How to Increase Call Center Agent Satisfaction
- Call center agent satisfaction is one of the five most influential factors that drives Best-in-Class customer service performance. The other four factors are improvements to customer satisfaction, customer lifetime value, customer retention and contact center revenue contribution.
- Research performed for the Customer Service Excellence Report found the Best-in-Class operators (i.e., the top 15 percent) performed three activities that correlated with the highest agent satisfaction scores.
- The Best-in-Class contact and call centers measured staff satisfaction 1.6X more frequently and the agent experience 3X more frequently than their lower performing peers. They also applied purpose-built programs, such as gamification, to improve satisfaction.
Research published in the Customer Service Excellence Report found that agent or Customer Service Representative (CSR) satisfaction is one of the top 5 contributing factors to Best-in-Class performance. So, to understand what the top performers do better or differently to maximize this critical driver we analyzed the data to surface insights.
But we hit an early obstacle. The survey found there was no consensus in how customer support operations calculate satisfaction.
So, we took a two-step approach. First, we reviewed two proxies that parallel employee satisfaction. Those proxies are agent turnover and absenteeism, and each is objectively measured for deeper analysis and comparison. And second, we compared the findings for this topic to the larger data set to surface other factors that may also correlate with employee satisfaction.
Here are some of the results.
The mean (average) agent turnover was 35 percent, but as shown below that measure varied significantly among performance archetypes.
Compared to the prior year, CSR turnover was slightly higher for all 3 archetypes.
When the data was filtered by operational size, staff attrition was higher at an average of 40% for the large support centers (over 250 seats) and lower at an average 25% for small support centers (less than 50 seats).
The mean agent absenteeism rate was 7.8 percent. Results for each archetype are shown below.
The data continues to show a troubling trend.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), excessive absenteeism is defined as two or more occurrences of unexcused absence in a 30-day period. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the absence rate among all sectors is 2.8%. This means that, on average, 2.8% of the workforce is absent from work on regular workdays. Clearly, call and contact centers significantly exceed these norms and other industries.
Similar to agent turnover, smaller operations reported lower absence rates and larger organizations reported higher rates.
Absence rates were highest for outsourcing call centers, telecommunications and healthcare industries and lowest for the non-profit, IT and financial services sectors.
The Best-in-Class operators achieved significantly lower churn and absenteeism which suggests higher employee satisfaction. So clearly, these respondents are doing something right. But what are they doing better or different than their lower performing peers?
What the Best-in-Class Do Differently
The research surfaced 3 statistically significant differences that impact agent or CSR satisfaction.
- The survey found no single standardized or commonly shared employee satisfaction measurement. The top three satisfaction measures included Employee Satisfaction (ESAT), Employee NPS (Net Promoter Score) and a custom or uniquely calculated satisfaction score.
But the data did find that the Best-in-Class leaders measured agent satisfaction 1.6X more frequently than lower performing peers. This suggests the actual metric may be less important than the activity of frequently measuring the objective.
- The Best-in-Class were 3X more likely to measure the agent experience.
While satisfaction measures a single variable, the agent experience is a broader measure that considers many factors.
Only 24% of all survey respondents reported they measured the agent experience but the allocation among archetypes was extremely skewed. Most adopters were the Best-in-Class leaders who were 3X more likely to measure the agent experience compared to all others.
- Finally, when we extrapolated staff satisfaction data with other responses that measured contact center programs, we found a significant correlation we didn't expect. 83 percent of the Best-in-Class applied agent gamification.
And similar to the agent experience, gamification was not widely adopted, except among the Best-in-Class.
And like the prior metrics that align with employee satisfaction, we found that respondents who applied active agent gamification realized 36 percent lower agent attrition and 41 percent lower absenteeism than respondents who did not.
Staff satisfaction is one of the top five factors that most influence contact center performance results. The research shows that even small improvements deliver significant cost reductions, such as higher productivity and lower employee turnover, and sustained revenue improvements such as an improved customer experiences, customer lifetime value and customer retention.
Extrapolating the data suggests three methods to drive significant improvements to agent or CSR satisfaction.
- Measure agent satisfaction. What gets measured gets managed. Without measurement of this critical metric managers are flying blind. Adopting a standardized metric such as Employee Satisfaction (ESAT) or Employee NPS (eNPS) leverages a proven measurement methodology and permits benchmark comparison to other customer service operations.
- Measure the agent experience. This metric measures the agents' perception of their role and company based on the totality of their interactions. It is more likely to uncover specific issues that degrade job satisfaction so they can be remedied. It also highly correlates to the customer experience.
- Adopt agent gamification. Improve individual engagement, team building and recognition while at the same time directing gamification activities toward training objectives, knowledge sharing, short term goals or the behaviors and competencies that promote the business objectives.