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Calabrio Study Finds Employee Retention is the Functional Problem

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Image: Andriy Popov - Alamy Stock Photo
Workforce optimization platform Calabrio recently published its Health of the Contact Center 2021 report, which discusses the current state of the contact center, the impact of the Great Resignation on contact centers, and the significance of employee-centric practices. A key trend is the rise of agent stress levels. The report also touches on what drives long-term employee satisfaction, employee motivation for exiting a role, and why agent flexibility is in high demand.
 
No Jitter recently interviewed Dave Hoekstra, product evangelist at Calabrio, to discuss the employee retention challenges impeding contact centers. Hoekstra also touched on employees' top reasons for leaving, the steps contact centers must take to reduce employee stressors, and how technological tools can alleviate these stressors.
 
Responses have been edited for conciseness and clarity.
 
What do you think are the three most important challenges impeding contact centers right now regarding employee retention?
 
DH: Employee retention remains a core issue for many industries, and the contact center is no exception. The pandemic, coupled with the Great Resignation, has forced businesses to reevaluate their bottom line and focus on what drives long-term employee satisfaction and retention. After all, you can’t deliver high-quality customer service without consistency in your workforce.
 
Overall, the three greatest challenges to employee retention in contact centers include ensuring existing staff remain happy while attracting new talent, giving agents the freedom to create the ideal work-life balance, and creating a connected culture that drives opportunities for professional advancement.
 
When retention is the functional problem, agent stress is the source. Traditionally, contact centers have struggled with balancing the needs of employees with great customer service. Now, we have had more and more companies coming to us and rethinking the notion that the customer comes first because they can’t risk losing their agents due to stress, lack of flexibility, or lack of professional advancement.
 
In the report, agents rank pay as the most important factor in ongoing job satisfaction — but they ultimately leave to pursue greater happiness and engagement. Can you explain this disconnect between the most asked-for items from agents and their top reasons for leaving?
 
DH: Pay is the third reason employees leave their job — after ‘being unhappy in a job’ (36%) and ‘limited growth opportunities’ (26%). Training and mentorship programs can help to address agents’ top priorities in the workplace, such as increased engagement, defined career paths, and better personal development resources. This is where we see a disconnect.
 
Ongoing mentorship and coaching create a work environment where agents can continuously learn and grow, enhancing their sense of well-being and driving long-term satisfaction. The good news is leaders do not have to invest considerable time or resources. Personalized performance coaching is easier than ever before with AI-enabled voice recording and tracking of interactions as related to agent performance.
 
By embracing modern workforce engagement management (WEM) tools such as automated performance monitoring and coaching, leaders can create a culture that boosts agent retention. Today’s analytics-driven technology offers leaders the ability to build personal development plans and gain insight into individual/self-managed performance-optimizing the employee and customer experiences.
 
Your report listed three top stressors for agents: trouble with work-life balance, complex customer care issues, and an unreasonably high workload. What are the steps call centers should take to reduce these stressors? And why?
 
DH: Transforming your contact center operations and improving agent satisfaction takes thoughtful strategic planning. However, there are a few steps to get started. They are:
 
  • Invest in the workforce – Supporting career growth is critical to job satisfaction. This could be as simple as investing in training and mentorship programs. Organizations can offer more frequent training tailored to an agent’s strengths, weaknesses, and goals to make them feel valued in their roles and more prepared to handle complex customer care issues.
  • Prioritize technology – Agents feel enthusiastic about technology improvements and cloud migration in the contact center. However, approximately one in four agents (28%) say better technology needs to be an urgent priority in the next 18 months, and 40% say “lack of tools” is the most common reason they’re unable to solve a customer’s problem.
  • Foster a sense of connectedness – Organizations need to eliminate silos and utilize solutions that allow seamless data sharing and communication across the enterprise. When employees feel connected to the rest of their team and business, their workplace experience becomes more rewarding and less burdensome.
 
The report also found that this workforce is now dealing with the customer expectation of omnichannel customer service that is fast, seamless, and responsive in any venue. How does this expectation contribute to the stressors agents are reporting? And how can technological tools alleviate this stress?
 
DH: The acceleration of digital-first brands has elevated customer expectations for omnichannel service, complex problem-solving, and empathetic agents. The pandemic significantly altered how consumers connect with brands, and contact centers feel the extra weight of surging e-commerce and distanced, immediate transactions.
 
Contact centers should view modern tools and technology as a method for providing enhanced support, development, and engagement. Having the right tools in place can free agents to focus on more fulfilling work and allow managers to oversee day-to-day operations more efficiently. Whether through analytics to understand desktop stresses, addressing individual training needs and performance coaching, or more autonomy with self-service scheduling tools.
 
Blue-sky time: What is one of the challenges you’re most excited to keep addressing at Calabrio? Why put your time and energy here?
DH: Customers frequently tell us their agents desire more flexibility in their job. While previous efforts have attempted to address this challenge, such as shift bidding, shift trading, and shift preferences, nothing has directly benefitted the frontline employee – until now.
 
Today’s self-scheduling solutions offer leaders the dual ability to provide agents more freedom to self-manage their own schedules and keep service levels in line with customer demand . Contact center leaders have an exciting opportunity to finally give agents the flexibility they crave and gain a competitive edge in recruiting and retaining the best talent.

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