Your newest customer service rep is finally up and running. But your stable agent in the group has decided to leave. You can't quite seem to catch your breath. Will you ever have a fully-functioning team? Unfortunately, this cycle is familiar to many.
According to research conducted by The Quality Assurance & Training Connection (QATC), the average annual turnover rate for agents in US-based customer service ranges up to 45%, which is more than double the average for all occupations in the U.S.
This means every year, CS managers lose just under half the staff they spent so much time and effort hiring and training. Employee turnover is expensive. You're left with shoes to fill until another employee is hired and trained. This waiting period puts stress on your other employees and decreases how many customer tickets you can handle. And this constant staff turnover isn't just expensive, it's exhausting. It slows down your business, reduces productivity, hurts your SLAs, and your CSAT scores suffer as a result.
Here we breakdown the true cost of employee churn—and share best practices on how to curb turnover going forward.
Here’s a look at the expenses associated with losing a single customer service rep.
Cost of turnover
According to The Right Place, the average cost of losing a customer service agent is $17,739. If that number seems high, there are many expenses to unpack. It includes the cost of advertising for the new position, interviewing, hiring, training, and the loss of productivity. New employees are slower at first and might not be adept at solving customer issues. And before they’re up to speed, your team can't handle as much volume—potentially causing customers to become unhappy and leave.
Time to fill
According to data from Workable, the average time to fill a customer service position in the United States is 38 days. That's over a month just to find someone.
The hiring process is often slow and unpredictable. Along with two weeks of classroom training and two weeks of on-the-floor training, there is generally a three month learning curve. You want to find someone who will stay with the company—so your efforts pay off—and that takes time and energy.
When you’re understaffed, it places pressure on your other employees to complete all the work. This creates a negative cascade in staff morale, employees can often disengage and their productivity decreases as they spend more time polishing up their resume and less time answering CS tickets.
Inability to scale
When you’re growing a business and want to provide top-notch service, losing reps hinders your ability to scale. Being short-staffed makes it hard to gain momentum. Growing demand leads to an increase in the number of contacts into your support team. If a customer is unable to reach a representative in a timely manner, they will be unhappy. And with wavering CSAT scores, it's tough to keep customers loyal.
Being short on expertise, also makes it impossible to handle unforeseen spikes in service demand -- weather-related shipping issues, faulty product etc.
How to Curb Customer Service Employee Turnover
While employee churn is painful, there are solutions for lowering your turnover rates. You won’t be able to get rid of turnover completely—it happens in every job in every industry—but you will be able to improve retention rates. You can also improve the quality of your hires and encourage them to stay longer.
Here are the best practices for lowering customer service employee turnover.
1) Reduce Repetitive Tasks
Many customer service queries are repetitive, so agents are handling the same issues over and over again. Doing the same redundant task day after day can really take a toll. This can result in boredom and resentment, ultimately leading to burnout and churn.
Additionally, with so much of their time devoted to transactional queries, agents have less time to devote to high-value customer interactions. According to an Aspect survey on agent experience, 79% of agents believe their skills improve when they work on more complex customer service tickets. By reducing the number of repetitive tickets your customer support team is taking care of, you will be taking preventive measures against burnout and providing your agents with opportunities to grow.
There are various tools that can assist in transactional queries and even resolve tickets independently. Take some of the weight off your customer support team by find a software that works best for your company’s needs.
2) Retain your superstars
Keep your top performers around. They help your business stay afloat and reach new heights. And studies show that most employees leave a job for more reasons than a low salary. Here are the best ways to hold onto your all-stars.
- Pay competitively: To keep the best employees around, you need to pay them for it. Do market research in your area and industry to ensure you’re at the higher end—including your benefits package.
- Prevent burnout: Workloads should be reasonable, so staff doesn’t become overtaxed. Based on a Paychex survey, the second reason people leave their jobs is that they were overworked. Stay connected with your employees to ensure they feel good about the amount of work they’re assigned.
- Provide career advancement opportunities: When employees feel like they can move up and grow, they’re more likely to stay with a company. Meet with your reps, ask where they want to go with their career, and offer them opportunities to get there.
- Reward a job well done: Make sure to recognize an employee who went above and beyond. Provide a pizza lunch for the entire staff once a month. Show your team that you appreciate their hard work. According to a Paychex survey, 45% of people leave a job because they received no recognition for their efforts.
- Give your culture a boost: When your office is a happy and positive place to work, people are likely to stick around. Try to mitigate drama and give employees an outlet for having fun.
- Offer perks: Besides health insurance and paid time off, consider extra bennies like a flexible schedule or an on-site gym. These extras make employees feel special and valued.
- Assign special projects: Give your team members projects outside of tending to tickets and calls. Providing them with more than just performing repetitive tasks will help reduce the likelihood of burnout.
- Conduct exit interviews: When a staff member leaves your company, ask them why. By learning the reasons they left, you can prevent more attrition in the future.
3) Celebrate victories
Providing customer service is a challenging job, so make sure your team receives the appreciation they deserve. Praising small wins and celebrating big wins as a team is a great way to boost spirits and applaud work well done. It is also important to give shoutouts to individuals who are performing exceptionally well. Employees will feel valued and motivated to continue to work hard.
4) Screen candidates more rigorously
Selecting the right people from the beginning helps reduce your employee turnover. How can you evaluate for the best fit? Ensure your interview process is thorough. Incorporate behavioral interview questions (samples can be found online), competency-based questions, and pre-hire assessments. Make sure the candidates have the technical skills and the right disposition.
The most important part of selecting the right talent is hiring agents that love service. If an employee loves providing service, they will love performing their job and coming to work. As obvious as it sounds, an employee that does not have enthusiasm for giving service is not likely to stay in their position for long.
Take time to find the right tools to assess cultural match and job fit. For instance, you might choose team interviews where other customer service reps get to talk with the candidate. Or you might opt to simulate a difficult customer experience and see how the candidate responds.
5) Cultivate a positive team
Focus on putting together a team with agents that not only perform well, but also have great attitudes. Having positive coworkers makes for a positive work environment. This will put everyone in a good mood throughout the workday and ultimately increase productivity.
Even one or two negative team members can bring down the group morale. You want to make sure everyone is uplifting one another. Keep this in mind as you make changes to and build out your customer support team.
6) Engage your employees
Part of retaining employees is making them feel a part of something larger, so get them connected to your mission and goals. Pull them into meetings, put them on project groups, inform them of the company’s direction, and ask for feedback on how to make the company better. Show them that you value their expertise. Keep them in the loop about company happenings.
Your customer service reps don’t want to feel disposable, they want to feel like they're directly contributing to the company’s successes.
7) Set clear expectations
Keep your team updated and be straightforward about what is expected of them. They should always be in-the-know. Not only will it reduce any confusion, but it will let them know what they need to do in order to perform to the best of their abilities.
This is especially important during unconventional times, such as the holiday period, when there is a divergence from the typical workload and schedule. Communicate with your team and let them know that they may have an increase in work and be working overtime. This way they will be prepared for what is to come.
8) Offer bonuses for staying
Employees often feel incentivized to stay if there are landmark perks along the way. For example, if someone celebrates two years with the company, maybe offer a $1,000 bonus. Or if they stay for three years, give them an extra week of vacation every year. These perks are far less expensive than the cost of hiring a new person and can seriously motivate them to stick around.
By retaining your top employees and hiring for best fit, you lower the financial and cultural burden of customer service turnover.
Above all, value your employees and make them feel a part of the great success you’re achieving.