The True Cost of Agent Attrition in the Contact Center


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Companies are sinking money into their contact centers, giving them the harsh stigma of being a necessary evil, a cost center. What companies don’t understand is that their front line, the contact center, can be a superpower used to improve customer experience, increase consumer brand loyalty and revenue. However, contact centers will continue to be a cost center if companies don’t figure out how to break down agent turnover, decrease it and put their money in the right places. Contact center expenses fall into three different categories: technology, admin and labor.

Technology is considered the phone system (like Nice inContact), human resources (HR) software, accounting systems, customer relationship management software (CRM) and workforce management software (WFM). It usually requires about 15-20 percent of a contact center expenses every month.

Admin is considered rent/utilities, depreciation of equipment, insurance, office supplies and corporate wages. It is usually about 15-20 percent of a contact center’s monthly expenses.
Labor is considered agent wages, supervisor wages, training, attrition and spiffs/rewards. This usually adds up to about 60 percent of a contact center’s monthly cost.

If you are running a cost center instead of a contact center, a good question to ask yourself is: Are you allocating 60 percent of your time or resources trying to optimize labor processes and decrease turnover? If not, employee turnover might be killing your contact center financially and culturally. If it makes you feel better, you are not alone. The average annual turnover rate for agents in US contact centers ranges between 30 to 45 percent (Daily Pay, 2019), which is more than double the average for all occupations in the US!

So, what contributes to such high turnover?

• Lack of engagement
• Lack of recognition
• Inflexible work environment
• Lack of developmental opportunities
• Low job satisfaction
• Non-challenging work
• Low pay

What are the consequences of high turnover?

Frustrated and Unhappy Customers:

64% of consumers say the most important aspects of customer service are first call resolution and having a knowledgeable agent (Microsoft, 2019). If you are one of those companies who vows to be “customer centric,” you might need to take a step back and become “employee centric” first. You can do this by empowering your agents with proper training, coaching, knowledge, recognition and accessibility to performance data.

High Cost = Cost Center Stigma:

Attrition is expensive. Costs associated with turnover are recruitment, hiring, training time, training materials, trainer’s time, supervisor costs, poor service levels, missed business, etc. According to the Human Resource Institute, it costs about $10,000 to $15,000 to replace a front line employee and about three times that to replace a management level employee (QATC, 2015).

Diminished Culture:

A positive company culture is linked to improved employee engagement, increased productivity and higher profit margins (Built In, 2019). When employees are constantly coming and going, it’s detrimental to a company’s culture, which leads to decreased productivity and low employee engagement.

Lack of knowledge and expertise from your front line:

High attrition means less tenured employees. This can be a problem considering 36% of consumers say the most frustrating aspect of customer service is an agent who lacks knowledge (Microsoft, 2019). Figuring out what makes your agents satisfied is well worth the work. According to ICMI, happier and more tenured agents reduce customer churn, improve net promoter scores, strengthen the company brand and help the company grow.

What are retention strategies?

Offering Flexible and/or Remote Work Options:

Offering remote work or flex-time can lead to increased productivity and retention rates. A two-year study by Stanford University across 500 people who worked both remotely and in a conventional workplace found that there was a 50% decrease in attrition from those who worked remote (Stanford, 2019).

The same study found that each week, the productivity boost among remote workers was equivalent to a full day’s work. However, it’s not enough to send agents home with a computer and hope they stay. They need a setup that allows them to stay in touch with their manager and co-workers, and monitor performance in real-time.

Investing in Performance Management Software:

Performance management software can keep your agents engaged, challenged and confident. A strong system will automate and centralize raw data from multiple sources to produce all data in a tangible manner on one platform.

Role-based dashboards that highlight data, modules and metrics important to each person in the company hierarchy is vital to employee satisfaction. By giving each agent their own dashboard, they can receive individualized performance tracking and feedback. Agents can also improve behavior with challenges and awards that align with the KPIs and metrics most important to a company through gamification. A strong performance management solution can increase productivity, boost company moral and decrease turnover.

Starting a Reward and Recognition Program:

According to research done by Bersin and Associates (2012), companies with recognition programs have 31 percent lower voluntary turnover than companies that don’t. Recognition can come in the form of giving an agent an extra break, shout-out at a weekly meeting, thank you note, virtual coins or badges, or a shoutouts on a Wallboard. It’s important to not just recognize employees, but also have a clearly defined recognition program that employees are excited about!

Coaching/Mentoring Strategy:

Agents want to feel like someone cares about their success and development. Offering a mentor or coach is crucial to developing long-lasting employees. A study conducted by Deloitte (2016) notes that millennials who plan to stay with their employer for more than five years were twice as likely to have a mentor.

So, what type of investment are you looking at here?

Too many contact centers look at the above retention strategies as expenses, but truthfully, they are investments that will quickly pay off. By definition, an investment is a purchase that is made to pursue future wealth (Investopedia, 2019). Performance management solutions typically save a company five times more than what they cost a company every month.

Ashlee Hinds
Ashlee Hinds is the marketing specialist at ClearView Business Intelligence. From working in customer service herself to working with top brands in the contact center industry, she understands providing an engaging agent experience is key to delivering an excellent customer experience.


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