Turnover in Call Centers – Why So Much?

We're not gonna take it - Turnover in Call centers

Turnover in Call Centers – Why So Much?

Twisted Sister could have been singing for call center and contact center workers in this 1980s anthem. Per The Quality Assurance & Training Connection (QATC) 2018 study, turnover in US contact centers alone is “between 30-45% which is more than double the average for all occupations in the U.S.” Intense. There are many reasons why there is so much turnover in call centers. 


Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

Wellness and work life balance are top factors to employees in 2019 , but not all industries have them in place. Venting systems that are never cleaned result in terrible air quality. In a place where employees spend eight hours or more of their day this can impact their overall well being. The abstract on this study of ‘call center cough’ on the National Library of Medicine site concludes that call center workers are more likely to suffer from coughs.

Add to that shared equipment with no sanitizing wipes, not enough breaks and long night shifts (especially for overseas agents) absenteeism in call centers is the norm, not the exception. Illness and exhaustion force call center agents to drop from the ranks.

They are literally sick and tired from it.

Turnover in call centers because of pain ID 37691756 © Piotr Marcinski | Dreamstime.comThis Job is a Pain in the Neck. Literally.

Ergonomics may not have been a thought in the 1950s, but awareness of factors that impact job performance has evolved. Not all call centers have gotten the memo though. Chairs with limited or no back support, non-adjustable workstations and uncomfortable headsets, contribute to repetitive strain injuries. If you’re in pain you’re not staying to answer customer service queries.

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

There is something to be said for benefits and perks. Even the relatively small investment of snacks in a break room can improve employer-employee relations.

Medical benefits and a week or two of paid vacation are of even greater value and benefit both the agents and the companies they work for. Consider this article by the Harvard Business Review .

Office generated activities are another way of elevating the employee work experience. When agents engage in activities that build trust in each other and their management team their work and loyalty are elevated.

Now We’re Stressed OutStressed out employee ID 45532228 © Julenochek | Dreamstime.com

There are many demands on call center workers. They are pressured to complete as many calls as quickly and successfully as possible. When a large amount of those calls are complaints it can be draining for the agents. Sometimes they are even yelled at or verbally abused by customers. This makes for a stressful day at the office.

Agents are expected to address company policies and information points in each call also. There is extra pressure when agents scheduled to work are absent. Their workload falls to the agents who are present overwhelming them. This can cut into breaks resulting in the law of diminishing returns.

Supervisors aren’t off the hook either. They are the ones ultimately responsible for agent performance, or lack thereof. They schedule agents to cover expected call volumes. When some are absent it strains the supervisors and the agents that do show up.

Getting new agents up to speed without sacrificing quality is another supervisory duty. There is the mountain of data they are expected to parse to stay on top of performance metrics and trends. If all of these demands come with little or no reward employees feel it just isn’t worth it to stay which leads into the next point:

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Stats show recognition reduces turnover. Per Bersin & Associates 31% less turnover exists where such programs are in place.  

Working hard is more satisfying if recognition or bonuses are involved that go beyond basic pay. Motivating competitions for the most sales or successful calls or a reward for the fewest days absent provide a goal with a tangible benefit. These kinds of perks lead to the last point:

Where do we go from here?

Flat career paths are a hard sell. If there is no plan in place to elevate quality agents and supervisors both in responsibility and pay there is less reason for the ambitious ones to remain.

It is natural for employees to want to increase their value and the benefit they receive for that value. Metrics that give employees an idea of their performance and where they stand in comparison with their fellow employees help them to aim higher. On-going training to stay relevant to the industry and a clear idea of where the next level is provide incentive. If the higher positions in a call center or contact center are seen by the employees to never be filled from within that can be an impetus to leave.

Though there is significant turnover in call centers there are actionable ways to reduce it and have call center employees singing along with Nina Simone “I’m Feeling Good”.

happy Contact center employees

Coming up on the blog: How contact center workers are abused

Editor’s note: This blog was originally posted on September 12, 2018 but has been updated to reflect new data