Contact Center Agent Turnover Is A Fact Of Life That Must Be Tracked And Managed

Agents turn over in contact centers, and managing your turnover rate is a fact of life. Low agent turnover rates are those that are below 20% a year, and some contact centers have turnover rates as low as 5%. Turnover rates higher than 50% are considered high, and some contact centers have attrition rates of more than 100% a year. Turnover impacts organizations because of recruiting and training costs, and ongoing agent morale issues which can impact customer satisfaction. As turnover costs must be built into overall contact center plans, its important to have an attrition benchmark and manage your operations to that number.

Not all turnover is the same. It is useful to quantify each turnover event as voluntary or involuntary, and understand the causes of turnover so that you can address them, especially if your metric far exceeds the benchmark that you have set for the organization. Common causes of turnover are:

  • Involuntary turnover: This is attributable to a mismatch between the contact center agent and the expectations of the position for which the agent is hired. Examples include poor hiring and training practices; poor job descriptions; effort required for the job that were miscommunicated during interviewing; poor toolset that causes overly-long training times.
  • Voluntary turnover: This is attributable to the contact center organization not meeting long term job expectations of the contact center agent. Examples include job monotony; better pay elsewhere; lack of career advancement; poor management; over- supervision;  lack of empowerment to solve customer issues; lack of control of personal schedules; frustration with the toolset; stress of dealing with irate customers.

There are tactical ways to lower turnover which I generally bucket into four broad categories:

  • Strategy:  Make sure that your customer service strategy is aligned to your overall company strategy, and you are using the right mix of high level KPIs and low level operational metrics to measure your contact center operations. For example, if you are a company that is differentiating itself on customer experience, your focus should be on first call resolution and satisfaction metrics, not on handle times or average speed of answer. This will help agents better understand your expectations of them, and focus on only measuring  their behavior  which is aligned with your brand proposition –not on artificial metrics that have no bearing to your company’s core values.
  • Process: Make sure that you have clear job descriptions for all contact center roles that are aligned with expectations. Make sure that your hiring processes are comprehensive and include a "day in the life" of a contact center agent to help set expectations. Make sure agents are comprehensively trained, then nested with senior agents who can act as mentors. Also, make sure that your calls are routed to the right agents; make sure that your agents have the right scripting or process guidance to follow to resolve customer inquiries; make sure your agents are able to collaborate with one another before blindly handing off inquiries to higher tiered agents.
  • Technology: Understand what inquiries your contact center is getting, and see if you can use self service channels like IVR, of web self service to deflect the monotonous inquires. Make sure your agent desktop is usable and contains all the necessary information that agents need to solve customer questions. Make sure that your agents have access to the right data and content to resolve customer inquires.
  • People management: First, take care of the hygiene factors such as pay, benefits, scheduling, and management practices. Second, invest in your workforce: spend time with each agent to understand what they want out of their job – do they want career advancement to supervisor and management levels, better skilling, or are they happy staying a tier 1 agent for example. Put plans in place for each agent that supports their ambitions. Invest in eLearning to expand their skillset and keep them motivated, recognize and reward agents, and solicit their input and act on their suggestions.


Yes! And imagine what's

Yes! And imagine what's going to happen in health insurer call centers as of 2014!

Good post Kate but I don't

Good post Kate but I don't agree on one point, specifically when you say "For example, if you are a company that is differentiating itself on customer experience, your focus should be on first call resolution and satisfaction metrics, not on handle times or average speed of answer." I think that nowadays every business needs to focus its strategy on customer experience and considering first of all the right set of KPIs like FCR and CSS.


What I meant to say is that each business needs to create a balanced scorecard of metrics that include satisfaction and cost metrics that are aligned to the company brand. It means that every company will have a slightly different balanced scorecard of metrics - not a one size fits all.

Measuring is Good, but not Enough

Kate, good post and measuring turnover and putting operational metrics and practices in place to help minimize it is a good start, but these are not enough by themselves. Companies need to get to the root cause of turnover and execute improvement programs that address the causes and not the symptoms. As you point out, not all turnover is created equal - and not all of it is necessarily bad. Understanding what causes it has greater implications than just higher retention. By implementing a formal but anonymous exit questionnaire, companies can learn alot from departing employees that can point to solutions that can be deployed to help reduce undesirable turnover to an optimum and manageable level.

call center turn over

I have worked in different call centers since I was 18. I am
45 yrs old and finally put my foot down that I will never do that
Line of work again. From day one of training every call center
Sprint pcs, Verizon Wireless, Insurance companies inbound and
Out bound. Metro pcs, I even worked for MCI and were there
When told that we all must leave company sold. They all are
Cut from same pattern. One size fits all. They all set you up to
Fail. These jobs are like an assembly line. Numbers all thwy care
About, not the employee, just numbers. Its stressful enough to
Have an asshole as a customer, a jerk, you name it, and also have
To worry about your AHT, call per hour, and if you said your
Please and thank you. I don't believe in the process and the product
No more. I believe that people who insist to do this line of
Work, have low self esteem and afraid of not trying something
New. I was like that, and now I'm free.

Where is the best location for a call center

What region/state would be the best fit for a call center (offer the best pool of qualified resources). I am generally looking for where do you find a large group of resources that are Services Oriented, willing to and excited to be part of a call center of a premium brand product/company. What is the profile you are looking for in a person and last what are the variety elements that keep them interested engaged and happy?