This article originally appeared in the Nov. 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions
Customers expect a lot from agents. They want them to have a good attitude, be knowledgeable, and have the ability to resolve issues on the first attempt. Research shows that happy agents ultimately lead to happy customers.
But keeping agents satisfied requires resources and time. How do you create a positive and profitable call center that benefits both agents and customers? And most importantly, where do you find the time?
The Power of Positivity
The average cost of training a call center agent in the U.S. is about $5,000. Combine this with an average industry turnover rate of 33 percent and a 100-seat center realizes a loss of $165,000 per year due to trained agents walking out the door.
Additionally, many of these agents who leave go to work at another call center nearby, taking your $5,000 in training expenses with them.
Satisfied agents are less likely to leave. And when turnover is reduced, resources spent hiring new agents and subsidizing the competition can be spent on investing in your existing agents to improve their knowledge, skills, and overall satisfaction.
What can you do to improve your call center’s culture?
Change your measurement focus.
Tracking metrics is a critical element to maintaining call center efficiency. Though call volume is largely out of your control, how you respond to certain metrics ultimately defines your center’s culture. Don’t just measure volume – measure quality of calls. Explain organizational goals to agents and how they contribute to the big picture. Agents who understand how they fit into the larger organization are generally more satisfied and productive.
Offer a career path.
Almost half of agents polled in a recent nationwide survey cited a clearly defined career path as an important reason they chose to work in a particular center. Most agents want to believe that if they do a good job, there will be an opportunity for them to make more money, be promoted or take on more responsibility. If you don’t offer a career path, you could lose some of your best agents.
Invest in your agents.
Almost 80 percent of the cost of a call center is labor. Your agents are your most expensive asset – invest in them! When agents are not challenged, boredom sets in and they are more likely to pursue other opportunities. Take the time to ensure agents are knowledgeable and prepared for calls and that their day is broken into different tasks to alleviate burnout.
Finding Time to Stay Positive
In the call center, the scarcest resource is time. Less than one third of call center operators provide as much training to agents as they intended. Some 73 percent say that service level agreements don’t allow enough time for training and 37 percent have no set target for coaching time.
Where can you find the time to empower agents and improve their work environment? The truth is – it’s already there.
Roughly 60 percent of an agent’s day is spent handling calls. Another 11 percent is spent in idle time. In other words, nearly 50 minutes per day is spent waiting for a call, which adds up to about 16 hours per month, per agent, or five weeks of idle time each year! This unproductive idle time – which generally occurs in two minute intervals – costs the industry an estimated $30 billion annually.
Technology exists today to convert wait time into productive time by pushing off-phone shrinkage activities such as training, coaching and communications to agents to complete during idle times. By converting idle time into productive time, you can drive a more positive call center culture by improving the performance of your agents. Make idle time work for you and your agents. Find time to make them better. You are already paying for it – use it productively!
Knowlagent provides the only call center software that increases agent utilization by delivering shrinkage activities during idle time. Over 300,000 agents and managers around the world use Knowlagent’s software solutions every day. For more information, visit www.knowlagent.com.
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi