Influencers of Agent Migration

Month-end is drawing closer and whether you are a contact centre manager or part of the recruitment team, this time of the month generally has butterflies fluttering in the pit of your stomach. Regrettably, not those reminiscent of expectation and excitement, but more of pending doom and gloom, anticipating the next wave of resignation letters about to flood your inbox in a few days’ time.

The contact centre industry in South Africa (and across the globe for that matter) is unfortunately prone to more exorbitant staff turnover rates in comparison to other business sectors. In a 2017 survey by Contact Centre Pipeline, agent turnover is still the number one challenge faced by contact centres from the Southern point of Africa to the tip of North America, and everywhere in between.

Just in our Rainbow Nation, staff turnover rates are skyrocketing year on year with figures of from 45% up to 70% ‘’achieved’’ during the past few years. These completely overshadow the fact that our contact centre industry is growing by leaps and bounds especially due to renewed interest in South Africa as a BPO call centre destination. Not discounting either that hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created by this industry during the past decade, making a valuable contribution to our constant struggle against unemployment.

Are we trying to retain in vain? “Why should we even care considering that automation, digitisation and robotisation will probably dominate this industry by 2030 right?”

Surprisingly, the answer is ‘’No’’ to both questions. Chatbot Sandy and AI Agent Andy will not be replacing your human staff compliment anytime soon. “Rather than forcing contacts onto digital channels to cut costs, best-practice companies are looking at where digital contact works and where human contact is more effective, thus creating seamless handoffs between the two”. (Boston Consulting Group)

Barriers to Agent Retention

In Kwa-Zulu Natal last year a social media campaign called the Call Centre Revolution generated fierce debate among contact centre agents voicing their disdain regarding poor salaries, unfair labour practices, racism and unfavourable working hours.

The causal scope for soaring attrition rates reaches far beyond inadequacies about titles, duties, money and promotion as these issues are only the symptoms of the contact centre attrition disease.

Upon deeper delving, a few unexpected drivers of agent staff turnover emerge:

Disconnected Agents

The lack of agent engagement is a critical influencing factor to staff turnover rates. No incentive system, free gym pass or complimentary lunch voucher can replace the importance of trust in leadership and emotional bonding at the workplace.

  • Agent engagement decreases when the perception of an employee’s purpose within the organisation is unclear, amplified by the lack of distinct company culture to reinforce the overall employee experience.
  • In South African contact centres, the standard management style hovers between either micromanagement (carrots & sticks) or a hands-off (leaving employees to their own devices) approach. Both are resulting in disconnecting consultants from their jobs, peers and supervisors.
  • Agent retention or lack thereof is directly influenced by where your level of engagement scores on the employee satisfaction scale (and if you place at the bottom, Houston you have a problem).

Warped Longevity Perceptions

If your call centre floor resembles that of an airport terminal where people come and go, month in and month out, your company has most probably attracted the label of offering the right job for right now, or the only job that’s left.

  • The majority of entry-level staff in South African contact centres are high school graduates or university graduates in need of an income which is better than the average entry-level remuneration package in other industries like retail for instance.
  • They require a position to pay the bills until they can secure more lucrative paying roles elsewhere.
  • Thus the contact centre opportunity is perceived as merely a short-term career solution.

Toxic Work Places

In the World of Work today, we need to comprehend that employees are motivated by factors other than pure economic self-interest. Emotionally toxic contact centres where performance recognition, mutual respect and freedom to contribute remain absent from retention ingenuities will be susceptible to continuous resignation occurrences.

  • Occupational Burnout is a common syndrome of toxic work environments and a leading cause of agent attrition.
  • Consultants may either suffer from Frenetic Burnout, Bore-Out or Worn-Out which in laymen’s terms roughly translates to “working their fingers (voices) to the bone, dying from lack of stimulation or not giving a damn about their jobs anymore”.
  • On the physical front stressors such as excessive noise levels, insufficient ventilation and poor temperature regulation may lead to Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) causing ‘’Elvis’’ to leave the building (for good!).

Corporate Ladder Restriction

In this scenario one has two options: lose them or promote them. Surely doing the return on investment calcs would point to the latter?

  • Expecting your high performing agents to stay in the same role year in and year out and preventing them from exploring other opportunities with the organisation because you ‘’need’’ them is a sure-fire tactic to ‘’facilitate” their departure.
  • For contact centres where a clear career path into other company avenues isn’t apparent or where advancement opportunities in terms of job capacity are limited, it’s common for employees to seek alternative employment options or return to studies to help develop or change their career.

Training & Development Shortfalls

The positive psychological effects generated by the correct Continuous Professional Development programmes often far outweighs the gains rendered by competency improvements.

  • Sadly, the opposite is also true: lacklustre training practices will have your agents off the call centre floor and out the door in no time.
  • Granted that upskilling agents will increase performance and service value to your customers, but the actual effect of training and development is evident in the staying power versus turnover ratios of your staff.
  • They will remain with companies for the long haul if provided with opportunities to broaden their scope and acquire new skills that not only prove to be conducive for their current job but also to prepare and equip them for future career prospects at the organisation or elsewhere.
Fortunately, these barriers can be eradicated with SMART retention strategies incorporating digital functionalities and online initiatives. In our next article we will investigate these solutions to combat agent turnover by focussing on:
S – Solidifying Engagement Levels
M – Moulding Longevity Perceptions
A – Appreciation Measures Implementation/p>
R – Removing Advancement Restrictions
T – Training Elevation Methodologies

eSTUDY is an accredited digital training company that specialises in upskilling your employees with accredited eLearning solutions to help your business grow.



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