Cutting Call-Center Personnel Churn

Updated: April 30, 2009

Rapid personnel turnover: It's enough to make a call-center manager's stomach, eh ... churn.

Many managers view constant personnel churn as an inevitable part of call-center life. That's not necessarily true, however. In fact, there are several ways that businesses can hold on to their call-center employees — even in an increasingly tight labor market — without significantly driving up personnel costs. Here's a look at the personnel-retention techniques that successful call-center managers use.

Software: ERM (Employee Resource Management) software can help increase employee satisfaction and morale. ERM tools enable agents to view benefits packages, access training services, check business calendars and apply for various employee services online. ERM tools also help alleviate the strain on HR staffers.

Telecommuting: Telecommuting allows agents to work from home, enabling mothers, disabled people, caregivers and other homebound individuals to handle calls productively from within their own residences. Broadband Internet access and low-cost VoIP telephony have made telecommuting an increasingly attractive option for a growing number of call centers. These days, all the communications and computing tools that are available in a fixed facility are also available in a remote environment.

Outsourcing: Business can rid themselves of staffing headaches by entrusting call-center operations to an external provider , one that will either assume control of an existing facility or send jobs to other centers (domestic or international). The downside is that the provider may also have trouble retaining qualified agents and simply pass the cost along to its client.

Flex Time: Allowing selected employees to set their own days and times is a great way of attracting students, homemakers, retired people and other individuals who can't commit to a regular schedule. The negative side is that flex-time employees often cherry-pick the best times, leaving managers scrambling to fill less desirable slots, such as late nights and weekends. Still, when used judiciously, flex time can be a powerful staffing tool.

Screening and Testing: A call center that's experiencing excessive personnel turnover should take a close look at its screening and testing procedures . Pre-hire screening can significantly reduce turnover by uncovering individuals with a history of flitting from job to job. Additionally, pre-hire testing can uncover candidates that are unsuitable to fill vacant agent positions and aren't likely to last long on the job.

Incentives and Rewards: Nobody likes to be taken for granted, including call-center agents. Incentives and rewards can improve employee-retention rates by boosting agents' morale and giving them a tangible reason to stay with an organization (other than a regular paycheck). Some ideas: bonuses for perfect attendance, compensation programs based on pay-for-performance and annual process-improvement programs that reward suggestions that lead to increased performance.

Career Pathways: Call-center jobs are often perceived to be career dead ends. Giving agents a defined promotion pathway that encourages them to increase their job grade and salaries by providing outstanding performance can dispel this notion. Employees who feel that they have a profitable future with their organization are less likely to jump ship.

Team Environment: Employees who work in teams are generally more loyal than "lone wolves." Team spirit can be built through special events (such as picnics, awards ceremonies and training sessions), enhanced communication (including employee Web sites and newsletters) and a positive work atmosphere (such as a clean facility, modern equipment, and fair work rules and practices).

Final Point: A call center that's experiencing high personnel turnover needs to look inward in order to pinpoint the reason. While compensation may be a root cause, an organization that's paying market rates yet still losing workers may find that it's simply failing to address the situation creatively.

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