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How is quiet quitting impacting contact centres?

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In today's economy, many call centres are finding it harder than ever to attract, engage and retain good agents. And things could be getting harder. 

24th Oct 2022
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Historically, call centres have struggled to attract high quality employees (who tend to look at being an agent as a low pay, short-term job and not as a career choice), as well as suffering from high levels of agent attrition (for which there can be a whole range of causes - some of which we will discuss later).

The results for call centre operators and outsourcers can be higher costs, a poor customer experience, and a struggle to maintain performance levels. However, in this short article, we will focus on four specific topics: the ‘war for talent’, ‘quick quitting’, ‘quiet quitting’, and ‘the great resign’.

The war for talent

One of the biggest challenges for teams in call centres is the ‘war for talent’. With the unemployment rate at historic lows, competition for workers is fierce. Call centres are increasingly having to offer more attractive compensation packages and benefits to attract candidates, leading to growing wage inflation - a cost that often can't be passed along to the business.

Another challenge is the changing nature of the work. With the rise of remote work and the gig economy, more and more people are choosing to freelance or work part-time. This can make it difficult for companies to find and retain the agents they need for the long-term - it is easy for them to switch employers.

Finally, organisations must also deal with the increasing expectations of employees. In today's world, agents now expect more than just a regular salary; they are looking for opportunities for growth and development, a sense of purpose and of being valued.

Our research shows that, whilst critically important to potential employees, pay and benefits is far from the only criteria a potential agent may consider. Reputation, flexibility of hours and/or location, shared values, and a whole range of other motivators can affect a decision to apply - most of which are neither on the job description or a candidate's CV.

Quick quitting

This is where a newly hired agent leaves an organisation very early in their employment, often before they have completed their probationary period or before they have become fully proficient in their jobs.

According to US research conducted earlier this year by Lattice, over half (52%) of employee respondees who had been in their jobs for three months or less said they are actively trying to leave. This may be especially the case in the gig economy, where more people are used to working multiple jobs or freelancing, so they are less afraid of being unemployed. But we must also acknowledge that the high number of vacancies also makes it easier to ‘job shop’, especially in traditionally low-pay / low skill jobs.

Whatever the reasons, the impact on call centre performance can be severe: additional costs in going through another round of finding and hiring a replacement employee, the written off investment in training, the ongoing burden placed on existing agents as they cover for the open roles and, the performance impact of having a significant proportion of the workforce who aren’t yet fully proficient at their jobs, affecting things like average handle time, first call resolution rates and customer satisfaction, etc.

Quiet quitting

Another growing challenge for organisations is where demotivated or exhausted agents are ‘quietly quitting’ – not contributing the discretionary labour that so many call centres have come to rely on (although there is a good argument to be made that they should not rely on the largess of their workforce to sustain the organisation in the first place).

We think that the effect of quiet quitting is more than just a ‘work to rule’ (doing no more than required by the contract); it can affect the way agents interact with other people, their willingness to take on responsibility, or to be flexible in the face of changes in demand and systems.

Ultimately, quiet quitting is bad for the both the employer and the agent; left unaddressed, employees will often take the final step in this downward cycle – they quit. Worse still, they don’t quit, and their malaise infects those around them and impacts everyone they deal with.

The great resignation

In the same Lattice research cited above, nearly three-quarters (74%) of US employees are either actively looking or are open to new opportunities within the next 6-12 months. However, this is a phenomenon experienced elsewhere too; for example, in research published by UK’s Nursing and Midwifery Council - 27,133 nurses and midwives made the decision to exit the profession between April 2021 and March 2022, an increase of 13% over the previous year – highly trained professionals who are not going to be easy to replace.

Call centres face exactly the same challenges; according to Salesforce, 71% of service agents considered leaving their jobs in the recent past, many of whom have skills and experience that will be difficult to replace quickly.

In our discussions with chief human resources officers (CHROs), we were struck by how many said that many of their agents resigned without a new job lined up; they felt that they simply could not continue in their current role any longer. In the same research from Salesforce, 69% of agents said they are considering leaving customer service roles entirely

Whatever the reasons for the great resign, it is happening, and it is disrupting the business world as we know it, and especially in contact centres. The trend is likely to continue, so businesses must be prepared to adapt. They need to find ways to attract and retain agents, and they need to be more creative and flexible with work arrangements to keep them motivated and productive.

Recommendations

Staff turnover is normal; agents come and go for a variety of reasons, but it has been decades since the war for talent was this acute. At Anthrolytics, we focus our attention on the motivations behind the behaviours that we see in employees; why do people join or leave an organisation and what inspires them to ‘go above and beyond’?

Our recommendations are simple:

  • Find out what (prospective) employees genuinely care about (which is not always what they say they care about) by understanding what new and existing agents care about.
  • Understand how these motivating factors play into their decision-making process about joining your organisation.
  • Figure out what appeals to different employee groups and focus on the things you can influence or change, deciding what actions you are going to take to improve the agent experience.
  • Repeat the cycle as often as needed and keep improving - great employee experience is a journey, not a destination.

Finally, creating, motivating, and retaining an effective and efficient cadre of agents spans a lot more than just measuring the organisations performance along the employee lifecycle; ultimately, it is incumbent on organisations to ensure that the call centre has a team that is ready, willing and able to meet the changing demands of our modern world.

This article was adapated from a piece that was originally published on the Anthrolytics LinkedIn page

 

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