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Blog | November 10, 2021

Contact Center Employee Churn: How to Stop the Revolving Door

Employee churn isn’t new — but today’s businesses are experiencing never-before-seen attrition levels. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employee turnover rates are at near-record levels across the U.S., including retail, healthcare, and the foodservice industry.

No stranger to the challenges of high turnover rates, contact centers  are in no way immune to these recent trends in employee churn. Only one in three contact center agents report being engaged in their work, and disengaged agents are 84% more likely to quit.

The news from the top isn’t great either: while more than eight in 10 executives rate engagement as important or very important in their companies, only 4% of business leaders surveyed believe they’re good at engaging with their employees. But with the cost to replace a contact center agent averaging upward of $10k – $21k, it’s imperative that contact center  leaders begin to prioritize employee engagement.

But to stop the revolving door of employee churn, leaders need to focus a lot less on measuring attrition and a lot more on fostering attraction. It requires an end-to-end solution that starts with better onboarding, and extends through training and continued coaching. 

Set New Hires up for Lasting Success Through Better Onboarding

The best way to improve employee retention doesn’t actually involve retention strategies. Instead, it’s more effective to stop churning before it begins. And doing so first involves onboarding. Done well, onboarding plays a huge role in reducing failure rates. But know that effective means more than just efficiency. Onboarding must also help integrate new hires into the contact center culture itself.

For contact center managers, the opportunity to drive  retention through onboarding begins on Day 1. Speed is essential, as 20% of employee churn happens in the first 45 days on the job. That means the more quickly (and more effectively) employees are onboarded, the more likely they are to stay.

To accelerate the new-hire learning process and get the most out of those early days, contact center  leadership should break the onboarding process down into three areas and make it clear what should be focused on for each.

1. Technical Learning 

This area covers the basics of the contact center and the role the agent will play in it. Technical learning should cover everything from products and key technologies and systems to channel specificity, performance metrics, incentives, and potential career development opportunities.

2. Cultural Learning

In addition to the basics of the contact center, onboarding should cover the attitudes and values that distinguish company culture and the brands and products they’ll represent. As able, the new hire should be introduced to behaviors that a given team’s top performers exhibit. Doing so helps agents by tangibly defining what “good looks like” and establishes foundational elements for training/coaching down the road.

3. Political Learning 

Finally, effective onboarding should also include how decision-making is handled within the work environment, how the team will function together, how the agent will be evaluated, and how the agent should reach out for support as needed.

To ensure onboarding is both fast and effective, leadership should work to foster a sense of belonging for new hires. With their manager’s help, agents should also identify a small set of coworkers (7–10 superiors, peers, internal customers, etc.) to whose success they’ll contribute or who will contribute to the agent’s own success.

Once this group is defined, leadership should then help the new employees create a plan to connect with each person for a one-on-one conversation in their first year. Doing so provides new hires with additional opportunities to learn how the contact center works and counteracts senses of loneliness and isolation that can sow the seeds of employee churn. Something that’s even more prevalent in our new remote world. 

Outpace Attrition by Helping Agents to Win Faster (And More Often)

There’s no replacing the confidence felt and credibility built as a contact center agent experiences their first wins on the job. To accelerate the path to their first win, share the best practices of top performing agents during onboarding. This way, new hires can quickly experience and learn the tactics that have proven to drive results. 

That said, early wins can simply involve establishing and meeting basic goals, ideally tethered to a regular cadence of post-onboarding check-ins (e.g., at three, six, and nine months). On its own, this can be an easy deterrent to employee churn. Surprisingly, a reported 60% of companies don’t set check-ins for new hires . As an added benefit, as agents grow more confident, leadership can also begin to address skill gaps and lay the groundwork for further coaching.

However, as the agent grows more experienced, more wins need to come from the work itself. And one proven way to accelerate these wins is to model their growth that center’s top performers. But this can be tricky, as we’re not psychologically adept at explaining why we’re good at the things we’re good at.

This is why, at Cresta, we’ve shown it more impactful to use artificial intelligence (AI) to observe top talent and help share insights across teams. Even better, we can curate these insights to the specific needs of each agent, for the benefit of them whole team.

Coach in Real Time to Foster a Rewarding Company Culture 

In the modern contact center, performance and employee engagement are increasingly inseparable. This is preferable to the olden days of customer service, where increasing short-term productivity was often done at the cost of increasing agent burnout and, by extension, churn.

But as contact centers have endeavored to modernize in the wake of COVID, leadership itself needs to actively work to counter employee churn. And doing so in the modern contact center requires leaders to embrace the role of both coaching and supporting agents in real time as they engage with customers, not after. Because modern customer service agents now have to constantly adapt how they provide service excellence and need to be empowered to bring fresh energy, innovation, and commitment to the job they do.

Additionally, expecting people to learn at the wrong time is one of the major ways that Learning and Development (L&D) initiatives go wrong. No surprise then that only 12% of employees actually go on to apply skills learned through traditional training to their jobs. 

Thanks to our understanding of learning and feedback loops, we know that contact center agents learn best when they have to learn, not when they’re told to. Add to this the sobering impact of the Forgetting Curve, where just 20 minutes after a coachable moment has passed, an agent’s ability to retain important information has already dropped to 58%. But this all presents a challenge: How can leadership ensure agents have access to coaching in the moment, whenever these moments occur? Through our own experience with customers, here again is one of the benefits of Cresta’s Expertise.AI™.

Right now, Cresta is coaching agents that are handling ~20,000 chats every day. Our AI’s machine learning model observes agent/customer interactions as they happen, determining the best thing to do at any given moment. But during pivotal moments in these interactions, Cresta steps in, guiding agents with best practices based on established, top-performing behaviors. These helpful interventions take the form of hints, each prompting agents to seize on opportunities as they occur and providing positive feedback to reinforce agent expertise over time.

This real-time coaching, over time, naturally empowers agents to learn in the moment to ask the right questions and proactively address concerns on their own. And the more Cresta’s used, the better it gets. In fact, we’re currently providing all agents on Cresta with over 500 thousand  custom coaching touch points per quarter for their personalized growth. That’s not just a lot of hints. It’s a lot of reasons why a growing number of contact center agents are proudly engaged with the work that they do. 

Go From Revolving Doors to Rewarding Employee Retention

Better onboarding, helping new employees win sooner, and real-time coaching that builds happier, more productive contact center agents–this is how you counter employee churn. And, while it’s unreasonable to expect an absence of employee churn, it’s stunning how much impact an AI-fueled approach can have on customer experience.

And with Cresta’s help, enterprise companies are continuing to spurn employee churn as they transform contact centers from  cost centers into sustainable sources of ROI. For some specific examples, make sure to read our article: CONTACT CENTER ROI: TRANSFORM COST CENTERS INTO VALUE CENTERS.