Contact Center Attrition: 13 Tips for Decreasing Attrition

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Published:  September 3, 2013

Contact Center Attrition Tip #1

Frontline supervisors and leads have the keys to combat the reasons for contact center attrition: pressure, stress, lack of promotion and development.

Contact center attrition is not only affecting the bottom line, but it also has an impact on the day to day operational success and morale in call centers. The two top drivers of satisfaction, according to Blessing White’s 2013 Employee Engagement Report, were career development and training. There are opportunities within the contact center to make agents want to come to work. The way supervisors and team leads interact with your agents as coaches, mentors and motivators directly affects agents’ job satisfaction, which in turn is going to affect your contact center attrition.


Contact Center Attrition Tip #2

Contact Center Attrition tip 2

Great coaches engage agents and help to retain them. I really have passion about coaching and the benefits that can bring to your call center. We often forget that great coaching will help retain your best agents. Your agents want to have opportunities to grow, learn and to be appreciated. Contact center leaders play a key role in doing that; they’re creating a positive atmosphere for your agents to work in. One that helps them not only learn skills they use to create a great experience for customers, but one that helps to develop skills for their career goals within the center and your company, and that’s important. We like when we lose agents for good reasons, such as when they’ve been able to be promoted into other positions in our center or somewhere else within our company. Our frontline supervisors and leaders must develop the skills needed to conduct that type of engagement, coaching and motivation. They also have to personalize it for each of the agents that they’re working with.


Contact Center Attrition Tip #3

Coach the coaches. Who’s coaching the coaches? That’s the question I often ask when I work with contact centers because we spend a lot of time talking about the agents, but the supervisors and frontline leaders often have no formal contact center leadership training. The question I like to ask is, “What are you doing to develop them?” because they in turn are helping to develop the agents and keep them in your center. Many of the agents I meet with will tell me that the only time they’re seeing their supervisors or team leads is when there’s something wrong. Obviously if that’s happening, it’s not going to make a positive place for them to work.

I sometimes hear about supervisors walking agents into a room and telling the agents that they really aren’t happy having to do all this coaching, how busy they are, how it’s taking their time away from other things. How motivating is it for an agent to hear that the time spent with them isn’t important? It should be no surprise when these agents decide to leave. In both examples, agents came forward and said they did not want to work with their supervisor anymore.

Contact Center Attrition Tip #4

Do ask, don’t tell.

Unfortunately, telling is a coaching method that a lot of frontline leaders use instead of making development interactive and really finding out what’s driving the behaviors and how they can help that agent. Coaches spend a lot of time telling agents what they did wrong and even worse yet, I often hear examples of where agents receive emails with scores telling them what they did wrong–there’s no personal contact.


Contact Center Attrition Tip #5

Power down the quality checklist robots.

Are they sitting there, listening to calls and just checking off yes or no and giving a score? Are they really listening for that engagement and really listening for the way the agent personally handled engaging with the customer? One example I heard recently is that an agent was given a failure score on a call because they didn’t ask the customer at the end of the call, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” It turned out in listening to the call again that the agent had heard the customer say at the end of the call, “Well, there’s nothing else I need and thank you so much for your help.” So why would we want quality to negatively score the agent for not repeating what the customer has just said? The customer would have thought it was a crazy question to ask after they had just said there was nothing else.


Contact Center Attrition Tip #6

Catch them doing something right.

A recent Forester Research report showed that only 31% of organizations recognize and reward employees across the company for improving customer experience. Many of us have rewards and incentives in place for our agents based on reaching targeted goals. Unfortunately, Psych 101 tells us that you get the behaviors you reward. What are we rewarding? Are we looking at monthly goals reached, quarterly goals reached? What about the frontline leaders recognizing agents that are doing great things for the customers every day? This is typically only done through monitoring. Coaching isn’t an activity that should happen in a room behind closed doors, but something that should be done out on the floor to make those agents feel valued. We need to catch our agents doing something right and let them know about it right away when it happens, instead of waiting until days or weeks later when a report comes out or when it’s time for formal coaching. Unfortunately, that is the cookie cutter coaching that so often happens. Many supervisors are stuck in that repetitive nature of the work. The causes of contact center attrition aren’t just the in repetitive work of the agents but rather in the repetitive work that supervisors do and how they view their role in motivating and helping your agents want to come to work every day.


Contact Center Attrition Tip #7

Recognize efforts, not only perfection.

We know agents love to be rewarded for things. Studies have shown they love getting money, gift card incentives, time off and written recognition. I suggest that supervisors and coaches leave a little surprise thank-you note instead of just sending an email. Kudos like that could be part of a big corporate plan for recognition, but still involves the supervisor taking the time to personally recognize the agent by leaving a little treat or surprise at their desk.

Of course, just stopping deskside and giving verbal kudos in front of the rest of the group also goes a long way, but the bottom line is that they all want someone to notice their efforts, not just perfection. If your contests are motivating and rewarding the same top ten people all the time, what is it doing for the rest of the group? Although you may be rewarding them with a paycheck and they certainly love money, that’s not always the top motivator for people. Some are motivated by money, but some are motivated by other things.


Contact Center Attrition Tip #8

Give agents opportunity.

They want you to identify them as a growth opportunity for the center, the future leaders for the center or maybe within your company. I often find the coaching that we’re doing involves strictly the customer experience. If this is what we’re doing, we’re really not thinking about leadership qualities that we might identify. Number three on the list of attrition causes is the lack of promotion and leadership opportunity. What are you offering for your best agents who want new challenges and opportunities with you? You have opportunities to structure your centers with multiple levels of agents so that your agents can grow within those levels. They can start off on the beginning level and move up through your call center.


Contact Center Attrition Tip #9

Meet the challenges of the 58% of your agents who are now GEN Y.

Contact centers are seeing a change, with a lot of the baby boomers and older agents leaving the workforce. They’re retiring or moving into part-time work. Fifty-eight percent of agents are now GEN Y, and we need to look at the new challenges and opportunities for preventing attrition with them. Understanding how they think about their job and what motivates them and keeps them is critical. This goes back again to a lot of frontline leadership contact, because the daily interactions are where we see the best opportunities for improving attrition. This includes the personal interactions that GEN Y agents are having with your leadership team.

They love when your lecturing turns interactive because they don’t want to just sit there and listen to you talk. They want you asking them for their ideas, their suggestions and their input for your center. I’m not referring to generic surveys, but rather the supervisors asking them, what have they noticed? What have they heard? How could processes be improved? What about interacting with the customers, what have they noticed? GEN Y agents love that and they will contribute on a regular basis if we just ask.


Contact Center Attrition Tip #10

Explain the benefits to the customer, to the company and to them.

Gen Y doesn’t want us to just say, “Okay, this is the way you have to do it.” There is now a group of people working in your center who are more interested in what’s going to happen to them and how it’s going to affect the customer and even the company itself because they’re interested in the day-to-day operation of the company. Many of them want to learn more about those things.

How you manage mentoring with this group is critical because they love to help. Providing mentoring opportunities is certainly important. You need to make sure that you are considering it, and if you’re not doing it, ascertain if it’s happening unofficially. Once GEN Y agents are experienced, you can give them additional pay, but the opportunity to sit side-by-side with new agents will often be more rewarding.

One of my clients recently used mentoring as a motivational tool to get several struggling GEN Y agents to improve their skills. The client told the agents that once they reach a particular skill level they would be able to become mentors. Within a month’s time the agents made the needed improvement. They are now doing great at those skills; they have really successful quality ratings and manage processes and procedures extremely well. They became mentors and they were thrilled to have that opportunity. Looking for ways to offer that mentorship program could provide substantial results.


Contact Center Attrition Tip #11

Provide quick, timely coaching.

Gen Y is the generation where everything is instantaneous, from playing games online to social media, where they see things instantaneously. Compare it to older generations who grew up with snail mail and phone conversations. Gen Y loves to have quick, timely responses. They don’t really want to wait a month to hear how they’re doing.

GEN Y also loves to hear feedback, but if we have to give negative feedback, it’s important that we do it with a positive approach.  I don’t want to insult any GEN Y readers, but this is true and has been proven by studies. It’s very much the generation where if everybody showed up they got a prize. Sometimes hearing negative feedback can be very upsetting to them. They can take it personally. However, if we approach it by telling them all the great things that they’re doing, and then tell them what they need to work on and why, you’re going to see some great response from them.


Contact Center Attrition Tip #12

Win loyalty with leadership and community.

That surprises a lot of people because studies show GEN Y changes jobs often. They may have seven jobs in four years but once they find something that they love, they will be loyal. A lot of it has to do with the leaders that they work for and that’s from the top down. They want to respect the company they work for and the supervisors they work with. They want to see their supervisors as people who will roll up their sleeves, help them, and sit side-by-side with them. They want leaders who are approachable and hardworking people not just managers who sit in an office behind closed doors or a cube staring at their monitors.

They want to know that they’re part of a community. That has a lot to do with your call center activities. They love activities that involve the group and ways that you can bond together and socialize together. They also want to interact with the community outside of the call center. For activities such as charitable events that you’re sponsoring, they are usually the first folks to raise their hands and want to participate. What’s most important to them is the work-life balance.


Contact Center Attrition Tip #13

Make agents feel a part of the contact center in the first 60 days.

The first 60 days is a crucial time for agents to be motivated, coached and discover they enjoy what they’re doing. It’s difficult when somebody has been successful in our classroom environment. They’ve been training; they’re doing very well and then all of a sudden boom, they’re out there in the center. Sometimes they feel lost.

Mentoring is an opportunity to ensure agents transition well during the first 60 days. I highly recommend that you have somebody who is a trainer work with them during that nesting time. You can have the new agents who have just come out of training seated together with someone who is coaching new agents. You don’t want to wait 60 days to begin coaching efforts. It should start in the training itself, the classroom, where the trainer is motivating and working with them, coaching them and noting their improvement or lack thereof. This coaching should happen when they first head out into the center.



Your frontline supervisors and coaches can help combat contact center attrition by making sure agents feel that they are appreciated, by helping them to grow and by embracing the generational differences of their agents. There are opportunities within the contact center to help make agents want to come to work. I’ve seen these methods work for many contact centers and I hope some of them help your contact center as well.