Call Center Turnover Rates: How To Boost Agent Retention

February 29, 2024 9 min read

Blair Williamson

Blair Williamson

Call center turnover rates: How to boost agent retention during the great resignation

The Great Resignation is coming for your contact center.

Since the start of the pandemic, resignation rates have jumped to anywhere from 30–100%, according to the Boston Consulting Group. But for support leaders, the surge in call center turnover rates is nothing new.

Call center turnover rates across the industry average between 30-45% annually. Live agents deal with emotional customers, stress to perform, and often low pay. These high turnover rates majorly impact customer experience, revenue, operational costs, and most of all, your employee morale.

As call center leaders, our focus is almost always on the KPI metrics around customer experience. However, the employee experience is just as necessary when it comes to productivity and your bottom line.

If you’re worried about losing your best agents and spending too much time and money searching for new ones, read on. You’ll learn more about call center turnover and key ways to reduce and manage it.

What Is Call Center Turnover?

Call center turnover refers to the rate at which call center employees voluntarily leave their jobs over a given period.

The call center industry has a notoriously high turnover compared to others. The average turnover rates over 30% annually are common.

Some factors that contribute to high turnover are stressful work, repetitive tasks, low pay, limited career paths, and demanding performance targets.

Call center jobs can lead to disengagement and high employee attrition if not managed properly.

Even before the pandemic, only 38% of call center employees said they were satisfied with their jobs.

What Causes Call Center Turnover?

Call center turnover persists due to inherently challenging work conditions coupled with companies failing to adequately engage, develop, and care for their people. Here are some common root causes:

The Impact of Call Center Turnover

Call center agent attrition is more than an annoyance. It’s the crux of every successful support team and a significant hurdle for growing companies.

Your agents are on the frontline of providing a fantastic customer experience. When they leave, it adds stress to the entire system. Unfortunately, the pandemic has created a stress ‘doom loop’ in customer support.

Why Call Center Turnover Matters - Nextiva

High turnover leads to understaffed call centers, which leads to longer wait times, angrier customers, and more agents leaving.

A recent survey found that 75% of people believe customer service has gotten worse during the pandemic. Over 50% say their problems never get resolved, often because they can’t reach a knowledgeable agent.

It’s not hard to see how high turnover directly causes these complaints.

Losing agents hurts the customer experience, leading to upset customers, lost revenue, and higher churn. Quantifying this damage can be challenging in the short term.

Call center turnover rates
Customers are having a hard time reaching knowledgeable agents. Source: NBC.

However, concrete turnover costs include:

Understaffed contact centers almost always hurt revenue. For example, if a 2,000 call/day center has just 1% of calls abandoned due to long waits, that’s 20 lost calls. If each customer has a lifetime value of $500, those abandoned calls represent $10,000 in lost revenue per day.

The impacts multiply over time. High turnover creates a vicious cycle of poor customer experience leading to lower revenue leading to more turnover. Breaking out takes focused effort on agent retention and support.

Related: Measuring Customer Experience: Top 10 CX Metrics and KPIs for Success

How To Calculate Your Agent Attrition Rate

Regularly measuring and analyzing your attrition rate is key to retaining talent and building a sustainable call center. The solutions lie in understanding and addressing the specific reasons agents choose to leave.

The first step is to understand just how bad of an issue you face by calculating your attrition rate. This is a simple equation:

(Number of Employees Who Left During a Period) ÷ (Average Number of Employees During That Period) x 100%

agent attrition rate

For example, if your call center averages 150 agents and 15 left last quarter, you would calculate:

15 ÷ 150 x 100 = 10%

With call centers averaging 30–45% annual turnover, you’ll want to track this monthly to catch issues early.

Look for trends to identify the biggest contributors to turnover such as lack of growth opportunities, insufficient training for complex issues, unfavorable shift schedules, etc.

Armed with these insights, you can then develop targeted retention.

9 Strategies To Reduce Call Center Turnover Rates

Understanding the root causes of agent turnover is only half the battle. The ultimate goal is to create a company culture that fully engages, empowers, and satisfies agents. Because the truth is that happier agents = happier customers

1. Prioritize culture in your hiring practices

It’s tempting to lower your hiring standards when you’re struggling to fill seats. However, agent retention starts with bringing in the right skill sets to begin with.

Defining the traits and values your ideal agent should uphold and prioritizing cultural fit over experience or skills during hiring is critical for bringing in people who believe in your organization’s culture.

Employees who share your cultural values are much less likely to leave.

For example, Zappos asks applicants “On a scale of 1–10, how lucky are you?” to assess if they have the problem-solving mentality Zappos wants in customer service reps.

You can always train skills later, but you can’t easily change someone’s underlying belief system or values.

2. Create a shared customer service philosophy 

Agents want more than a job; they want a purpose. 

A customer service philosophy clearly defines your team’s mission, values, and service principles. It gives frontline agents a higher purpose beyond just answering calls and builds camaraderie through shared beliefs.

For example, Disney’s simple service philosophy is “We create happiness.” While Nintendo’s is “putting smiles on everyone [Nintendo] touches”.

Work your philosophy into meetings, training programs, and incentives to motivate agents. When they feel part of a community working towards a meaningful goal, turnover decreases while customer loyalty goes up.

Employees’ sense of belonging results in over $50 million in savings annually for a 10,000-person company.

3. Spend more time on onboarding and training

Don’t cut short the onboarding and training process in a rush to get agents to take calls.

Comprehensive initial training followed by regular coaching ensures agents gain long-term confidence in their skills and abilities to serve customers.

Training should cover your products, call best practices, monitoring and coaching from managers, escalation protocols, and where to find the latest documentation.

Well-trained agents become productive faster, feel less stressed handling inquiries, and are 12% more effective according to research. When people don’t receive adequate job preparation, they start planning to leave according to an IBM study.

Customers complain about agents who aren’t knowledgeable enough
Customers complain about agents who aren’t knowledgeable enough to solve their issues.

4. Provide flexibility for agents

Employees today expect location and schedule flexibility rather than fully dictating their own hours.

Support a combination of remote work and on-site options for your agents based on their needs and preferences.

As long as you maintain coverage during peak periods, increased flexibility dramatically raises agent satisfaction while lowering operational costs like training costs.

Empower flexible working arrangements by providing cloud-based call center technology tools for calls, CRM access, and omnichannel engagement. Agents are more satisfied and productive when technology reliably enables them to do their jobs from anywhere.

5. Use data and technology to make their lives easier

Stress is one of the biggest contributors to agent turnover. But not all stress comes from dealing with unhappy customers. Call complexity, confusing processes, and a lack of support all contribute to unsustainable stress levels. 

Use the data from your call center technology to constantly refine policies, procedures, and tools to reduce complexity and difficulty for agents.

Focus first on ensuring reliable, high-quality audio connections with customers then expand into analytics for tracking and improving operations based on insights.

AI-powered chatbots provide initial customer support before handing off to human agents when needed. Skills-based routing matches inquiries to the best-skilled rep so they field calls they can confidently handle.

Customer service CRMs and screen pops supply key account details so agents have full context immediately when engaging customers. Reducing technology-related stressors is shown to dramatically improve agent satisfaction and retention rates.

Modern companies are turning to data and analytics
Modern companies are turning to data and analytics to reduce the stress on employees. Source: West Monroe

6. Provide clear paths for promotion

Call centers are an easy entry point for employees looking to get an ‘in’ at your company. However, they will start looking elsewhere if they don’t see a clear path forward. 

Show them the specific steps for advancing in their careers, whether on the support team or in other departments, along with the benefits. Set milestones and have regular check-ins on their goals.

McKinsey found promotional opportunities make up 14% of call center employees’ job satisfaction, second only to compensation. Even consider bringing back recently departed agents by emphasizing new long-term progression opportunities.

McKinsey survey of contact center employees
Employee satisfaction is largely based on promotional opportunities and mission. Not just wages. Source: McKinsey.

7. Incentivize loyalty

Wages and benefits will always be a major factor in call center turnover. That’s a fact. 

Salaries and benefits dictate retention to a point, but financial incentives and affirmation are powerful ongoing supplements to base pay.

Establish clear individual or team performance goals tied to rewards or bonuses so agents stay motivated, such as reduced call resolution times or positive customer satisfaction ratings.

Public leaderboards fuel friendly competition while helping managers identify training gaps.

Consistently tying compensation to achievements rather than tenure alone incentivizes loyalty and higher agent performance.

Agents need regular positive affirmation with financial compensation
Nextiva’s analytics and custom dashboards let you gamify the support experience.

If you’re especially strapped for staff, you might even consider the recent hiring trend of ‘boomerangs’–bringing back people who have recently departed by offering them long-term compensation packages.

8. Control managers’ negative habits

A company culture that reduces agent turnover also needs to extend to management. 

With agents working remotely, managers lose direct oversight into who is available which damages important coaching and mentoring relationships.

Drive accountability for leaders to improve remote communications, avoid micromanaging schedules, and set expectations around response times. Provide tools like phone presence indicators so managers can see at a glance if agents are available before reaching out.

When people leave jobs, 75% cite issues with their direct supervisor as the primary reason according to Gallup. Better aligning leadership and systems to distributed teams drastically improves employee engagement.

9. Use exit interviews to learn from your employee churn 

You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know why it’s happening in the first place.

While some attrition is inevitable, exit interviews supply valuable insights from departing staff on problems impacting employee retention.

Keep questions simple, such as why they’re leaving, their relationship with their boss, what they liked or disliked about the job, and what skills are important for a replacement.

Interviews identify improvement areas and pinpoint priorities like management training or incentives. You can’t reduce employee turnover without understanding the root causes driving it in the first place.

The overarching focus should be engaging agents by giving them purpose, certainty, belonging, and value. This leads to happier, more loyal agents who deliver better customer service.

Armed with these insights, you can then develop targeted employee retention strategies.

What’s Your Best Step Forward

Call center attrition is never going away. But with the right processes and tools, you can get it down to a manageable level and get back to what’s more important: making customers happy. 

While process and culture changes take time, a cloud call center can quickly fix the most common agent complaints. Give them the freedom to work from where they want with the Nextiva App and then use advanced tools like call analytics, AI-powered chatbots, and Call Pop to lighten the load. 

The more you show your reps that you care about their well-being and work-life balance, the more likely they’ll be to stick around for the long haul.  

Make Customer Service Look Easy

Customer delight begins here. The Nextiva Contact Center checks all the boxes.

Blair Williamson


Blair Williamson

Blair Williamson was a Content Marketing Manager at Nextiva. Her background is marketing in higher education and tech. She geeks out on WordPress, kettlebells, and whatever book she's currently reading.

Posts from this author
Call badge icon