Outsourcing and Call Center Blog

25 November, 2007

Retention – Why People Work

Filed under: BPO,Call Center,HR & Staffing,India,off shoring,Outsourcing — shamrin @ 21:29

Worrying about staff retention is not an issue that is exclusive to Indian Call Centers, attracting and holding on to good people is (or at least should be) a concern of all businesses. But with staff turning over once or twice, or on some processes more that that every 12 months, it’s a matter that gets a lot of attention here.

Many years ago when I was working at American Management Systems, I learned something that I attribute to Tom Peters but that he apparently attributes to Peter Drucker, that is to treat your staff as if they are volunteers. Volunteers, that means unpaid people who show up to work for the benefit of you and your organisation out of the very goodness of their hearts. Peters, paraphrasing Drucker explains:

Maybe the boss can force a person to show up for work, especially in trying economic times; but one cannot by definition, force a person to contribute her or his passion and imagination on a regular basis. Contributing passion and imagination is a voluntary act, period — and an all-important one in an epoch when brain rather than brawn has become the cornerstone of success and added value.

Well, I just can’t say that any better than Tom did, but I was reminded of the topic this week during a discussion about why people work. I think there are just three reasons:

  1. People work for monetary gain
  2. People work to get a feeling of accomplishment
  3. People work to get recognition

Each of us has a different multiplier for these three motivations and here’s some news, the multiplier for the first one is not as big as you think it is, even here in India. And my experience is that the best people, the ones you really want in your business leading your teams and managing your processes have even higher multipliers for the latter two than do the general population.

Seth Godin laid out a challenge for his blogging readers last week,

What if, when everyone else’s blog was free, you had to charge money for yours? What would you do? How would you make it worth it?

The general question is, what would you do with your product and your marketing if it was always more expensive than all your competitors? I would like to pose a similar question, what if you knew you were always going to be out-bid monetarily for your staff? How would you change your programs? How would you organise, promote and recognise. What if all your staff were volunteers?



  1. Here’s something that I’ve learned about retention especially in call centers. Most turnover happens in the first 90 days. It happens for a couple of reasons. First, a lot of reps or agents really don’t understand what the job is about at first and when they finally do, some say I don’t want to do this and quit. For example, in a collections call center you’ll find that there’s anywhere betweeen 3 to 6 weeks of training before they hit the phones. At that point you often hear,”so what you’re really asking me to do is call people at home at dinner and ask them for money? Right? I’m not going to do that.

    Second, and this is true of all job, people come into a job unsure that they really can do the job. The longer the uncertainty lasts the more likely they are to quit. Therefore, agents and reps need to get on the phones early and have success or you’ll lose a lot of them.

    Focusing on just these two issues can reduce turnover by 50 to 70%. I’ve seen it happen in more than a dozen call centers big and small.

    Comment by Steve Rosenbaum — 25 November, 2007 @ 21:47 | Reply

  2. Your comments are spot-on Steve, thanks for contributing.

    Here in India the slope is even steeper. It starts of the first day when a sizeable percentage of new hires simply fail to show up. The next break point is at the first month after they have collected their first pay cheque.

    In the first case, I wonder if anyone has tried some kind of signing-bonus scheme, of course then you would always have to worry about the second or third day…it never ends.

    Comment by shamrin — 25 November, 2007 @ 22:05 | Reply

  3. Here we have a lot of work readiness issues like the one you talked about. In many cases, we’ve contracted with a two year college to put people through a short work readiness program. This is paid for by the potential new hire. Then if they stick with the company for a certain length of time, they are reimbursed. These programs can be customized to different regions or areas with different issues.

    On a side note, you might find it funny. I’ve been in some call centers in the U.K. and I have a lot of trouble with the different accents. As they say, we are a people divided by a common language.

    Comment by Steve Rosenbaum — 25 November, 2007 @ 23:40 | Reply

  4. As far as I am concerned is that to avoid such a quick attrition in call center or any other bpo or non-bpo industry ‘signing bond’ is also a solution, employer can sign a person with particular fix months or years then he need not to worry about the person because if person left then loss will be him/her and he/she also need to serve particular days of notice period, prior to this he/she can’t left the job.

    Comment by Ami Robert — 7 April, 2008 @ 12:49 | Reply

  5. i believe that “an employee does not leave a company, he leaves his boss”…after working with vcustomer for so many years (with zero employee satisfaction), i think the management should look into its policies!!!

    Comment by Amit — 7 May, 2008 @ 10:50 | Reply

  6. I would say it depends person to person. Few emplooyee do their work much better under pressure, but I think the majority of people work better when they are not under pressure. As a rule, I think people work better and do their work with a higher degree of accuracy and quality, when they are relaxed and not anxious or tense.

    Comment by Ashley Brown — 27 May, 2008 @ 11:42 | Reply

  7. […] From a call center blog: Many years ago when I was working at American Management Systems, I learned something that I attribute to Tom Peters but that he apparently attributes to Peter Drucker, that is to treat your staff as if they are volunteers. Volunteers, that means unpaid people who show up to work for the benefit of you and your organisation out of the very goodness of their hearts. […]

    Pingback by Treat Staff as if they are volunteers / Headspace — 5 July, 2009 @ 6:47 | Reply

  8. Because good agent performance is important in a company’s growth and development, managers need to be mindful of its employees’ needs and concerns. An agent’s attitude reflects on his/her performance, which means that work dissatisfaction will translate to bad customer service.

    Comment by outsourcing providers Philippines — 24 May, 2010 @ 8:37 | Reply

  9. Thanks for pulling this altogether. Makes a really interesting post. I’m really enjoying your blog………….

    Comment by Call Center services — 3 July, 2010 @ 12:19 | Reply

  10. Turnover rate measures the percentage of call center agents that leave the call center in a given period. It reaches more than 100% of agent turnover in some contact centers year to year. With that figure, it will never be a surprise to say that if you can reduce agent turnover, you can also reduce the cost of your contact center. Training new agents takes a lot of resources, time, effort and energy and would cost a lot of money for the company because these new agents have typically much lower first contact resolution rates.

    Career pathing is important for job satisfaction and retention. If agents see their current job is a stepping stone, whatever position they might have in the contact center, they’re more likely to stay that can positively affect the performance of the contact center. Career pathing doesn’t need technology to be implemented but would greatly influence agents perception of the contact center and their future in the organization.

    In some contact centers, agents are recognize and gets compliment if they perform we’ll. These compliments is a good strategy that most contact centers do to motivate, energize and keep them emotionally. By these, agents feel the sense of belongingness. For some contact centers, they maintain good quality scores from customer satisfaction survey that can increase their sales. GlobalLinkBPO

    Comment by GlobalLink BPO — 3 April, 2012 @ 0:33 | Reply

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