Call centers are notorious for high turnover levels. Most studies show call center turnover rates average a little over 30% with some companies dealing with rates of 50% and higher. “Bad” call centers endure turnover rates of 100%! Considering the expense of replacing employees, this presents an enormous cost for call center organizations.
It’s no secret why turnover levels are so high – poor managers, poor working conditions, monotonous work, rigid work schedules, lack of development or career advancement. Of course, money plays a part as well. Call center agents will quit and move along to a different call center for just the slightest pay increase.
These turnover rates and the reasons behind them are nothing new. We’ve seen and heard these rates for years. Why is this? Why do we see these same numbers and same reasons year in and year out?
I believe Wall Street is the problem.
Wall Street’s yearning for higher profit quarter after quarter pushes companies to take a short-term view of employee development. This is particularly true at the end of a fiscal year. As an organization approaches year-end, departments are told to watch expenses if not outright cut them. In my professional experience and in working with customers, I’ve seen T&E cut as the end of the fiscal year approaches so numbers look good, without regard to how it might impact operations. How can you grow the business if you can’t visit customers?
The same goes for employee development. Training budgets are many times one of the first items cut when expenses go under the microscope. Employees are fortunate if this is only a year-end occurrence. For some call centers, employee development budgets are always under the microscope!
If call center organizations want to decrease turnover and increase morale and engagement, they must adopt the long-term mindset of Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos. In an interview for 60 Minutes, Bezos said he doesn’t mind giving up short-term profits if it means greater profits and success in future quarters--even three, four, or five years out.
The solution to reduced call center turnover is simple: time and money. Investing in those frontline call center employees and their managers over a sustained period of time will see those average turnover rates come down. That's the easy part. The hard part is calling on the courage to look far down the road at those business benefits. Without this long-term, employee-centric mindset, we will still be talking about the same 30, 50, or even 100% turnover rates years from now.
Agree? Disagree? How does your call center develop frontline agents and managers?
Darren K. Ford
I've enjoyed a great career. Worked in many different industries with great coworkers and customers. I talk to a lot of people while drinking a lot of coffee. I read constantly. From all of this, I have much to say.