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Retaining Customer Support Agents During the "Great Resignation"

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Retaining Customer Support Agents During the "Great Resignation"

Mar. 30, 2022

Posted by Jon Skog

Since the spring of 2021, approximately 33 million Americans have quit their jobs in what has been popularly referred to as ‘The Great Resignation’. While these resignations have been happening across most industries, there have been some industries that stand out as being particularly badly affected. According to a Harvard Business Review article, “In general, we found that resignation rates were higher among employees who worked in fields that had experienced extreme increases in demand due to the pandemic, likely leading to increased workloads and burnout.” In other words, resignations have been higher at companies that can least afford to lose good employees. This is doubly true for customer support organizations that are the face of the company. 

Burnout

Because of the high demand for experienced talent, American workers have been able to take advantage of an extremely good job market to get the pay packages and benefits they desire (and quite frankly, deserve). Or as NPR noted in a recent article, ‘The Great Resignation? More like The Great Renegotiation’, “Most Americans quitting their jobs merely seem to be aiming to get better jobs. While we are living in a bizarre pandemic economy with countless strange trends, this isn't necessarily one of them; it's pretty standard to see a swell of workers quitting their jobs for greener pastures when the job market is strong and there are lots of shiny opportunities available. When the stars align as they're aligning now, workers gun for better pay, perks, flexibility, and treatment. Bargaining power has shifted in their favor.”

When you consider the cost of hiring new customer support agents, getting them properly onboarded, and them becoming productive members of the team, you begin to see how big of a problem this is. So what are companies to do to staunch the bleeding of talent? 

Quantify the Problem

Before you properly focus your retention efforts, you must know the scope of the problem you have. It’s important to understand what your current retention rate is and to understand the impact that resignations are having on your company's KPIs. Once you’ve quantified the problem, you can better assess where you need to focus your efforts, and your budgets, on fixing the underlying problems. 

Part of the quantifying process should also be geared towards understanding the root cause of resignations. As a whole, are people leaving because they’re underpaid, overworked, burnt-out, underappreciated, stagnant, or for other reasons? When an agent resigns, you must prioritize doing a proper exit interview that is open and honest to ensure you get the data points you need to prevent more people from following suit. 

Empower Your Customer Support Agents to be Successful

When people are genuinely happy at work they are less likely to search for greener pastures. Along with ensuring your team is properly compensated, you should also focus on empowering them to be successful. Employees that are successful in fulfilling their job duties and are acknowledged for their successes are happier on the job. And, happy employees are more productive and less likely to leave for another opportunity. 

Happy Employees = Happy Customers

How can you make your customer support agents more successful even as workloads are increases due to the coupling of customer demand and team attrition? Simply throwing more people at the problem is cost-prohibitive and does nothing to solve the attrition issue as you’re continually trying to keep up with customer demand and resignations. You need to enable your support agents with technologies that make their life easier and their work more productive. Provide your agents with the contextual knowledge they need to solve tickets faster, automate away the mundane tasks that slow them down, and help them quickly identify trends so they can stay ahead of the curve. Doing so will not only improve your customer support team’s morale but will also improve your customer experience at the same time.  

Develop targeted retention strategies 

According to an article on wired.com, After the Greate Resignation, Tech Firms Are Getting Desperate, “It’s never been harder or more expensive to hire new people,” she says. “Yet you also have to defend who you already have, because they’re seeing the bright lights—being hit up on LinkedIn and hearing stories of friends attracted by big salary packages.” 

Wired continued, “The Great Resignation has widened the gap between the supply and demand of tech workers, and has made employers resort to extreme incentives to recruit as many of them as possible. In IT alone, 31 percent of workers actively sought out a new job between July and September last year. This is the highest among all industries, according to analysis from Gartner. Meanwhile, data from training company Global Knowledge found that 76 percent of global IT decision-makers are dealing with critical skills gaps on their teams. Multiply that problem across other tech roles, and it’s clear that the skills shortage is likely to worsen before it gets better.” 

Defending who you already have is the most important thing you can do to stay ahead of the challenges the Great Resignation has brought. Stop reacting to resignations by throwing more money and incentives at new hires and start taking greater care of the people that are taking great care of your business. Understand the challenges they’re facing both in their work-life and also in their personal lives. Meet them where they are and help them be the most productive, successful versions of themselves. Spend money on the people you already have.