If you have ever supervised a customer service call center, you know that the customer service representative retention is one of the biggest challenges you will face. According to The Quality Assurance and Training Connection (QATC) turnover within this group in the US is between 30% to 45% annually. When the primary mission is to deliver a positive customer experience, this level of turnover rate can lead to unhappy customers, plummeting NPS and CSAT scores and stressed out co-workers. Finding and training replacements takes time. What is the root cause of this high turnover rate and how do you get ahead of it? Here are 4 steps to reducing turnover.
1. Hire people who are best suited for call center work.
This is where it all begins. The search should start with a well-defined job description which not only captures the job responsibilities and qualifications, but also a personality profile of the type of person best suited for this job. There are personality profile tests that can help you with the selection process. In addition to having customer service experience, the ideal customer service representative is friendly, personable, positive, engaging, thinks of herself/himself as a customer advocate, and is professional. If only you could find enough people with this profile to fill all your representative positions, you would be all set! The reality is perfect candidates can be hard to find. Among the challenges that are faced is mounting pressure to fill the vacancy due to declining customer service key performance indicators (KPIs); declining customer service team morale due to an increased workload; budget constraints may not allow you to hire that “perfect” candidate. This leads to the next step…
2. Create an onboarding/training program.
This is how you teach new representatives hard and soft skills, as well as processes they will need to deliver a positive customer experience, all while minimizing customer effort (CE). In a customer service situation, your brand is first and foremost being measured by customer effort and not necessarily by “delighting the customer”. How easy did the company make it for me to handle my issue? The final outcome may be that you delighted the customer by the way you resolved the issue, but if CE was high, that may negate the customer delight because of the time and emotional response required to get to issue resolution. Your onboarding program should also include more tailored issue resolution training focused on the individual customer’s needs and personality, and less scripting and policy training. There is no such thing as “one size fits all” in customer service.
“To make customer service representatives feel accountable for their actions they must first be empowered and have more control over their world.”
3. Establish a working environment that empowers the customer service representative to take responsibility and do the right thing.
Running a highly efficient, highly controlled customer service team does not necessarily result in high Net Promoter Score (NPS) and high customer satisfaction scores (CSAT). Requiring representatives to get approval from their supervisor for routine customer requests adds a time delay to the customer transaction and demeans the ability of a representative, making them feel less trusted to make the right decision, less empowered, less engaged and less effectual in their mission to deliver a positive customer experience. Measuring customer service representatives only by time efficiency, internally focused metrics and not by customer focused CE and CSAT metrics demotivates representatives, making them feel more like cogs in a wheel rather than customer advocates. To make representatives feel accountable for their actions they must first be empowered and have more control over their world. This will reduce the turnover rate in the department.
4. Provide a career path for the customer service team.
A roadmap which presents career options and the training required for advancement or to learn new skills in another role in the company goes a long way toward making representatives feel engaged and happy. Career path planning is also good for the company overall. Filling openings from within is good for morale, shortens the learning curve to becoming productive, reduces the risk and cost of hiring someone who doesn’t work out, and decreases cost in terms of recruiting and on-boarding candidates from outside of the company. A well-established career path program is also an enabler of succession planning.
Patrick Sandefur is the Founder and Managing Director of Bass Harbor Group / Customer Experience Solutions. His 30+ year career in Customer Service, Sales, Marketing, Product Management and Business Development has given him a unique perspective of what customers want and expect when interacting with a brand.
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