Opinion

Contact Centre outsourcers must address attrition meaningfully

Today’s customer experience environment demands delivery of the best possible outcomes to end-users, and this reality is not lost on executives in the front-office BPO community.  However, agent attrition continues to be an issue that afflicts outsourcers everywhere.  Until third-party services providers are able to grasp what is causing attrition within their operations, and then remedy it, agent turnover will continue to be an indefinite plague.  For outsourcers, this will only result in lost opportunities to build loyalty with consumers, and place at risk contracts with enterprise clients.

Attrition in the contact center is not a new phenomenon, and impacts all levels of operations (including management).  In fact, the last Ryan Strategic Advisory Omnibus Survey indicated that roughly one-third of captive operations are facing monthly agent churn in excess of 4%.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that this level is higher among many third-party providers. But, identifying the root causes of contact center attrition need not be complex.  While compensation is a factor in some cases, in many instances it relates to a feeling of disengagement. Too often front-line staff, agents who enjoy their interactions with consumers, do not see a viable future for themselves within the contact center environment.

Outsourcers aim to drive higher levels of customer experience for their clients, meaning the impact of churn can be catastrophic. Disengaged agents will not perform optimally when servicing end-users, leading to poor quality interactions that alienate consumers.  In an era where brand loyalty is paramount, third-party providers must aim to minimize the chances of this happening.

Over the years, there have been many solutions proposed to help contact center outsourcers keep their employees.  However, BPO executives need to think beyond occasional pizza parties or cheesy prizes. The logical first step in combatting agent attrition is gleaning what front-line representatives need and providing it.  Therefore, feedback mechanisms that help gauge what agents like about their roles, as well as what they find frustrating, is essential.  Equally important to the outsourcer is actually acting on this feedback. This demonstrates that agent satisfaction is a priority, and it is crucial in raising agent morale and reducing churn.

Providing agents with meaningful career paths and training that helps strong performers develop professional skills should be a priority as well.  In many cases, outsourcers vaunt how certain recruits have started out as agents and moved into management roles.  Certainly, such success stories have the potential to inspire those inclined to a career in customer experience management.  But, as a logical follow-on, organizing on-site mentorships between managers that have moved up through the contact center outsourcing ranks with high-potential agents may make the difference when looking to retain top talent.

There is no easy answer to combat agent attrition in third-party contact centers. But as opposed to accepting 4% monthly turnover as a fact of life, countering churn must be a priority.  Outsourcers that wish to retain contracts with existing clients will have a much better chance of doing so by keeping and nurturing their front-line talent.  This strategy will pay dividends over the long term for providers, in the form of more engaged agents, loyal end-users and longer-term partnerships with clients.

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