10 Tips for Retaining Your Best Contact Center Agents

By Steve Bell

0 min read

Retaining Agents

1. Hire Right for the Role

When it comes to retaining your agents, you need to first make sure that the call center talent you hire is the right fit for the role, equipped with the right skills, experience, personality and temperament. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Handling those customer frustrations day in and day out can take a toll if you don’t have thick skin. To minimize churn and cost, make sure your interview process includes role-playing for common situations so you can assess how your candidate reacts.

2. Give Them the Right Tools

More than a third of companies cite disconnected and complex agent desktops as a key obstacle. Agents are forced to toggle an average of five screens to handle a single customer interaction, and waste more than 25% of their time searching for relevant data across these systems. Training and coaching agents won’t do much if the CRM, desktop tools, and workflows are disparate and uncoordinated. Agents need to have access to relevant customer data and other critical information and tools at their fingertips to ensure every interaction goes smoothly without any hindrance. Your agent interface needs to be a “single pane of glass” where agents can get everything they need to succeed from one screen.

3. Offload Common Tasks  

The key to agent satisfaction is to make their job rewarding and easy for them to succeed. As a continuation of giving them the right tools, it’s important to remove mundane tasks from the agent’s daily life. Labor makes up over 80% of contact center operations. So wasting agent time on mundane, repetitive tasks is simply burning money. Use Artifical Intelligence to sort, prioritize, and assign cases. Ensure customer self-service (chatbots, knowledge bases, communities, and automation) offers alternate service channels for customers that then allow agents to focus on higher priority and more interesting work

4. Empower Your Agents

Call center agents are a wealth of skills and knowledge – the kind of knowledge that can truly help organizations who wish to steer their activities in a more customer-focused direction. Since they spend most of their time interacting with customers, they understand what the customers want and need. Empowering them to use their experience and knowledge to come up with ideas can improve operational efficiencies, employee retention and customer experience. And since we’re all increasingly mobile, empowering agents with latitude on remote working is also key to retention. The cloud and new mobile technologies are available to make the mobile workforce a reality.

5. Use Agent and Customer Focused Metrics

Tracking the performance of your call center agents is an important process that reveals the proficiency of your team. But holding on to pure productivity metrics is probably the easiest way to torpedo employee morale and encourage the wrong type of behavior. Instead of tracking solely quantitative metrics that emphasize the efficiency of your agents, focus more on call quality or customer satisfaction. By focusing on more qualitative, customer-focused metrics you’ll encourage behavior that results in happier customers and call center agents. This also shows your agents that you put greater value on the content of their customer interactions, not so much the number of interactions they have.

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6. Motivate, Reward and Recognize Agent Performance

It has been well documented that work performance is closely tied to how much an employee feels they contribute to their work environment, be it by being part of a larger group and/or doing his or her bit toward the product or service the company’s providing. Most agents put in a lot of effort in delighting customers, which typically goes unrewarded. If you’re not doing enough to show your appreciation for their hard work, your agents may start to look elsewhere. The best call centers provide incentives and recognition to agents that go the extra mile in delivering superior customer experience. This inspires agents to keep doing the kind of things they are doing or do even better. Regular rewards boost employee morale and make them feel valued and important in the organization. Investing time in devising an incentive and recognition strategy can help reap enormous dividends for the center.

7. Provide Ongoing Training for Continuous Improvement

Call center agents should never complete their education. Contact center training is an ongoing evolutionary process. Customer expectations for service are ever-increasing and ongoing call center training is a crucial part of staying ahead. Improving performance management and training best practices in the call center is key to keeping your customers and agents happy.  Use technology like Quality Management and Speech Analytics to track conversations and keystrokes, and identify knowledge gaps. Coach on areas of improvement, and provide clear, actionable and measurable feedback. And create opportunities for agents to discuss quality and best practices with their peers so the feedback is not driven solely by manager-to-agent conversations.

9. Provide Career Development

The call center agent has traditionally been a lower-rung, entry-level organizational role with high turnover. Agents want to see that they have a career path. If they don’t, they won’t think twice about leaving. That’s why agents should be given a career path opportunity. Employee development programs can help organizations identify top-performing employees that show high potential and prepare them to play key roles in the organization. Demonstrating commitment and investing in employee development serves to reduce your call center turnover (and cost), and motivate employees to reach the next level, whether it be a more senior title, bigger salary, greater responsibility or likely all of the above.

9. Survey Your Agents

As a call center manager, it’s important to know what’s going well and what isn’t. And because your call center agents might not tell you their concerns to your face, it’s important to survey your employees. Set a regular cadence of sending out anonymous surveys to your agents to measure their happiness, identify pain points, process inefficiencies, etc. This will surface several areas where you can make improvements and increase employee satisfaction. It will also show your agents that you care about improving their workplace environment. And most critically, act on the results of the survey. Conducting an employee engagement survey and not acting on it can actually have the opposite effect of decrease engagement levels.

10. Conduct Exit Interviews

In an ideal world, we’d find the right people, train them and then they’d work for us forever. But we all know that’s never the case. High staff turnover is costly. It can take up to 3-6 months to ramp an agent. All that time when they are not operating at optimum capacity is actually a cost to the business — in poor productivity, CSAT and CX. And if they leave, it’s money down the drain. Exit interviews are your chance to discover why someone has left. And once you know what the problem is, you have the opportunity to fix it, reducing turnover for your remaining agents. The simple truth is that retaining good employees makes a business more stable and more profitable. Businesses should focus not only on finding great people but also on keeping them.


Steve Bell

Steve is Senior Director of Product Marketing at Talkdesk. Steve is a Seattle transplant with a passion for music, wine, food, and travel.