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ASAPP Report: Why Turnover of US Contact Center Agents Is So High

Up to 40% of Agents Leave Their Jobs Each Year, Impacting CX

A new report from ASAPP, the research-based provider of artificial intelligence (AI) software, identifies three major themes associated with the high turnover of US contact center agents and their corollary impact on the worldwide CX industry.

Of the 3.0 million agents currently employed in the contact center industry, up to 1.2 million—or 40%—leave their job within 12 months because of issues related to the themes of training and coaching, a gap in technology, and career growth, the report said. Collectively, the themes depict an industry focused on realizing short-term savings at the cost of agent retention, ultimately increasing the long-term costs for CX to make up for the high churn of agents.

These and other findings can be found in the CX: The Human Factor report produced by ASAPP in partnership with the University of San Francisco’s Master of Science in Marketing Intelligence program.

ASAPP, headquartered in New York City, is the developer of machine learning (ML) software, and its AI platform is known for automating workflows and enhancing conversations with customers, while focusing on complex and data-rich problems, enabling efficiency in customer care teams. For the report, graduate students interviewed contact center agents across the country to gain perspective on the human factors that impact CX.

On the first theme of training and coaching, the report said that while companies often look at ways to shorten the training time for agents, a reduction in training lowers agent confidence and competence. Nearly 40% of agents said training would improve their occupation, but 51% of agents who received bad training reported being pessimistic about their jobs, a state that could lead to poor work performance and burnout. Working from home during the pandemic was challenging as coaching and support for agents became inconsistent, and 37% of agents indicated difficulty in obtaining feedback throughout this time, the report noted.

On the second theme of technological advancement, approximately 45% of agents said contact centers are behind the times. Moreover, while self-serve technologies, such as interactive voice response (IVR) systems and chatbots are causing a shift in agents focusing more on complex calls, the majority of agents wish to solve simpler customer problems. Many agents also remain unaware of the value that could be obtained from an AI platform. In fact, the percentage of agents who recognized that AI could improve CX was matched by an equal percentage of those who feared AI would take away their jobs.

On the third and final theme, agents expressed a desire for career growth above all other interests. Allowing agents to experience a range of roles and growth provides empowerment and optimism about their careers, the report said, as many agents evinced a genuine motivation to help customers.

Michael Lawder, chief experience officer at ASAPP, underscored the myriad challenges facing contact center agents and the tough road ahead. “When companies fail their agents with dysfunctional technology, training and coaching, they risk not only a frustrating employee experience but also a poor customer experience that will have consumers looking elsewhere,” said Lawder.

Barbara Porter, managing director at global consulting agency EY, said agents want to help people, but that metrics, processes, and technology investments must work in concert to serve both the employee and the company in order to achieve the significant business outcomes required to serve consumers. “The industry has a culture of continuous improvement and focus on metrics, yet how we measure customer service and agent performance must evolve to identify the behaviors that drive customer loyalty and value for employees and customers,” she said. “The environment we create for employees is the environment that customers experience.”

Author Information

Alex is responsible for writing about trends and changes that are impacting the customer experience market. He had served as Principal Editor at Village Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based consultancy on technology impacting healthcare and healthcare-related industries. Alex was also Associate Director for Content Management at Omdia and Informa Tech, where he produced white papers, executive summaries, market insights, blogs, and other key content assets. His areas of coverage spanned the sectors grouped under the technology vertical, including semiconductors, smart technologies, enterprise & IT, media, displays, mobile, power, healthcare, China research, industrial and IoT, automotive, and transformative technologies.

At IHS Markit, he was Managing Editor of the company’s flagship IHS Quarterly, covering aerospace & defense, economics & country risk, chemicals, oil & gas, and other IHS verticals. He was Principal Editor of analyst output at iSuppli Corp. and Managing Editor of Market Watch, a fortnightly newsletter highlighting significant analyst report findings for pitching to the media. He started his career in writing as an Editor-Reporter for The Associated Press.

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