind, it was no surprise to see recruiting and high attrition rank as two of the top three challenges facing contact centers in 2022.
So why are so many leaving their jobs? People have realized that high-quality work can be performed from anywhere and are no longer bound by location when deciding where to work. A customer service rep based in California can take on a new role in New York, all from the comfort of their home office. Burnout has been cited as another key driver of resignations. Gallup polling shows the percentage of remote employees who feel burned out has risen steadily throughout the pandemic. Those who feel burned out are 2.6 times more likely to be seeking a new job.
How can contact centers retain their top talent in a time when attrition has never been higher? Prioritize delivering an exceptional employee experience. Engaged and satisfied contact center employees are 8.5x more likely to stay than leave within a year. Here are three ways you can drive a superior experience for your agents.
1. Embrace workplace flexibility. It’s here to stay.
We’ve heard it for two years now, but it bears repeating. COVID-19 has catalyzed a massive change in work habits, and the tools used to support these new work models have seen a dramatic increase in adoption. But throughout this experience, there has been a consistently cautious approach of wait and see. Will we return to the office? Is hybrid work the answer? What will the future of work look like? Contact centers still sitting around waiting for that answer to surface will be waiting for a long, long time. Our employees have been trying to tell us the answer all along, and it’s time we listen. Let your people work where they want to work. Or risk losing your top talent to a competitor that will.
According to a recent survey from Gartner®, “70% of customer service and support employees want to continue working from home after the pandemic ends.”* A separate CCMA survey found that 76% of contact center employees expect to have a say in where they work. Listen to their voices. Give your contact center agents the freedom to decide on a location that best suits their unique needs. And we must allow for flexibility. Does your employee want to work from home today? Encourage it. Do they want to travel to an exotic workcation destination 1,000 miles away? Do the same. If they desire an in-person location for the day, have a hot-desking model ready to rock and roll.
Prioritizing flexibility for your team doesn’t stop with the location. Agent self-scheduling is another vital perk contact center agents seek. Allow your team to bid on shifts—down to the minute. Give them the ability to tailor their schedule around picking their kids up from school, attending a midday yoga class, or working late at night because they feel more productive in the evening. Empowering your team to set their schedules creates a strong sense of personal ownership and buy-in, boosting employee engagement and retention.
2. Understand why your team is burned out.
As highlighted earlier, the rise in remote work has correlated with a rise in employee burnout. Reducing burnout is essential to retaining talent, so let’s first understand what creates it. Mayo Clinic identifies lack of control and isolation among its top causes. So how can we give our agents more control and create opportunities for meaningful connection?
Lack of Control
Providing your team the flexibility to decide when and where they work is a fantastic start. Now give them control on the job. Start by providing your agents with a forum to share ideas and recommendations. Why? Well, 90% of workers said that they are more likely to stay at a company that takes and acts on feedback. Encourage your reps to provide brutally honest feedback on how the organization can improve, and make sure management takes decisive action to acknowledge and act on it.
Establishing an incentive committee with input from agents is another innovative way to give your agents more control. Give agents a say in their performance targets and the rewards they receive for achieving them. Joint ownership between management and agents will drive a dramatic boost in employee engagement and reduce burnout.
Make a deliberate effort to foster an inclusive and connected workplace for your remote agents. Consistent and frequent communication is the key. Call center workers who socialize more than once per shift are 2x more likely to be extremely satisfied. Daily team check-ins should be the standard. Keep these meetings fresh and informal and encourage interaction from the entire team. Try out having different team members set agendas and lead calls—this again allows for greater agent buy-in and engagement.
Additionally, contact center supervisors play a crucial role in reducing feelings of isolation for agents. Every agent will have unique values and priorities; mental wellness, career development, family, continuing education, and more. Employees expect their place of work to support these priorities and will feel disconnected from the organization if they are ignored. The responsibility to listen and address these concerns falls on the supervisor. Be a resource for your team members in their personal lives and they will be more engaged with the contact center in their professional lives. And make sure your supervisors receive the training and development they need to act as life coaches for the team.
3. Give them the right tools to succeed.
The time to invest in solutions to support a permanent work from anywhere model is now. Agents want to work for an organization that feels like it is on the bleeding edge of technology. They all want the right tools to help them do their best work and deliver amazing customer experiences. On the flip side, a bad technology experience can ruin the employee experience (and we’ve already seen what a poor employee experience means to retention).
At the heart of future-proofing your hybrid work model is deploying a cloud-based Workforce Management (WFM) solution and cloud service provider. This will enable your organization to implement many of the fantastic experiences discussed earlier including work-from-anywhere, flexible scheduling, and better employee collaboration.
The endpoints your agents use to engage with your cloud solutions are also essential. Pro-grade video and wireless headset solutions that work with multiple devices and cloud service providers ensure a seamless experience for your team. Provide them with reliable, comfortable equipment and you’ll make a massive difference to morale and engagement.
And finally, don’t overlook providing an optimal ergonomic setup for your remote employees. A proper work from home station is not on a coffee table or kitchen counter. Make sure everything, from the chair, to lighting, to the desk, creates a superior work from home experience.
The time for action is now.
The voices of your agents can no longer be ignored. Employees are resigning from jobs at a record pace, and the impact of losing top talent can be devastating to an organization. Now is the time for your contact center to take decisive action and be a leader in employee experience. Listen to their voices. Contact centers need to do what they do best; deliver an exceptional customer experience. But this time, for their agents.
*Gartner Press Release, “Gartner Survey Reveals 70% of Customer Service and Support Employees Want to Continue Working from Home After the Pandemic Ends,” February 17, 2021.
GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.