Keep your customer care agents happy: Reducing attrition with digital customer service
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Keep your customer care agents happy: Reducing attrition with digital customer service

by Josh Snider, Senior Product Marketing Manager | Sep 23, 2020

It’s hard to be a contact center agent

Working in a contact center can be stressful, especially as a phone agent. You face high expectations from all sides. Management needs you to be fast, accurate, and effective — not to mention always cheery. Customers demand quick and complete resolutions to their inquiries, and won’t tolerate waiting on hold or suffering through clumsy chatbots. To top it all off agents are under the microscope of granular analytics tools that track their activity and efficiency, with every conversation being recorded and scored.

These challenges, along with typically low compensation and limited advancement opportunities, lead agents to quit at high rates. Annual attrition rates for traditional contact centers in a variety of industries average 45%, but can reach as high as 90%. In a series of anonymous interviews Khoros conducted on the subject, a 20-year contact center executive quaintly called the attrition problem “one of the industries biggest bugaboos.” And it’s a bugaboo that comes at a massive cost to brands.

The cost of agent attrition

The US alone has 40,000 contact centers employing over 3.6M agents (Contact Babel, 2020), and the cost of an employee leaving runs the brand roughly 20% of that employee’s annual salary (American Progress, 2012). Let’s break that down with some quick math. If the average contact center has 90 agents, at an average salary of $40,000 per year, and an attrition rate of 45%, that center spends $324,000 in attrition costs each year.

This puts the US total at over $13B in annual agent attrition costs. Brands are certainly aware of the pain, and invest in a variety of areas to help stop the bleeding. They rank their top 3 workforce empowerment priorities as training, coaching, and quality assurance.In the same survey, brands report that the top 2 overwhelming factors contributing to agent experiences are the ability to offer customers personalized solutions and the ease-of-use of contact center tools (CCW, 2019).

What’s with the disconnect? If tools are too difficult and agents aren’t empowered to give personalized resolutions, why are brands prioritizing training or QA?

Because change can be hard.

Traditional contact centers are caught up in traditional channels, like voice, and legacy session-based systems that can be difficult to shift away from. Khoros’ executive interviews give some essential context to this challenge, with one VP saying “if you create better tools for agents and give them a voice to provide feedback, you can impact attrition, training time, and time to proficiency.” Another CEO clarifies that “giving [agents] better tools or harder problems to solve isn’t just about tools, it’s a business philosophy.”

Digital, AI-driven care makes agents’ lives easier

Digital care platforms uniquely offer automations driven by AI and machine learning, including chatbots and agent-assistants that dramatically reduce the amount of repetitive, tedious work agents have to do.

Here are the top ways digital care makes agent life easier, reducing agent attrition in contact centers.

1. Use a consolidated platform for simpler workflows

The best digital care platforms consolidate all of a brand’s digital channels — social media, web chat, email, mobile messaging like SMS and Google’s Business Messages, and review hubs — in a single system for agents to seamlessly respond to customer inquiries. They eliminate the “swivel chair” or “screen switching” motion that many contact center operations require, where agents must alt-tab and navigate through multiple screens to execute redundant or unnecessary tasks.

2. Less stressful interactions

Channels like voice and session-based chat require constant agent attention, waiting on hold for a customer to speak or babysitting a single chat conversation until a customer types back. Digital care harnesses asynchronous channels that make it more convenient for consumers to respond at their own pace and schedule, and allow agents to take longer pauses to collaborate with peers or research without unfairly forcing consumers to wait. Voice is uniquely stressful for phone agents that bear the emotional brunt of customer frustrations — frustrations that are only exacerbated by the long hold times and frequent transfers that characterize the channel.

3. More complex and satisfying tasks

Chatbots don’t replace human agents, but rather free them up for higher value — and more satisfying — tasks. When brands require human agents to answer the same “how much does this cost?” or “when are you open?” questions over and over, they create task fatigue and undermine the agent’s self worth. It’s a perfect example of the “Golem effect,” a psychological phenomenon wherein low expectations lead to poor performance. A massive percentage of inquiries are simple, predictable questions that can be easily resolved by chatbots. This frees up agents for more complicated tasks that can only be addressed with human problem solving and empathy.

4. Tools that enhance agent efficiency

Agent-facing bots can automatically suggest responses to common questions, for agents to modify, then insert into the conversation. This cuts down time spent navigating knowledge bases searching for responses. If the conversation turns to a point where the agent needs to ask a fixed series of questions, like troubleshooting a problem or collecting contact information, they can invite a bot to enter the conversation and automate that specific process. Further, digital care platforms offer integrations with CRMs and back-end systems that can serve up essential customer context directly in the same window they use to message them. And with asynchronous messaging channels, the customer’s full conversation history is always available to every agent.

A proven solution: Khoros Care customers effectively reduce agent attrition

Khoros Care has the features your contact center needs to keep agents happy and reduce attrition. These anonymous respondents Khoros’ interviews shared their results using the platform to reduce agent attrition. We think they speak for themselves:

“The difference between social agent attrition and traditional agent attrition is astronomical. Our traditional channels experience attrition rates of 6 – 10% per month, and it’s less than 1% for social.” - Fortune 500 Global Retailer
“The digital teams have way lower attrition than the phone team. Our attrition rate with phone agents is 20%, live chat agents is 7.5%, and no turnover with social agents.” - National Telecomm Provider
“My turnover rates are definitely lower because agents are happier with a tool that is easier to use.” - Fortune 100 Telecomm Provider

Learn more about Khoros Care’s proven ROI in our whitepaper, The case for a digital care solution.


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