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How to hold on to agents in a hybrid contact center

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  • Hybrid work models are more prevalent in contact centers, which presents unique challenges for management.
  • High rates of agent churn can negatively impact contact center operations and hurt their bottom line.
  • Contact centers should take proactive steps to keep agent churn rates at bay, including implementing modern technology.

High agent turnover rates and an increasingly hybrid workplace model present unique challenges for contact centers.

Part of your staff may be working on-site, while another may be working remotely. Many agents may have a working arrangement that combines both on-prem and off-site work.

The challenge is to ensure all agents — regardless of their work arrangement — have the tools they need and are always included in team efforts to achieve common goals. Keeping a hybrid workforce engaged, happy, and satisfied at work will help retain good workers and keep contact center agent churn rates at bay.

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The challenges of hybrid workforces

Remote work has become more commonplace over recent years, but the global pandemic has caused it to skyrocket. As contact centers closed for months, workers were tasked with working from home.

Before the health crisis, just 6% of the US workforce worked mainly from home. By May 2020, more than one-third of the employed worked remotely due to the pandemic. Now, most employers and workers expect to be permanently involved in some level of flexible remote work arrangements following the pandemic.

Such a scenario poses a unique challenge for supervisors. With a hybrid workforce, management cannot simply walk through their contact center to monitor their staff. Training new hires is now often done virtually, and providing real-time feedback to agents working remotely is problematic without the right tools in place.

A lack of appropriate technology can make running a hybrid contact center an impossibility, which can negatively affect agents and lead to an increase in agent churn.

How prevalent is contact center agent churn?

Agent churn statistics are relatively high. Agent turnover rates for contact centers range between 30% to 45%. That’s a significant portion of the workforce exiting on a regular basis, leaving management scrambling to go through a continuous cycle of recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training new hires.

In addition to the time and effort that goes into replacing agents, it’s also very expensive. The average cost to replace one agent is anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000. With a turnover rate of 30%, it could cost a contact center at least $300,000 each year to replace outgoing agents.

What drives agent churn?

Why do so many agents leave contact centers? There are many reasons. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Lack of proper technology. About 60% of contact center agents say they do not have access to the right technology needed to do their jobs properly. To address customer queries and issues effectively, technology is key. A lack of tools can make it more difficult for agents to help customers, leaving both agents and customers frustrated.
  • Not enough customer data. Roughly one-third of agents claim that they don’t have access to the right customer information in front of them when they’re dealing with customers. Again, this comes down to a lack of modern technology required to help agents gather the necessary customer data that will facilitate a more streamlined interaction. Without it, agents and customers become stressed during interactions.
  • Burnout. Overworked agents are more likely to leave their jobs. Burnout could be the result of sudden spikes in call volumes, understaffed workplaces, or a lack of digital tools needed to streamline the job of the contact center agent. Workplaces that do not address agent burnout are likely to see higher agent turnover rates.
  • Lack of motivation. Agents who don’t feel some level of excitement over their jobs may not last for the long haul. In addition to ensuring agents are given rewarding work to do, they should also be encouraged, recognized, and provided with positive reinforcement. Without this positive reinforcement, agents may lose the motivation needed to perform well at work and even to show up for work in the first place.
  • Feelings of isolation. It’s easy for remote workers to feel disconnected from work. While on-prem agents are physically present in the contact center and are always surrounded by colleagues and superiors, remote workers are on their own. Only technology can bridge the gap, but without these tools, remote agents can feel isolated, leaving them more vulnerable to parting ways with their companies.

woman agent at work

Contact center solutions to tackle agent churn

There are many ways that contact centers can keep their hybrid workforce happy and satisfied with their work to reduce agent churn, including the following.

1. Implement cutting-edge technology

The first thing contact centers should look into is their technology. Outdated contact center platforms can compromise the quality of service that agents provide to customers. It can also make agents’ jobs much more tedious and difficult, which can wreak havoc on the overall experiences agents have on the job.

Innovative digital tools are even more important for a hybrid contact center. A scattered workforce depends on the right technology to communicate with customers, supervisors, and colleagues. Robust contact center technology also makes it possible for management to monitor agents and provide appropriate feedback in a timely manner.

Further, the right technology specifically designed for a contact center can cultivate a more customer-centered work culture. In turn, customers will have a better experience, which can minimize the number of stressful customer interactions that agents will have.

2. Provide comprehensive training

In-depth training is an essential component of ensuring that agents are adequately prepared to perform at their best. Lack of proper training can leave agents incompetent with their work. The issue is exacerbated with hybrid workers who spend at least part of their time off-site.

Without the right skill-set and know-how, remote agents will be unable to properly connect with customers and colleagues, and may not be able to access the right customer data and other relevant information to provide impeccable customer service.

In turn, agents are left feeling disgruntled with work. But with the appropriate training — both when an agent is first hired and on an ongoing basis — agents may be more likely to stick around for the long haul.

3. Offer recognition

Agents who do good work should be recognized for their efforts and achievements. In fact, they want this recognition.

Agents who are acknowledged for their quality work feel more appreciated and encouraged to continue performing at their best every day. This may help to keep agent retention levels up.

4. Offer real-time feedback

The only way for agents to understand what they’re doing right versus what they need to change is for supervisors to provide appropriate feedback. Agents want to know if they’re doing a good job. Rather than continuing to make error after error, timely feedback can stop errors in their tracks and help steer agents in the right direction.

Fortunately, innovative technology can make real-time feedback a cinch. It can also make it easy to be proactive in addressing possible issues. Using technology to provide this real-time feedback will ensure that agents always have a clear understanding of what they’re doing well versus areas that need attention.

RingCentral's digital solutions can help reduce hybrid contact center agent churn
RingCentral's digital platforms offer hybrid contact centers the tools needed to keep agent churn down. From maintaining communication with colleagues and supervisors to easily accessing customer data to benefitting from ongoing training and beyond, RingCentral's cutting-edge technology provides contact centers with precisely what they need to keep their agents productive and satisfied with work.

Originally published Sep 08, 2022, updated Nov 03, 2023

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