Four Things You Can Do to Improve Agent Retention in Your Contact Center

By Kevin Weible, Pipkins

The investment you make in recruiting and training contact center agents is significant. When your agents routinely leave for 25 or 30 cents an hour more at another contact center down the street or across town, that investment is wasted … money down the drain.

Maintaining customer service levels and controlling operating costs become increasingly difficult when your contact centers are a revolving door of agents coming and going on a seemingly continual basis. How can you reduce turnover and see a greater return on the investment you make in your frontline teams?

Improving your company culture, developing company sponsored community service projects and recruiting volunteers from your staff, initiating annual employee awards and recognition programs, as well as a wide range of other, more general human resource focused efforts can aid in improving retention, loyalty, and job satisfaction. However, these are not the only levers that can be used to drive improvement in your turnover rate over the long term.

Your approach to workforce management (WFM) and the systems you use can also play a vital role in keeping team members motivated, while increasing their loyalty, engagement, and job satisfaction.

Here are four workforce management focused approaches to improving retention of your contact center agents:

1. Communication

Keeping agents informed is a sound strategy for improving morale and letting team members know how valued they are to your organization.
Open communication is also vital for achieving maximum efficiency and productivity. Keeping agents updated about their daily schedules, schedule changes, adherence data, and other individual and team performance metrics enables them to perform their duties to the best of their abilities. Tools that improve communication between agents and their supervisors while reducing administrative burdens are doubly beneficial.

Today’s sophisticated WFM software include real-time dashboards for agents and supervisors, as well as notification tools that minimize administrative overhead. This empowers agents to perform many routine schedule-related tasks without the need of older and more costly paper-based schedule distribution techniques. This paperless approach frees supervisors from printing and distributing schedules or manually notifying dozens or even hundreds of agents of schedule changes. Agents have easy access to critical information and that information is distributed in a more efficient, less costly manner.

Communication options in modern WFM solutions allow information to be distributed in a number of different ways to entire teams or only to specific team members.

  • Ticket Mode – Notifications are delivered to a multi-purpose window docked at the top or bottom of the user’s desktop.
  • Pop-up Mode – Notifications are displayed through a pop-up screen.
  • Tray Mode – Notifications are displayed as a flashing icon in the tray or as a momentary sliding pop-up message.

Delivery options for the various messages and notifications can include: immediate, queued, scheduled recurring, automated, and expiring.

2. Flexible Scheduling

Do-it-yourself or self-scheduling offers contact center agents greater flexibility and gives them more direct control over their life-work balance.

At a minimum, your WFM tool should enable agents to do the following:

  • View their schedules by day, week or month
  • Sign up for overtime, or for part-time employees sign up for additional shifts
  • Report absences or late arrivals over the corporate network, via the internet and a web browser or through a mobile app
  • Request schedule modifications for partial days, full days or weeks
  • Swap days or entire schedules with your other agents
  • View accrued and used time off via a vacation planner
  • View available vacation time slots via a vacation planner
  • Submit vacation requests
  • Add their names to wait lists for reserved vacation slots

Integrated bulletin boards or messaging systems can allow agents to post schedule trades and encourage agent-to-agent an agent-to-supervisor communication.

With a single click, supervisors can approve or deny requests, modify schedules, or record exceptions. Similarly, supervisors can manage the entire vacation planning process through a vacation planning module. This can include setting and managing vacation limits, wait lists, blackout periods, and non-operational days.

A step beyond this more basic schedule viewing and modification system are true self-scheduling systems which allow contact center agents to build their own schedules and plan their vacations based on parameters set by their workforce manager.

Either approach can greatly reduce or eliminate supervisory and administrative time previously required for scheduling and vacation planning, while increasing agent job satisfaction by empowering your agents to control routine scheduling functions.

3. Incentives and Motivation Systems – Gamification

Using data streams from your workforce management system, incentive and motivation programs can be implemented using a variety of proven techniques such as instant rewards and gamification to increase engagement, motivation, job satisfaction and productivity.
Programs can be developed for a wide range of business objectives. These can include:

  • Meeting or exceeding daily sales goals
  • Meeting or exceeding customer satisfaction ratings
  • Reducing absenteeism
  • Retention
  • Training and development
  • Safety programs
  • Health and wellness improvement
  • Employment referrals
  • Customer referrals

Agents meeting their goals are awarded electronic game tokens that can be used to play quick (typically 5-second) games and win points. Points can be saved and redeemed for a variety of prizes. Such systems provide instant feedback, recognition and rewards for desired performance and behaviors. In addition, the results of such incentive systems can be monitored and tracked over time using sophisticated analytics to measure gains achieved, and to ensure that the program produces a positive ROI.

4. Home Shoring

The use of at-home agents continues to grow in popularity. Whether used by itself in a virtual contact center model, or as an adjunct to conventional brick-and-mortar contact centers in some variation of the hub-and-spoke contact center model, home shoring offers agents more flexibility and autonomy.

To date, the results of the use of at-home agents have been promising with reported turnover rates 35 to 50 percent lower for at-home agents compared to their office-based counterparts. In addition, at-home agents bring a higher level of professionalism to their job that also improves the quality of the service they deliver to their customers. The ability to work at home seems to attract older, better educated agents often with previous managerial experience who view their employment as their profession and not just another job. These factors also contribute to gains in customer satisfaction and customer loyalty above and beyond the benefits arising from increased agent retention in itself.

While necessitating a restructuring of contact center operations and a significant commitment, including the use of WFM tools suitable for the management of remote agents, organizations also benefit from reduced contact center operating costs when adopting the use of at-home agents. Typically, these reductions in operating costs are seen in the following areas:

  • Lower starting wages
  • Reduced benefits
  • Fewer (or no) brick-and-mortar contact center facilities
  • Less administrative and support staff
  • Larger labor pool with more flexible scheduling options, including more part-time agents who receive reduced benefits relative to full-time agents
  • Reduced training costs resulting from higher levels of agent retention

If one or more of these four approaches are not in use, or is at least being considered in your efforts to reduce agent turnover, maybe they should be.

ABOUT PIPKINS, INC.: Founded in 1983 and based in St. Louis, Missouri, Pipkins is a leading provider of WFM solutions for the contact center industry. Today, Pipkins’ systems forecast, plan, and schedule more than 300,000 agents in over 500 locations across all industries worldwide.  For more information, please go to