Who wants to work in a call centre?

“When I grow up, I want to work in a call centre,” said no one, ever. For anyone that’s worked in a call centre, you’ll know the reality of telesales is a little less Wolf of Wall Street, more The Office — the British version with Gareth and his jelly-imprisoned stapler. Call centres don’t have the best rep for employee retention, but there are steps that employers can take to keep valued employees. Here, Stephen Parker, CEO of business automation specialist, Parker Software, examines three reasons for high staff turnover in the sector.

Manning the phones in a call centre may not be considered a dream career, but the United Kingdom is home to 6,200 customer contact centres, employing 734,000 agents across the country. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the population of Glasgow. Despite these high figures, the industry is also plagued by a damning reputation for high employee turnover. In fact, research suggests that staff resignations are costing call centres over £1.1billion — that’s £2,244 for every person employed in the industry. But, why do people leave?

Less speedboats, more Strongbow

There’s certainly high earning potential in the sales industry, with companies offering large bonuses, high commission rates and extravagant benefits for meeting targets. While successful contact centre agents may be awarded with the occasional large bonus, Ben — that cheerful Yorkshire chap from your energy supplier — is more likely to be splashing his bonus on a few extra pints after work, not throwing around ‘fun coupons’ a-la The Wolf on Wall Street.

Basic salaries for call centre operatives range between just £9,000 and £16,000. This is significantly less than many other sectors, and potentially risky for employees with financial commitments that require a solid and steady income.

Computer says no

Almost half of contact centres think that the technology and systems they use are not up to scratch. In fact, 79 per cent believe their current systems will fail to meet the future needs of the business. We’ve all experienced the frustration of hearing that our files are missing, or we’ve been transferred to the wrong department. Trust me, the agent is probably as exasperated at their shoddy systems as you are.

The contact centre industry certainly isn’t shy to embrace new technology. In recent years, live chat, social media and SMS messaging all becoming integral to customer communication. However, without investing in intelligent automation software to integrate these channels, agents are left with the technological headache of managing customer accounts across these separate platforms.

Make the most of the gift-of-the-gab

Amongst the chaotic employee churn of a call centre, there tends to be a handful of contact centre veterans that have stuck with the company for years, refusing to hang up their headsets while they’re still reigning high at the top of the sales board. Think of it like dog years — technically, that’s decades in other industries.

Confident, courteous and cash-driven are typical traits of a successful contact centre agent, but administrative tasks don’t tend to be a strong point. However, there will always be admin associated with each call. The call centre industry doesn’t have the best reputation for employee satisfaction, but as a result, employers should be taking every possible step to make the jobs of their employees easier.

Menial tasks, such as document processing, updating customer relationship management (CRM) systems and the tedious monitoring of social media platforms should be automated wherever possible — freeing up your veterans’ time for what they do best: making sales and making customers happy.

By assessing basic salaries, investing in technology and removing menial tasks from agents’ to-do lists, contact centres can begin to soften the blow of that high employee turnover. Let’s face it, without martini-fuelled office parties and marching bands, a typical British call centre is unlikely to ever live up to the Wolf of Wall Street fantasy. But really, it’s not wild debauchery that agents are asking for — just a few simple steps to make their lives easier.