Many factors contribute to selecting the right outsourced vendor partner, but one of the most important considerations is employee attrition.
Attrition is a real problem in contact centers — 40 to 100 percent turnover is not uncommon — so knowing the rates and reasons behind them can tell you a lot about the quality and character of the prospective vendor.
If your company is in the market for an outsourced contact center, ask these seven questions about employee attrition to better understand the vendor and how well it would fit your customer service needs.
1. What is the attrition rate?
That may seem like an obvious first question, but there is more than meets the eye when it comes to numbers (which is why you need to ask the other questions on this list).
For example, just because a contact center has a comparatively low turnover rate does not mean quality is high. It could be that the center is so desperate to fill seats that it leaves agents to their own devices with few expectations to meet goals placed on them.
2. When are employees leaving?
This question refers to employee tenure. Did the employee leave within the first 90 days of hire? Ninety days is the standard benchmark within call centers and inside that span is where attrition tends to be the highest. Be sure to ask for pre-ninety and post-ninety numbers.
3. Why did they leave?
Employees leave contact centers for the same reasons they quit any other job: higher pay, better working conditions, more favorable hours, greater advancement opportunities, and so forth.
Of course, their choice may not always be voluntary. Any employee who fails to meet the client’s KPIs, exhibits a poor attitude, or is abrasive to customers won’t last long.
Knowing why employees leave speaks volumes about the company’s internal culture, training protocols, and management style. It’s in your best interest to determine whether attrition is mainly voluntary or involuntary, so make a point to ask and then delve into the reasons why.
4. Do you conduct exit and stay interviews?
Along those lines, it’s a good policy for contact centers to conduct exit interviews. It’s also helpful to carry out stay interviews to learn why agents continue their employment.
If a prospective vendor does not make administering these interviews routine, consider it a bad sign. If the vendor does conduct interviews, however, ask what it does with the information. The vendor should be using it to address the problems that caused the turnover in the first place.
5. Do you use a hiring profile?
Contact centers should always hire employees who best fit the client’s needs, the company’s personality, and core values. That’s where a hiring profile comes into play.
A hiring profile starts with the job description and continues through the successive testing and interview phases and background checks.
Evaluate the vendor’s thoroughness in creating and evolving hiring profiles. Their attentiveness or lack of it signals just how serious the company is in finding the right match for the client.
6. Could you describe your training practices?
Comprehensive training is vital to an employee’s success and a key component in reducing attrition. Training that is rushed, haphazard, or incomplete in the interest of getting agents on the floor quickly will only spell disaster where turnover is concerned.
Leave no stone unturned in your efforts to understand the company’s training protocols, including the following:
- Initial training. Is there an initial period of classroom training before putting employees on the floor? What does it consist of?
- Nesting period. Once employees have completed the initial training, is there a nesting period where they are closely monitored and coached while making the transition to the floor? What is the length? What are the KPI expectations?
- Ongoing training and coaching. Does the center have coaches on the floor working with agents daily to improve their proficiency?
- 360 Feedback. Does a 360-degree communications loop exist between coaches, trainers, and operations designed to help agents develop their customer relationship skills and meet KPI goals?
- Quality monitoring. Does the vendor correct errant behavior before it becomes a habit? What methodology does the vendor use to maintain quality assurance?
7. What is the company culture like?
Too often, it is less the demands of the job that drives agents away and more the contact center’s culture. That’s why it’s essential to learn all you can about the culture.
Cover the following areas:
- Employee Advancement. Ask if the vendor has a clearly-defined promotion pathway, if there are openings for team leads or other management opportunities, and how well the company communicates those with employees.
- Recognition and rewards. Does the company recognize high-performing employees and, if so, in what ways? Is there an established rewards program to incentivize performance and excellence?
- Physical plant. Do the employees have a comfortable work environment? (e.g., Is the work area well-lit and set at a suitable temperature? Are break rooms, parking, and transportation provided?)
- Is the company a fun, positive, and encouraging place to work? Does camaraderie exist among the staff? What are the signs and evidence?
- Are managers supportive or punitive? Are agents able to provide feedback safely, and are they listened to?
- Do agents have ready access to customer data, product and policy information, and other necessary resources? Are front-line agents encouraged to make decisions in the best interest of the customer or are calls routinely escalated to a higher tier?
In answering attrition-related questions, contact centers will want to portray themselves in the best light. If you aren’t specific in your questions and get meaningful answers, you will walk away without a coherent understanding of the vendor’s capabilities, culture, and management style.
The more you know about why employees leave, the clearer your judgment about whether the vendor is a good fit for your organization.