It is a common misconception that retaining valuable contact center agents is as simple as a salary increase.
Sure, salary is a key driver when agents are considering jumping to new roles, but it’s certainly not the only factor.
A new study commissioned by Calabrio found that there is a significant disconnect between the most-asked-for items from agents and their top reasons for leaving.
For example, the chief ask from agents is more pay. However, the top reason for leaving is being unhappy in the job. More money does make the list – but it’s not at the top.
We’re currently operating in the most competitive talent landscape we’ve seen in years, managing through changes we have never before experienced.
Many industries, including customer service and support, are, as a result, struggling with crippling labor shortages due to the Great Resignation.
Employee expectations have also transformed. The COVID-19 pandemic led many to reassess their lives, including how and where they work. A record number of people quit their jobs last year, with 4.3 million people resigning in December 2021.
So, what’s in demand now? Meaningful work is still important. But having the flexibility to manage how and when they work has significantly increased. And employees want to see a clear path for career progression, while understanding how they can maintain a good work-life balance.
To keep employees, contact centers must consider these broader expectations and enact visible and lasting change. But there’s no cure-all solution, unfortunately. Instead, contact centers must take a multi-faceted approach that provides the best environment, resources, and tech necessary for agents to thrive.
Let’s look at what agents want in the era of the Great Resignation and what contact centers can do to drive long-term satisfaction and reduce employee churn.
Prioritize Work-Life Balance
When agent retention is a functional problem, agent stress is a root cause.
The truth is that stress has always been high, according to Calabrio’s research, but it’s increasing. And it is a critical issue. The way agents feel at work can considerably impact organizations’ bottom lines and their ability to remain competitive.
Agents today are also demanding more flexibility and ownership over their schedules. Especially as more companies allow the option for a work-from-home (WFH) model.
When agent retention is a functional problem, agent stress is a root cause.
For on top of work responsibilities agents are now juggling children at home, which is becoming a necessity with childcare shortages, and other challenges.
Agents also are expecting a seamless process to complete activities, including adding days off work, moving work hours, and partial-day shift trading.
Ask yourself: are your agents able to move their own lunch and break times without the need for manual changes by managers? If not, agents can feel constrained. With more self-service functionalities, agents feel empowered and are awarded the freedom to create their own ideal work-life balance.
The job of a contact center agent requires a tremendous amount of emotional labor as well, and it can be difficult to keep up with today’s fast-paced and increasingly complex workloads. We must remember that agents are only human.
With these factors in mind, it’s important to recognize that stress is a powder keg and can lead to agents feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated at work.
The good news is that technology has revolutionized the workplace and there are tools available to relieve unnecessary pressure and give agents more control over their daily work life.
Self-service functions are transforming how agents work. From being able to build their own schedules to trading shifts with colleagues from the device of their choice, agents are better equipped to handle any unexpected disruptions throughout the day without compromising their quality of work.
Provide Learning and Development
Retaining talented, knowledgeable workers like contact center agents is more important than ever. Doing so requires them to feel engaged with their place of work and see paths to advancement.
One way to do this is by supporting career growth. This is critical to agent satisfaction — and falling short is a major reason why agents leave. Agents have given clear direction on what they want most: better training. So, what do agents think better training would look like?
- More frequent training. Not just an annual checkbox or review but training based on their roles exactly when they need it.
- More personalized training. This would be tailored to individual agent strengths/weaknesses and goals.
- More flexible training. This includes online delivery and options that fit within agents’ daily work schedules or training they can do on their own time.
An agent’s day may be filled with individual customer interactions, but when it comes to their job, they’re looking at the big picture.
Simply put, agents want careers too, so make sure that those paths are clear. For example, they should be able to recognize their organizational charts, where they fall on them, and what other roles may be available through promotion.
Showing career paths like with charts are also great opportunities to showcase training and career growth opportunities available to agents, so they understand their options. Plus, agents will be appreciative of the change of pace and can come back refreshed and recharged.
Invest in Technology
Unfortunately, some companies are losing valuable employees, like agents, due to a lack of proper technology. This is detrimental because even as we see some of the effects of the pandemic subside, the once-temporary WFH pivot has turned permanent for companies around the globe.
Now more than ever, the need for businesses to arm their workforce with the technology required to be successful in a remote, hybrid, or in-person setting must be a top priority.
Employees expect to have the technology and tools available to do their jobs effectively – either in the office or working remotely – but for many agents, these demands aren’t being met, leading to frustration.
In Calabrio’s agent well-being survey, 40% of agents say “lack of tools” is the most common reason they can’t solve a customer’s problem, and one in three agents are considering leaving within a year.
For any modern contact center that’s keen to attract and retain younger generations – millennial and Gen Z workers especially – technology plays a large role in where and how they work.
After all, Gen Z has never known life without cloud computing and mobility, so they certainly don’t want to work without it.
In a recent Frost & Sullivan survey commissioned by Webhelp, engaging and motivating employees is seen as the greatest challenge among decision-makers for CX solutions in contact centers.
Fortunately, technology is an easily fixable issue. To tackle it, agents who have access to cloud-based omnichannel tools and the real-time data they provide will find greater success in managing complex customer issues – and they will ultimately feel more connected to the business and their roles.
By investing in technology, contact centers will find themselves with more engaged agents working to drive the business forward.
While there’s no cure-all, ultimately it comes down to understanding what your specific agents need and then using the right tools and technologies to address these issues.
Putting strategies in place to help agents succeed will improve the odds of attracting and retaining the great people needed to deliver stand-out customer service.