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The Real Cost of Contact Center Agent Turnover


It is true that the average turnover rate in call centers is higher as compared to other industries, given the nature of the work. If you are a contact center manager, you must be dealing with this serious issue. You spend your precious time in recruiting and training an agent and just about the time when he is starting to show skills and knowledge, he quits. Then you begin the process of hiring and training all over again to fill the gap which undoubtedly is a costly and time-consuming affair.

So, what “contact center agent turnover rate” actually implies?

Turnover rate measures the percentage of agents who leave the contact center during a certain period of time, a month or a year. In layman’s term, if a contact center requires 100 agents during the year, and if 25 agents leave and must be replaced during the course of the year, then turnover is 25%.

Higher contact center agent turnover rate can really have a detrimental affect on the contact center environment as well as on it’s bottom line. While most companies just keep a track of the hard costs such as recruiting and training costs associated with turnover, there are other hidden costs linked to it. Let me explain them one by one

Hard Costs

Almost all contact center keep an account of the hard costs of agent attrition in their operating budget. It includes:

  • Costs of recruiting
  • Costs of screening and interviewing
  • Costs of hiring and onboarding
  • Costs of training (include everything – the trainee’s all-in cost for the period of training, the trainer’s all-in cost, the technology and space that they use during training, etc.)

Hidden Costs

Hidden costs are difficult to quantify but is extremely critical for contact centers. For example: customer churn. Agent attrition hurts relationships with customers. You would agree that new agents take time to be as productive and independent as experienced agents. A large percentage of customer churn is due to poor customer service which in turn is ascribed to unproficient agents.

As new employees are inexperienced and are yet to reach proficiency, it leads to multiple calls with customers to reach a solution. Studies have shown that failure to resolve an issue quickly largely influences a customer’s intention to churn.

Other components of hidden costs are:

  • Costs of transitioning, or “nesting” the agent, with extra help from supervisors
  • General costs of sub-optimal performance while agents work their way up the learning curve.
  • General costs of losing institutional knowledge when people leave.

A high turnover definitely puts a strain on contact center managers and supervisors to find competent agents and it cost a company really high to hire and train a new employee.

Studies have shown that, a customer is also 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related, as compared to price or product related.

But, what are the root causes of call center attrition?

Well, turnover could be of two types- voluntary or involuntary

  • Voluntary turnover:  This can be attributed to the contact center not meeting the job expectations of the agent. For example: lack of career advancement, micro-management, monotony in job, better pay elsewhere, unclear job expectations, not empowered to solve customer issues, lack of appropriate technology, stress of dealing with infuriated customers and so on.
  • Involuntary turnover: This can be attributed to the mismatch between the contact center agent and the expectations of the position for which the agent is hired. For example: poor hiring and training practices, poor job descriptions, effort required for the job that were not clearly expressed during the interview.

Contact center managers must evaluate the reasons due to which agents are leaving and should take corrective measures to lower the attrition rate.

They can lower call center attrition by restructuring and putting serious efforts in the following areas:

Strategy: You must ensure that your customer service strategy is aligned with the overall organizational strategy. Define your KPIs and other metrics which would measure your contact center operations. Let’s say your company focuses more on first call resolution and customer satisfaction metrics and not much on average speed of answer or handle times, make sure that the agents are well aware of this and focus on measuring their behaviour which is aligned to your company’s core values.

Process: You must ensure that the job description is aligned with your expectations. Also, make your expectations clear to the agents right at the time of interview so that everyone’s on the same page and there is no discrepancy. Make sure that the agents are trained well and have comprehensive knowledge of their job role. Enable your agents with right scripts and ensure that they learn to collaborate with one another to solve complex customer issues and not just blindly pass the calls to senior agents.

Technology: Depending on the types of enquiries your contact center receives, see if you can implement self-service facilities to lower the burden on your agents. Also, ensure that your agents are equipped with latest technology in terms of an informative screen, top-class CRM system, efficient dialers so that they are able to solve customer issues more efficiently and effectively.

People Management: You must ensure that the hygiene factors such as salary, benefits and other management practices are in line with the industry standards. Additionally, have individual discussions with each of your agent to identify their needs and what they want out of their job. This will help you a great deal in planning their training, skill enhancement and career advancement schedules, thereby increasing agent satisfaction.

Reward and Recognition: Appreciation and recognition are very critical to keep the agents motivated and lower churn rate. Everyone loves to get praised for successfully meeting their goals and quotas. Positive recognition raises an individual’s self-esteem, improve their self-image and encourage them to accomplish even greater results in the future.  But after a certain point, just recognizing them for superior tasks doesn’t help. You will have to give some kind of reward, whether tangible or intangible, to increase employee’s loyalty, enhance performance and generate greater success. 


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