It is no longer news that call centres or contact centres have a high attrition rate. A recent survey discovered an average of 42%, while other authorities put it at between 30-45%, with many centres experiencing a much higher figure. Not only is this a problem for the contact centre; it is a challenge for the organization in terms of cost of replacement, training costs, disruptions in service levels, etc.
But can anything be done about this?
I currently lead a 30-person contact centre in the health insurance sector here in Lagos, Nigeria. Between October 2021 when I joined till date, we have lost only about 5 agents. I think this should give a rate of about 16%. Reports from agents who have been at the organization longer however confirmed that the attrition rate used to be much higher before this date.
While I don’t claim superhero status for myself (we still have MANY challenges!), I think the kind of leadership and environment within the centre matters.
Contact Centres can be a vital but monotonous sphere of work, with the need to sit still for long periods of time, adhere to a good number of rules and processes, etc. If you now live in a developing economy, like I am, your challenges are multiplied. You often have to deal with relatively low salaries, limited benefits, poor infrastructure, challenges with power and Internet connection, as well as unimpressive business cultures. Given these factors, it takes a lot to keep your agents long enough.
In light of these, I think every leader has to be deliberate about creating a culture within the contact centre where the people feel respected and valued. Where you lack the power to improve wages, at least you can break down the bureaucracy and ensure every agent sees they are needed and that their input is relevant. A flexible structure and schedule will also foster better work-life balance and will clearly support the aspirations of young professionals within your team.
Regular coaching and constant feedback will help your team feel they truly belong and are cared for. And open communication and regular knowledge sharing will also play a key role in fostering that sense of community which is so essential for the centre to function well.
In short, while this sounds cliché, a lot truly depends on the leadership approach.
Of course, you need to have a certain kind of person to work there. Customer service is generally suited to a kind of temperament and personality, one which is patient, helpful, and empathetic. You also would need to spell out duties and tasks properly. Scheduling needs to be properly managed. Workloads must be shared to maintain the right balance between efficiency and effectiveness. And so on.
Still, it takes leadership in recruitment, training, managing, coaching, and organizing to figure these out.