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Career Path Track Keeps Call Center Employees
[August 22, 2005]

Career Path Track Keeps Call Center Employees

A new study finds the leading reason for call center turnover.
TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist
Forget the lousy pay, having to put up with abuse from people all day and crazy managers -- most call center employees are leaving simply because they can't hang around longer.
That's the finding of Cutting Edge Information, which has released a study fingering "a lack of promotional opportunities" as "the leading cause of call center agent turnover." According to their research, 26.4% of agents in a survey left their jobs "because their employers did not have a clearly defined career path for advancement."

This echoes conclusions found in a study released this past February by the Incoming Calls Management Institute. Most call centers, ICMI found, don't offer "a formal skill path to develop frontline agents and allow them to earn more pay," according to a review of the report"

"The ICMI report, 'Agent Staffing and Retention II Survey: Final Report,' found that only 38 percent of call centers have a formal skill path in place for agents. Just over half offer a formal career path that lets agents advance within the center or to other positions within the organization."
This reporter has never actually worked in a call center, but wonders what "advancement" entails for the profession. They only need so many managers, so disregarding simple pay or benefits increases how else can you advance -- get seats in the room closer to the Coke machine or bathroom? More comfortable headsets? It's hard to think of an "advancement" which doesn't mean getting out of the call center to a better job, in which case you're still a turnover stat.

Staff turnover is the biggest expense associated with running call centers, so it's taken pretty seriously. To boost retention of top-performing agents, "a handful of financial services companies have established career paths marked by tiered positions within the call center and opportunities for promotion into management positions in customer service and other functions," according to the study.
It's a truism that high turnover is a call center's biggest headache, reach a paw into the river of statistics and smack out as many as you please -- there are entire companies and a cottage industry devoted solely to lowering call center turnover. Consultants advertise their expertise in helping pick the sort of agent who'll stay around longer,
Citibank is noted in the study for promoting their better agents as their performance, training, or certification escalates, but unfortunately the publicly-available information doesn't specify what exactly they're promoted to -- positions with the firm outside of the call center?

The study, "Managing Financial Services Call Centers," naturally enough focuses on financial institutions, considering such bulwarks as Merrill Lynch, Fidelity Investments, Citigroup, Capital One, Allstate, Wachovia and MetLife. The report looks at career path development and other HR management practices to reduce turnover, increase customer satisfaction ratings, and minimize operating expenses.

"Too many call center managers mistakenly focus on IT as a way to improve performance," said Elio Evangelista, senior analyst at Cutting Edge Information. "HR systems -- from hiring to training to performance management -- are the leading drivers of turnover."

The study uses quantitative metrics and qualitative practices in such areas as call center agents' incentive and compensation packages; turnover, blocked calls, cost per rep and other performance measurements; inbound and outbound call metrics, up-selling and cross-selling strategies and, yes, offshore outsourcing.
David Sims is contributing editor for TMCnet. For more articles by David Sims, please visit:

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