Tag Archives: turnover

Contact center agent experience needs massive overhaul

Gone are the days when it is acceptable to have greater than 40% turnover rates among contact center agents.

Leading organizations are revamping the contact center agent experience to improve business metrics, such as operational costs, revenue and customer ratings; and a targeted agent program keeps companies at a competitive advantage, according to the Nemertes 2019-20 Intelligent Customer Engagement research study of 518 organizations.

The problems

CX leaders participating in the research pointed to several issues responsible for a failing contact center agent experience:

  • Low pay. In some organizations it’s at minimum wage, despite requirements for bachelor’s degrees and/or experience.
  • Dead-end job. Organizations typically do not have a growth path for agents. They expect them to last 18 months to two years, and there always will be a revolving door of agents coming and going.
  • Lack of customer context. Agents find it difficult to take pride in their work when they don’t have the right tools. Without CRM integrations, AI assistance and insightful agent desktops, it is difficult to delight customers.
  • Cranky customers. Agents also find it difficult to regularly interact with dissatisfied customers. With a better work environment, more interaction channels, better training, more analytics and context, they could change those attitudes.
  • No coaching. Because supervisors are busy interviewing and hiring to keep backfilling the agents who are leaving, they rarely have time to coach the agents they have. What’s more, they don’t have the analytics tools — from contact center vendors such as Avaya, Cisco, Five 9, Genesys and RingCentral; or from pure-play tools such as Clarabridge, Medallia, and Maritz CM — to provide performance insight.

The enlightenment

Those in the contact center know this has been status quo for decades, but that is starting to change.

One of the big change drivers is the addition of a chief customer officer (CCO). Today, 37% of organizations have a CCO, up from 25% last year. The CCO is an executive-level individual with ultimate responsibility for all customer-facing activities and strategy to maximize customer acquisition, retention and satisfaction.

The CCO has budget, staff and the attention of the entire C-suite. As a result, high agent turnover rates are no longer flying under the radar. After bringing the issue to CEOs and CFOs, they are investing resources into turning around the turnover rates.

Additionally, organizations value contact centers more today, with 61% of research participants say the company views the contact center as a “value center” versus a “cost center.” Four years ago, that figure was reversed, with two-thirds viewing the contact center as a cost center.

Research shows there are five common changes organizations are now making to improve the contact center agent experience and reduce the turnover rate.

Companies are adding more outbound contact centers, targeting sales or proactive customer engagement — such as customer check-ups, loyalty program invitations and discount offers — and they are supporting new products and services. This helps to explain why, despite the growth in self-service and AI-enabled digital channels, 44% of companies actually increased the number of agents in 2019, compared to 13% who decreased, 40% who were flat and 3% unsure.

The solution

Research shows there are five common changes organizations are now making to improve the contact center agent experience and reduce the turnover rate — now at 21%, down from 38% in 2016. These changes include:

  • Improved compensation plan. Nearly 47% of companies are increasing agent compensation, compared to the 7% decreasing it. The increase ranges from 22% to 28%. Average agent compensation is $49,404, with projected increases up to $60,272, minimally, by the end of 2020.
  • Investment in agent analytics. About 24% of companies are using agent analytics today, with another 20.2% planning to use the tools by 2021. Agent analytics provides data on performance to help with coaching and improvement, in addition to delivering real-time screen pops to help agents on the spot during interactions with customers. Those using analytics see a 52.6% improvement in revenue and a 22.7% decrease in operational costs.
  • Increases in coaching. By delivering data from analytics tools, supervisors have a better picture of areas of success and those that need improvement. By using a product such as Intradiem Contact Center RPA, they can automate the scheduling of training and coaching during idle times.
  • Addition of gamification. Agents are inspired with programs that inject competitiveness among agents, by awarding badges for bragging rights, weekly gift cards for top performance and monthly cash bonuses. Such rewards improve their loyalty to the company and reduce turnover.
  • Development of career path. Successful companies are developing a solid career path with escalations into marketing, product development and supervisory roles in the contact center or CX apps/analysis.

Developing a solid game plan that provides agents with the compensation, support and career path they deserve will drastically reduce turnover rates. In a drastic example, one consumer goods manufacturing company reduced agent turnover from 88% to 2% with a program that addressed the aforementioned issues. More typically, companies are seeing 5% to 15% reductions in their turnover rates one year after developing such a plan.

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Onboarding software a weak link, according to HCI-Kronos survey

Onboarding software may help reduce turnover, but many firms are neglecting this technology, according to a new study. A bad onboarding experience may prompt a new employee to quit.

Most firms today have invested in recruiting management systems. They want to speed hiring and find the best candidates. IDC said it expects spending in 2018 on applicant tracking systems to reach double digits.

Like recruiting, onboarding software is a pillar of talent management systems. But it’s “neglected,” said Jenna Filipkowski, the head of research at the Human Capital Institute (HCI), based in Cincinnati. That’s a mistake, she argued.

HCI and workforce management software vendor Kronos Inc., in a survey of 350 firms, found 36% have “insufficient technology” to automate or organize the onboarding process. Overall, this research found 75% reported “that onboarding practices are underutilized.” In a tight labor market, this may be a mistake.

Bad onboarding experience may hurt retention

A good onboarding program can make a difference in whether people leave work on that first day wondering what they have gotten themselves into and whether they made a huge mistake.
Howard Kleinprofessor of management of human resources at Ohio State University

Getting a job seeker excited about taking a job may be undercut by underused onboarding tech. Disorganized, incomplete, paper-based and inefficient onboarding can sour a new hire. It also hurts productivity if it takes longer to become proficient. The new employee may well believe they “were sold a bill of goods,” Filipkowski said.

“When they do have a more positive [onboarding] experience, studies have shown that they tend to want to stay longer,” Filipkowski said.

Other studies support this, according to management professors who have examined this issue.

“A good onboarding program can make a difference in whether people leave work on that first day wondering what they have gotten themselves into and whether they made a huge mistake,” said Howard Klein, a professor of management of human resources at Ohio State University and editor in chief of the Human Resource Management Review, a professional journal.

First impressions really do matter

“First impressions matter,” Klein said in an email. “If you ask people about their worst job, chances are you’ll hear about a horrible first day or week in which they were not made to feel welcome, appreciated or important,” he said.

New employees are impressionable, and an organization “does not want to miss that opportunity to instill values, vision and desired behaviors,” Klein said.

Onboarding software systems are intended to make onboarding more efficient. These platforms include online training, electronic paperwork processing, incorporating audio and video onboarding materials, automatic updates of employee records, set reminders and appointments.

Onboarding software use is inconsistent

The HCI and Kronos survey suggests adoption of onboarding software will increase. About 60% of the firms surveyed were using some type of onboarding technology, either web-based or developed in-house. Of the balance, 24% said they didn’t use it, but plan on doing so in the next three years. The remaining 15% said they had no plan to use onboarding technology in the next three years.

Talya Bauer, a professor of management at Portland State University, said organizations have come a long way in terms of thinking of onboarding as a yearlong process and not just new employee orientation, “but there’s great variance in how much time and attention onboarding gets across organizations.”

Keeping new hires will be important if a just-released survey by staffing firm Accountemps, a Robert Half company, proves to be accurate. It found 29% of professionals intend to look for a new position in the next year. The highest percentage of workers considering leaving their present employers is in Los Angeles, at 40%, followed closely by Austin and Dallas, Texas.