Say Goodbye to Agent Turnover, Not Your Agents

Jeff Gallino is Chief Technical Officer & Founder of CallMiner

If you’ve ever managed a call center, chances are you’re familiar with the constant cycle of agent churn. You invest time and money into building a skilled employee, they gain experience and become valuable, and then they leave. Deloitte reports that large call centers with over 500 agents suffer from turnover rates of 50% or higher annually—and the number significantly increases in certain countries and industries. The churn process repeats itself time after time.

But this process is more than expensive and time-consuming; it leads to poor customer experiences and drastic inefficiencies where it matters most. No company can afford an unhappy agent who’s on their way out—especially when the typical customer service representative interacts with current and potential customers approximately 1,000 times a month.

Seeing as there is growing research showing that engagement is directly correlated to sales, service and more, there is incredible value in creating a call center that is built to keep employees happy, engaged and efficient. To do so, we need to combat the top reasons agents leave through objective and helpful feedback, acknowledgment and incentives for good work, and providing them with the right tools to do their job with excellence.

The Right Feedback Goes a Long Way

In call centers across industries, we see similar complaints from agents across the board when it comes to feedback: it’s often slow and untimely, and it can be inaccurate, unfair and subjective due to random or small sample-based analysis. A typical call center supervisor may review five calls per agent per month, but that same agent may have handled over 1,000 interactions during that same time frame. This very limited sample usually doesn’t provide an accurate portrayal of the agent’s average performance. And with many of the rating criteria being highly subjective (clarity, courtesy, empathy, etc.), scoring these factors could very well depend on who’s completing the rating.

staffingWith speech analytics, contact centers can automate call scoring by analyzing 100% of phone calls. The software grades the call based on criteria established by organizations and shares this via a scorecard with agents when the call is complete, providing objective, consistent and accurate feedback in real-time.

The information is available immediately, allowing agents to reflect on their performance, take ownership and make adjustments to improve on their next call based on objective data points. This direct access to performance information gives agents the opportunity to self-coach and determine for themselves where they need to seek out additional learning and coaching. It also gives them the ability to see the impact of behavioral changes almost immediately, strengthening an employee’s motivation to continue developing.

And when agents do decide to seek out additional coaching, it is highly targeted due to supervisors having a deep understanding of the employee’s strengths, weaknesses and overall personality because of the data analyzed with speech analytics. This level of personalization coupled with a manager’s willingness to take the time to review performance results demonstrates to agents that they are more than just a number. It shows that the company is invested in their future, which results in a motivated agent.

Recognition Powers Retention

Although the right type of feedback is crucial to an agent’s engagement and growth, there is an equal need to recognize when an employee is doing good work. Research shows that the No. 1 reason why people leave jobs is limited recognition and praise. However, according to analysis done by Gallup, only one in three workers in the United States strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days—and employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year.

By recognizing agents for their efforts and positively reinforcing good work, agents feel appreciated and, in turn, work harder, become more coachable and continually look for ways to improve their performance. With speech analytics, employers have access to agent calls that they didn’t have before, and they can find out easily and quickly when they have succeeded. Positive recognition not only makes agents feel valued and appreciated, they feel as though they have the ability to advance within the company.

Recognition can be used as a personal reward, as well as reinforcement to other employees on what success looks like and how it’s noticed. Managers can use speech analytics to track performance and implement gamification to motivate employees through different forms of recognition, fueling healthy and friendly competition. Gallup also found that money isn’t the only (or top) form of preferred recognition methods by employees. It’s valued in the form of a simple acknowledgment—which is especially meaningful to an employee when provided by a high-level leader—or an award/certificate, a positive review, a promotion or increase in responsibility and work scope. Gallup recommends providing recognition every seven days to an employee who has done great work.

Although the right type of feedback is crucial to an agent’s engagement and growth, there is an equal need to recognize when an employee is doing good work.

Help Agents Help Themselves

There’s nothing more frustrating as an employee than not having the tools you need to succeed, and according to Gartner, 84% of agents say that their company’s legacy tools are not helpful to them in resolving customer queries. In fact, agents have to navigate an average of 8.2 applications when they have the customer on the line to get answers and resolve problems. The right tech isn’t a burden, it’s a relief.

With interactive voice response (IVR), information about callers is gathered before they are connected with an agent. This automatic access to information provides crucial support to the agent, giving them the resources to perform their job better and ultimately provide a stronger customer experience. Customer engagement analytics lends a helping hand by capturing conversational content and integrating it with caller identifiers so that agents can quickly and easily identify repeat contacts to be best prepared for the likely situation.

During the conversation, this tech can identify words, phrases and acoustic qualities in real-time that demonstrate when a customer is unhappy so that agents can adjust what they say and how they say it according to the behavior of the customer. This real-time guidance prompts based on language in the conversation and links to knowledge-based articles, recommended promotional offers and upsell opportunities, procedural steps and more. It can also alert team leaders when an agent may need assistance in handling an issue or certain situations by identifying issues impeding agents work. For example, long silences can be indicative of system lag issues (e.g., searching the databases references) that should be improved, or perhaps lack of agent training on certain issues that will need to be addressed.

It would also be highly beneficial to simplify your agent’s searching. Call centers tend to utilize several databases to manage customer information including sales software, CRM and a knowledge center. This slows down an agent’s ability to efficiently help customers while searching for answers they may need. When you merge these into one database, information is more easily accessible for agents.

It pays to hold on to your call center agents, but it’s a proactive effort that takes time and resources to ensure not only retention but happiness, engagement and commitment. Investing in the tools that enable personalized feedback and insight to agent performance while allowing agents to be the problem-solvers they were hired to be are the first steps to creating a call center that agents want to be part of. As a result, the impacts will be felt far beyond just the call center, boosting sales, overall CX and brand reputation.

Jeff Gallino is Chief Technical Officer & Founder of CallMiner where he oversees research, language development and future product direction.

– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline,

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