Going digital doesn’t mean you can forget about your staff
Richard Branson wasn’t the first or the last business leader to recognise the route to sustained business success lies in looking after the workforce. Indeed, the cost of not looking after your people is like trying to fill a bucket with holes in the bottom, which costs US businesses alone USD 550 billion in lost productivity annually, according to Gallup.
Despite the rise of digital and assisted service, both of which have potential for driving down costs in contact centres, attrition is still the single most significant challenge for contact centres globally. Not just from a financial perspective – I’ll share some interesting numbers with you in a moment – but from the perspective of customer experience and employee engagement. Without wishing to dumb it down or sound alarmist, attrition is the disease of contact centres. Fix this and you fix a whole load of other things.
I’ve been working in India for the past year. The expectations there when it comes to attrition are scary. Outsourcers quite routinely work with a benchmark of 13% per month! They replace entire contact centres every eight months. And these aren’t small operations. They fill aircraft hangers.
Yes, labour is cheap in India — you can employ a basic skilled agent for the equivalent of USD 250 a month. Even so, with attrition rates this high the cost of filling a centre employing 2,000 agents – not uncommon – is around twice the annualised employment cost: USD 6 million. A 10% improvement in attrition in this scenario would save around USD 1 million. And this is just the thin end of the wedge: besides the raw employee costs, you have to consider the management time, recruitment fees, poor customer experience, dissatisfaction, and process inefficiencies – the list goes on!
So, attrition is a massive issue in India … but what about other countries?
Well, the Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report tells us the global figure for agent attrition last year was 22% per annum and it’s not changed much in the past three years. Clearly there are massive regional and industry variations as the numbers show, but if we take the figure for a developed country like the US where attrition is 37% per annum and agents’ salaries are on average USD 25,000 per annum, the cost of staff in a 500-seat centre is of the order of USD 12.5 million. Improve this by 25% and you’ve saved over a million dollars.
But it’s not just about the attrition numbers. This points to another cause of concern — the lack of employee engagement. It’s impossible to deliver a great customer experience unless staff are fully engaged. They have to be able to consistently and convincingly exhibit the values and principles associated with a great customer experience. If they can’t, the impact will be seen almost immediately in both Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer effort scores, which in turn will hit the bottom line.
Mike Malone, the CEO of iiNet, an award-winning Internet service provider in Australia, reckoned a one-point rise in NPS equates to a USD 1.6 million benefit to the bottom line.
It’s well documented that achieving high NPS is dependant on high employee engagement – irrespective of whether this is in support of voice or digital channels. Now more than ever we need to put our people first.