Battling Employee Turnover: A Case Study on Attrition

Introduction Page

Battling Employee Turnover: A Case Study on Attrition

Perhaps one of the biggest drains on any call center budget is the agent attrition rate. It is a problem that has plagued the industry for decades. Often the executive team will try to address this issue in vain, trying to improve areas that have little or no bearing on agent attrition. With so many failed attempts at solving attrition, the problem persists. Often high attrition rates begat more attrition, resulting in poor customer satisfaction rates and lost sales opportunities. This study sets out to identify the core problems of agent attrition and what solutions have been used to reduce attrition rates.

Sponsored by Focus Services, we are pleased to present the findings of our case study: Battling Employee Turnover: A Case Study on Attrition. Focus Services conducted research consisting of  data gathered from 1000 agents, coaches, and call center executives worldwide.

This case study addresses the causes of attrition in the United States. We asked participants of this study questions based on their level.

The purpose of the research is to understand what the motivating factors are for agents to stay employed at a call center. The research also gives insight to what the call center can do to decrease their attrition rates. The questions were designed to assess where agents place the burden of their success and how it affects their decision to quit. Several correlations were drawn between key findings.

Below are some of the most interesting findings:

  • 32% listed pay as the number one motivating factor when choosing a call center to work at, coming in as the number one answer. Environment came in a close second at 28%.
  • Reasons for leaving a call center had environment coming in at 38% and underpaid at 35%, making the top answers a near tie.
  • 44% of respondents listed a pay raise as the biggest factor in their job satisfaction. A pay raise is defined as either hitting incentivized bonuses or a raise in base pay.
  • 44% of respondents indicated their preferred compensation structure as having a base pay with monetary goal driven incentives.
  • The top factor of a good call center environment is getting along with co-workers; coming in a close second was gamification. Gamification was defined as games and activities centered around productivity.
  • The importance of promotion does not seem like a large motivating factor among most of the respondents.
  • In the perks category, catered lunch was listed high on the list of favorite perks with tuition reimbursement a close second.

Part 2

The Primary Questions

1. What is the biggest motivating factor when choosing a call center to work at?

Main Theme
The main theme behind this research was to understand what drove agents to choose one call center over another to apply for work. This will help call centers understand what they are doing to attract the agents they do.

The findings indicate that perks are a low motivator for attracting agents while pay is a high motivator. Environment came in second. These results indicate that pay is an important factor.


2. If you have been employed formerly by a call center, what was the top reason for leaving?

Main theme
The main theme behind this research is to address the motivating factor for leaving a call center and if the reasons correlate to the motivating factors for the original motivation in choosing the call center to work at.

The top reason for leaving was environment. It is interesting to note that poor work environment is very influential in attrition rates but not a motivator when choosing a place to work. This finding would suggest that a poor environment could trump compensation.


3. What makes you feel satisfied with your work?

Main theme
The main theme behind this research is to understand what agents feel makes them successful at their job. The idea behind this research is to find what most agents expect from their work and if feeling successful lowers attrition.

While many of these factors often correlate with each other, by asking the agent to choose only the highest, we learn a few things about the mentality of the agent. Many agents view their job as stop gap and not a career decision, hence why promotion is not high on the list. Pay, again, is the biggest motivating factor followed by hitting goals. Hitting goals was specified as not being directly tied to higher compensation.

Pay raise was defined as a raise in base pay or incentives. Hitting goals was defined as not being related to a pay raise. Promotion was defined as a raise in title, not necessarily pay. Recognition was defined as being recognized publically for good performance.


Part 3

The next few questions addressed each factor listed in the previous questions to gain a baseline for understanding the answers.


What kind of pay structure would you prefer?


The key findings here are agents appear to want the security of a base pay but the opportunity to earn more based on performance.


What is the top factor in a good call center environment?


Some Interesting findings were that agents enjoy gamification. They view it as a key component in an enjoyable work environment. Working with others is another factor to consider when hiring new talent; however, it is hard to measure social interactivity in a job interview.


How important is it to you to earn a promotion?


An Interesting finding here is that that promotions don’t really seem to play a big role in importance for an agent.


What Perks do you find the most value in?


Catered lunch and tuition reimbursement are nearly tied for most preferred perks.

Part 4


There are inherent limitations to survey research that need to be carefully considered before drawing inferences from findings. The following items are specific limitations that are germane to most web-based surveys.


Non-response bias:

The current findings are based on a sample of survey returns. We sent surveys to a representative sample of individuals, resulting in a large number of usable returned responses. Despite non-response tests, it is always possible that individuals who did not participate are substantially different in terms of underlying beliefs from those who completed the instrument.

Sampling-frame bias:

The accuracy is based on contact information and the degree to which the list is representative of individuals who are call center agents or call center practitioners in the United States and who are involved in handling tele-support or telesales response for their company. We also
acknowledge that the results may be biased by external events such as location, software used, and representative industry. We also acknowledge bias caused by compensating subjects to complete this research within a holdout period.

Self-reported results:

The quality of survey research is based on the integrity of confidential responses received from subjects. While certain checks and balances can be incorporated into the survey process, there is always the possibility that a subject did not provide a truthful response.