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Continued Perspective: Top Lessons Learned on Agent Attrition from the Experts

In my experience, the reality of the job environment often contrasts widely from the initial promises and expectations pitched by the employer. This is notably true in the Contact Center Agent roles that we see every day. These discrepancies typically lead to disconnects, unengaged agents, and many quick exits. Therefore, I was eager to participate in the insightful webinar presented by customer experience leaders Nate Brown and Casey Denby, which tackled this industry-wide concern: the alarmingly high attrition rates that reach between 80-100% annually. These rates do not only cause operational inefficiencies but also lead to inflated costs and diminished customer service across diverse sectors. With all of this in mind, I thought it would be valuable to share some additional lessons from common mistakes I’ve experienced or witnessed in my career.

Lesson 1: Discrepant Expectations – A Setup for Failure


Many companies often paint a vague and idealistic picture of service roles during the recruiting and onboarding phase. This approach primarily prioritizes compliance over passion or purpose. Once the agents get a taste of the high-pressure and metric-focused reality, they understandably feel deceived. Disenchantment sets in, leading to a higher propensity for them to exit their roles prematurely.

This issue was cemented for me when Brown and Denby highlighted a case study of a health services contact center. This center was losing over 30% of their new hires monthly due to this disillusionment. However, they saw a significant reduction in attrition rates after they revitalized their onboarding process to clearly highlight the agent’s impact on customers. This example underscores the necessity for a company’s value proposition to its agents to move beyond mere recruiting rhetoric and actually be embedded in the fabric of daily operations.

To get off on the right foot with expectations, many companies are turning to AI Simulation and having their candidates roleplay in a simulated call scenario that would be common to the role they’re considering. This helps align with candidates on skills needed and what their day to day is likely to look like.

Lesson 2: Career Stagnation – A Fuel for Frustration and Churn


Don’t pigeonhole your best agents. In a misguided attempt to maximize their efficient workforce, we see contact centers cornering skilled agents into rigid, high demand “super-agent” roles, thus stunting their professional growth. A compelling counter-narrative to this approach was a case study shared by Brown about a sporting goods retailer. The company was experiencing high attrition rates, and in an inspired move, they revamped their structure to map clear and tiered competency advancements that were connected to specialized support functions.

As Brown said, “It’s not about promotion. It’s about your capabilities and you becoming the person you want to become.” This approach not only empowered their agents but also re-engaged them by granting them ownership over their career trajectories, which in turn led to a significant decrease in their attrition rates.

Another key to career growth for agents is to continuously develop their skills and behaviors, ensuring that even your most tenured agents always have the opportunity to learn something new.

Lesson 3: Efficiency Metrics – A Dagger to Meaningful Work


Take a balanced approach to efficiency metrics. More often than not, these metrics, which include handle time, resolution rates, or session volume can diminish an agent’s sense of purpose. For example, retail executives saw how this hyper-focus on rigid targets could undermine their agent’s ability to form meaningful connections with customers. Recognizing this, they decided to implement a 10% handle time leniency allowance. This enabled their agents to focus more on the customer and less on meeting a specific call duration. The strategy not only boosted morale among agents but yielded an impressive 15% annual gain in customer satisfaction levels. This experience underscores the need for organizations to re-evaluate their performance metrics, ensuring that they reflect not only operational priorities but also the intrinsic motivation and capabilities of their agents.

Lesson 4: Passive Training – An Impediment to Success


AI Simulation roleplay can supercharge your onboarding. Another glaring problem is the traditional onboarding process where agents are swamped with loads of static information and expected to retain it, rather than nurturing their capabilities actively. Casey Denby’s statement, “You can’t scale human role plays,” resonated with me deeply. An example that challenged this norm was demonstrated by a crisis hotline and airline training program. They adopted immersive simulation engagement methods in their onboarding phase, moving away from passive instruction.

The results were impressive – operational costs reduced, new agent competence increased more quickly, and customer experience consistency was achieved. The overarching message here is that an empowered and successful agent directly translates to a successful customer interaction, which is the bedrock of customer loyalty.

Reflection and Key Lessons


I really enjoyed this powerful discussion and share many of crucial insights from Brown and Denby, and hope these additional lessons from my own experiences can help you build a better strategy for agent retention in the future.

  • Setting proper expectations from the very beginning
  • Focus on continuous development for top performing agents
  • Breaking free from the rigidity of traditional efficiency metrics
  • Revitalizing the onboarding process, and empowering agents

The current landscape signifies that contact centers are grappling with a new reality: customers have plenty of choices, and poor experiences can make them switch their service provider swiftly. As Denby concluded, not only agent engagement and opportunities for growth are essential for their personal fulfillment, but they are beneficial for center managers, customers, and the overall customer experience.

Given my firsthand experience with these attrition challenges, I believe this webinar’s insights are instrumental, and I would strongly urge other leaders in the field to reconsider their approach toward agent experience and adopt these modern best practices. Empowered agents are indeed the secret sauce to creating top-performing agents which directly contribute to organizational performance.

Looking Ahead to the Future


Embracing innovation is invaluable. Traditional approaches that heighten attrition while providing a false sense of stability are no longer tenable. I encourage any leader battling constant hiring and onboarding to thoroughly re-imagine the agent experience using cutting-edge practices.

Neglecting this need for change risks amplifying efficiency and customer losses, while those embracing it set themselves up for sustainable financial and operational success. The emerging paradigm is clear – empower agents to deliver efficient, effective, and consistent customer service, and you will reap the financial rewards.

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Dan Mitzner

Dan Mitzner is a Visionary Marketing Architect and Zenarates CMO. With an illustrious career spanning over 17 years, David Mitzner is a growth-focused marketing executive renowned for his exceptional contributions to value creation. Recognized as an expert in B2B and SaaS, Mitzner brings a unique perspective to the contact center space, consistently driving organizations to unprecedented levels of success

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