Call Center Management Feature Article
June 24, 2009
Agent Attrition a Serious Call Center Management Challenge
By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet
At the same time, customer satisfaction and loyalty remain paramount – no business can afford to lose a single customer in these dire economic times – so call center managers are also under pressure to maintain, and even improve, customer service levels, only with fewer agents.
That means agent retention is more important than ever. Everyone knows that call centers have high turnover: Due to the repetitive nature of the work, and the sometimes gloomy environment, it’s just not the kind of job that most people are willing to commit to in the long run.
At the same time, it’s important for call center managers to try to retain their top talent – the agents who have already gone through all the expensive and time-consuming training, who have the well-developed skill sets, who know how to diffuse even the most volatile of customer interactions. Managers should not necessarily expect to hold onto agents for decades: Keeping an agent on board for even a few years can produce a dramatic difference in his or her performance and results. A more realistic goal is simply to try to retain a higher percentage of agents who have some level of experience.
Adoption of workforce management systems has been shown to boost agent satisfaction -- and hence, retention. That’s because today’s software-based WFM systems give agents a level of schedule flexibility that cannot be achieved using manual (i.e. paper based) processes or spreadsheets. Using a fully Web-based WFM system, such as Monet software’s WFM Live offering, for example, agents can swap shifts with other agents – sometimes without manager approval. They can also submit requests for sick days, PTO days, vacation time or even maternity leave – all through the same secure Web portal. This is key considering that many agents today work part-time, or work in a call center as a second job, and thus need flexible schedules.
At the same time, these solutions give call center managers full control over the schedule: Not only do they enable call center managers to track things like schedule adherence and shrinkage, they also include forecasting capabilities that enable managers to schedule the proper number of agents based on the forecasted call (or other contact) volume. Through integration with the call center ACD, these systems can extract historical call data and use it to create forecasts as well as standard reports. These systems can also be used to track agent performance – either as a whole, by group, or by individual agent. In this regard they are an essential call center management tool.
The point is, even though these solutions are designed to maximize agent productivity, they also give agents a level of flexibility that they might not otherwise get using more traditional approaches to scheduling. What’s more, providing schedule visibility to your entire call center team enables them to play a more active role in the operation and management of the center – and this also helps drive agent satisfaction. Top agents will be more likely to stay loyal and productive because of their understanding of how their requirements and your schedule can match up.
Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.