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Expert tips on how to retain call centre employees
Learning how to retain call centre employees is one of the top priorities for most call centre managers in Australia and even more so as we navigate through a global pandemic.
And for good reason.
Its difficult to find employees and it’s expensive.
Not only is there the direct cost of recruitment, but there are the added costs of training, lost productivity, supervisors/Team Leaders having to spend more time with new staff and neglecting the existing staff and so on.
I remember back in my days I calculated the cost of replacing one call centre employee at $25,000 when you factored in all the direct and hidden costs.
With the average salary of a call centre employee in 2023 of $59.100, 42% of the annual cost of a single FTE is gone every time a call centre agent walks out the door.
The most recent contact centre industry data confirms the average turnover for frontline agents is 32% so you can quickly do the maths and realise turnover is a huge cost.
And even if you had an unlimited budget (which of course, you don’t) try recruiting call centre employees in this market!
It’s nigh on impossible.
Call centre staff that aren’t engaged are more likely to turnover and have lower productivity than engaged employees.
Now it’s no secret that higher engagement in employees correlates with lower turnover (and they are more productive) so it begs the question, what are the leading contact centres doing to retain call centre employees?
10 Best Practice Tips to Retain Call Centre Employees
We spoke to our members and our Advisory Board members and whilst there are a bunch of great things top contact centres are doing to retain call centre employees, we’ve selected 10 of the top tips listed below in no particular order.
1. Provide flexibility with shift choices
Enable your call centre staff some flexibility when setting rosters.
By choosing suitable hours or enabling them to swap shifts that can work in with the external life allows them to take control of managing their attendance.
Working hours that help to maintain a good work/life balance can be a big drawcard for your business, whilst inflexible and set shifts could have the opposite effect.
And whilst it might not be easy, try scheduling your shift patterns around the basic needs of your employees.
For example, if you have lots of students create evening and weekend shifts to fit around their studies or for parents having shifts that enable them to drop off and pick up the kids are a big plus.
2. Encourage training opportunities
Not only do top employers make their workers feel valued and listened to, but they also provide opportunities for career advancement and training.
When it comes to retaining call centre employees, most agents don’t want to remain stagnant in their careers, doing the same things the same way for years on end.
In fact, after salary, the second most common reason job seekers accept an offer of employment is because of the career growth opportunities offered.
The best companies don’t just approve any training opportunity; they send their employees to training that they’ll use.
Rather than keeping employees in the same roles they were hired for, Employers of Choice present new challenges and opportunities to keep employees engaged and devise clear action plans for each employee’s growth.
Of course, if you’re looking for some great training courses, we’ve got your back!
3. Share Information
Employees like to know what’s really going on in the company, after all, they are talking to customers all day and getting lots of feedback.
Whether its financial progress like year on year company revenues, expenditure, new products, key growth areas, challenges etc, ensure your call centre is a key part of the communication loop by conducting regular skip-levels, town halls, focus groups etc and get the senior managers (e.g. CEO) involved.
Or why not conduct a lunch and learn?
The idea behind this is that you set up an informal presentation, where people can learn from each other within the company, over their lunch.
For example, if the people who work in sales want to understand the product better from a technical point of view, you can organise a meeting where a few developers do a presentation over lunch.
Lunch and learns are a really fun way to increase morale because it empowers people to both teach what they’ve been working on, and for attendees to learn something they’re interested in.
And in the current climate, a concept that is working well is sending the employees lunch (e.g Uber Eats) so they can enjoy a lunch ‘on the house’ while they learn.
4. Remote Working Flexibility
Working from home became the norm for many of us due to COVID but the shift to returning back to the office is well and truly underway.
So what is the right balance?
Working remotely is certainly not for everyone (lots of us crave human interaction) and it seems that best-practice call centres are allowing flexibility in letting their employees determine what’s best for them.
Now, of course, you’ve also got to factor in what works best for your business and many call centres are trialling a range of different models such as a few days a week or a couple of days a fortnight in the office but allowing your call centre employees some input into the decision is a great way to build trust, contribute to higher employee satisfaction and ultimately, help you retain call centre employees.
5. Play Some Games
Playing some games in the call centre can be a great way to boost employee engagement, boost energy and inject some more fun into the day.
We’ve already published lots of ideas for games you can play in a call centre and we even publish monthly Trivia Quizzes in a ready-to-use kit that you can download and use in your team to build some engagement and have some fun!
6. Enable Career Breaks
There’s nothing more daunting than planning a long break than realising you are about to throw away a regular income and then face the prospect of unemployment when you return.
Enabling staff to put their career on hold to attend to some of life’s bigger events and having a job for them when they get back? Now that’s one way to build loyalty!
It could be anything from a backpacking holiday, wedding or moving house through to a new arrival in the household.
By enabling staff to talk openly about their plans and dreams will reduce their stress levels and allow you to plan for leave periods whilst retaining great staff for your organisation who will come back all refreshed and appreciative of the opportunity.
7. Conduct on-site Fitness Classes & Activities
With Australia’s obesity rates continuing to rise, offering a range of on-site fitness activities is a great way to help your agents maintain their fitness without the expense of a gym membership.
Here are some ideas you could try, depending on the budget and space available:
- Regular yoga or Zumba classes
- Setting up a room for circuit training sessions or conduct sessions in a nearby park
- Weight loss club
- Starting a Couch to 5k lunchtime running club (training plans are widely available for free download)
- Investing in an on-site gym or rowing machine
Most contact centres will have a resident fitness fanatic who will normally be only too willing to help!
Or, if there is a gym nearby, you can look at subsidising gym memberships.
8. Have a fair Reward & Recognition Program
I say ‘fair’ because if you want to retain call centre employees, rewarding the wrong behaviours can be a surefire way to disengage agents. Fast.
Not all Reward & Recognition programs need to be expensive, in fact, there are lots of ways you can reward call centre employees that doesn’t cost a cent.
But… to stand out from the crowd, you really need something with the ‘wow’ factor.
Think of some ideas that will have your staff talking about it for months to come. For example:
- Hold team-building days at interesting and unique locations. With many employees working from home at least some of the time, when you bring everyone together do it someone different – the zoo, the beach, function centre or even the local park. Keep mixing it up to keep things interesting.
- Go all out on your annual Christmas party. Hold your function in an exclusive or glamorous location, have an open tab on the bar and you’ll have everyone reminiscing for months!
- As long as it’s a fair process, put some significant investment into the top prize for your best performer(s). Overseas holidays, a new car, a paid month paid off work – it can be a great way to reward the top performers and encourage others to strive their best.
There’s also gamification and the benefits it can bring to your workplace – learn more about how gamification can build employee engagement or check out our own gamification program right here for ACXPA members!
9. Provide Free Breakfast
It’s a relatively inexpensive addition to your costs by putting on a free breakfast each morning (or even just selected days).
If you’ve got a canteen they can do it for you or just throw out some different cereals, some fresh fruit, a few toasters along with some bread, muffins or crumpets (and of course some Vegemite!) and you’re set!
Everyone will start the day off on a full tummy for a productive day ahead!
10. Commit to coaching
If you’re looking to retain call centre employees, one of the most effective strategies you can have is to ensure your Team Leaders are spending the time coaching your agents.
I can’t tell you how many contact centres I’ve been to where I’ve asked the call centre employee when was the last time you’ve received any coaching from your Team Leader and they literally couldn’t remember.
It’s also pretty sad when you ask ‘how do you know if you’re doing a good job?’ and the response is normally something along the lines of ‘well I guess if I stuff up someone will tell me”.
Coaching is often the first thing to be ditched when Team Leaders are juggling multiple priorities.
But I don’t blame the Team Leader. It’s a tough job and you get pulled in multiple directions all day every day.
The responsibility for ensuring Team Leaders are coaching rests firmly with the Contact Centre Manager.
They need to make sure the Team Leaders are very clear on the expectations with regards to spending time coaching (it’s often a KPI) and to ensure they have sufficient bandwidth to complete it.
I hope you got some useful tips on how to retain your call centre employees. One of the great things we do in the industry is share – so please let me know what’s worked for you, what hasn’t and so on in the comments below!
- About the Author
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After spending over 30 years working in contact centres and CX, one thing I’ve learnt is there is always something more to learn!
I’m thrilled to be the inaugural CEO of ACXPA, and together with the rest of the team, we’re focused on helping Australian businesses deliver efficient and effective customer experiences via phone, digital and in-person by empowering their employees with the skills, industry insights and professional support networks they need to succeed.