Sure, big hiring bonuses are alluring, fair and reliable paychecks are a necessity as is a safe work environment, but what else are contact center agents really looking for from their employer? In an industry where high churn rates severely affect service delivery, negatively impact the overall customer experience, and can kill the P&L, it is imperative to solve the agent retention equation.
According to recent research on agent retention (and common sense), happy employees stay twice as long in their jobs as their less happy co-workers. The traditional benefits mentioned above are still a must, but contact centers today must also provide rewarding career growth opportunities, corporate social responsibility participation options, fun activities, and so on. Investment in these programs may be costly upfront (from both a dollars and human capital standpoint). Still, the payoff on the backend both from a retention and company moral standpoint will more than justify the cost.
Career Growth Opportunities
For today’s agents, many of whom traditionally have never been offered a rewarding career path or the professional development required to achieve it, clarity related to promotion opportunities or the criteria for attaining such progression is an attractive offering. Employees (from any generation) want to know what is expected of them, how they are doing in their job, how they will be compensated, and what is required of them to move up and make more money.
Many organizations may offer a career path to their employees, but often it is linear. Contact centers are in a unique position to provide employees with a career path that can branch into a variety of areas of the business, including operations, quality assurance, training and development, and account management. Employees can also carve out a career in more specialized areas like business intelligence, workforce management, or IT. It takes a concerted effort by all levels within the organization to ensure these talent discovery conversations and career path options are communicated throughout an agent’s tenure. Often times, an employee with a can-do attitude and a will to grow professionally can be met with a multitude of options, and the initial discussions should take place during the initial interview.
Training for Future Success
Today’s agents also want to know that training is baked into the career path discussion. They want to clearly understand what development support they will receive to ascend within the organization. Employers need to provide a mix of internal and external pieces of training that provide for professional growth and help the agents develop specific skill sets that will be required of them to capitalize on all future opportunities. This needs to be more than just lip service. Contact centers need to be able to demonstrate this capability and help today’s contact center agent transform what was once just a job into a rewarding career.
Beyond Basic Benefits
In addition to a rewarding career path, contact centers need to look beyond the traditional benefits like personal days, vacation time, bonuses, and health benefits. Today’s agents expect more! They are in search of benefit packages that not only impact them personally but will also have a positive impact on the lives of their families and the communities where they live.
Contact centers should ask themselves, what can we do as an organization to make the lives of our employees as easy as possible so they can focus on doing the best job they can for our clients’ customers. Conveniences like on-site medical care mean that employees do not have to wait in busy waiting rooms with other sick people or take a day off of work to get the treatment they need. On-site cafeterias, coffee shops, and ATMs mean that employees can remain at work during breaks and lunches, avoid spending money on gas or fighting traffic, and know that on paydays, they can access their money before they even leave the building! Company provided uniforms, recreational and study areas, and company-provided transportation all promote an environment that eliminates potential stressors that could affect performance and/or attendance.
Corporate Social Responsibility
For today’s contact center employees, being socially responsible is also a significant draw. Employees want to become involved socially in a way that gives them a voice in what charities to get involved with based on their interests and the benefit they believe will be derived by the country where they live and work. Seeing the real difference that such programs make in local and regional communities is paramount. Being a part of something bigger, and having the opportunity to make a difference is a huge differentiator.
In the end, today’s agents want to know that a career in a contact center can be fulfilling – both professionally and personally. It is up to the contact center to deliver and ensure that although it is work, it can still be fun! Motivational activities throughout the day, holiday celebrations, sports tournaments, smiling faces, and of course puppies, all make the workday a lot easier to cope with. Couple the day-to-day activities with well-thought-out career development programs, opportunities for advancement, social responsibility, and other benefits, and you are well on your way to overcoming the agent turnover challenge. To thrive as a third party contact center provider, you need to understand what today’s agents expect from the workplace, so churn rates fall, retention rates improve, and, most importantly, employee satisfaction increases. Attracting talented employees is essential, but retaining the best employees for the job is mission-critical.