Customer Service Staff attrition impacts Customer Service

“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” – Anne M. Mulcahy

Customers rate companies according to service first. The other factors play some part but in what order is decided by the individual customers. If a customer’s journey with your company, from the start to the end, has been consistently above the mark, customer experience becomes memorable and they are more likely to stay with the company. Deciding the kind of experience customers have is very highly dependent on the customer service staff and consistency of the service comes from having a set of staff that understands the company and customers. Employee turnover is a given, but when exits above normal happen in the customer care division, it spells trouble. Customer service staff attrition impacts customer service in a way that hurts the brand, the company’s reputation and can bring about irreparable damage. Customer’s get to feel a sense of comfort from the employees they are interacting with and if these employees leave it sends out a negative message to customers that all is not right with the company. Let us see how customer staff attrition impacts customer service:

– Staff attrition is a huge expense and costs a company more money than they probably realize. First is the cost of recruiting an agent and the skilled ones are hard to find. It takes up time and effort of the human resources division and setting up a center to have mass recruitments is a huge expense. After recruiting, getting the new agents up to speed through induction and training programs and giving them and the current staff up to 3 months to adjust, is an expense of the non-monetary kind. The human resource team would have added mountains of documentation, the logistics team would need to decide on added seating, lunches and pick and drops home. While these new agents settle down, the current agents would probably need to put in long hours in overtime to help overcome the shortfall. This leads to money going out as overtime, since the new agents still have not become ‘productive’. Too many long hours and the feeling of being overworked could result in dissatisfaction of the current staff that may look at walking out the door. It becomes a vicious cycle. In all of this, customer service levels are bound to drop raising customer dissatisfaction.

– Too many new agents and current agents being overworked and these hurt the morale of the existing staff and bring instability the current team setting. Attrition is a negative event whether it is voluntary or subject to management decision. When agents begin leaving on their own, it shows that they are unsatisfied in their place of work for a number of reasons and would rather lend their skills elsewhere. You can be certain that there are others too biding their time till they get better opportunities outside. A case in point here is when a mass exodus happened in a call center of a large insurance company. There were very few ‘old’ employees left. That was not the end. Once their friends who had left the company settled in their new company, they poached and got their friends from the insurance company to join them at their new workplace. The customer service was badly hit with customer complaints being at a record high and service being at an all-time low. It took at least a year for the company to recruit and train a new set of agents. By then significant damage was done, with a number of customers withdrawing their business and even vendors discontinued their services to this company for fear of losing money. The company’s ranking fell from being in the top 3 to a miserable number 10.
Also damaging to employee morale is when a company decides to terminate some of the agents. It reflects poorly on the recruitment and or training process. What this attrition does is, it lowers staff morale, sandpapers team cohesiveness as everyone is then only worried about what will happen to them and the overall effect is poor and shoddy customer service.

– Customer service staff attrition impacts customer service also due to losing trained, proficient and skilled staff. New agents may be skilled in the role of customer service but would not be efficient when it is about dealing with the particular customers of the company. Customers prefer consistency and this is badly damaged when the employees they were dealing with leave. Even if there is documentation that the new agent can read up to understand a customer’s history, it is difficult to foster feelings of trust and form a relationship with someone new especially for customers. This whole scenario also has a negative impact on the senior staff of the team who feel burdened and soon burnout, leading to further attrition. A constant feeling of volatility and upheaval is enough to continue the cycle of customer service staff attrition. Scary!

– Their preferred employees gone, unstable and shaky new staff, this is bound to make customers very uncomfortable and know that customer service staff attrition is indicative of something deeper and very wrong within the organization. Customer service staff attrition causes a dent and break in the rhythm of work and in the smooth flow of operations. Customer loyalty is severely shaken and employee attrition translates to customer attrition, which is potentially fatal to the survival of a company.

– The customers that still remain will notice that the agents seem on edge, lack empathy and seem rushed to get over with one customer to deal with the next. This is because the new agents are not yet equipped to handle such situations and therefore it leads to increased response times, customer complaint backlogs, no capability of reaching out to customers via more than one channel and a host of other termite infestation equivalent problems.
It is now an established fact that within companies offering similar products and pricing, what sets them apart is customer service. Therefore, when there is problem in the service realm customers are going to head for the door, probably never to return again. Customer service staff attrition impacts customer service leading to a negative effect on the bottom line, sustainability and reputation of the company. Even loyal customers will leave and seek out your competition that would have by now taken complete advantage of your problem and ramped up their service and products. Getting such customers back would be practically impossible.

Customer service staff attrition, in addition to being a drain on a company’s resources, due to additional costs adds other vicious problems. The costs to start with are sky high – advertising, screening, interviewing and finally hiring are all time and money consuming tasks. This set of tasks is followed by training and coaching the new staff that takes significant time off a manager’s work schedule. Productivity and results similar to current staff, take a minimum of 1-2 years to manifest which is a huge loss in man-hours. Constant coaching and training of current staff to keep them engaged and with high morale also costs huge sums and hours of time. During the initial stages, the new employees would be less adept and hence service errors and lapses would be more frequent and would take more time and effort to be resolved. Staff attrition almost always leads to unrest and questions in the minds of current staff as to what is going wrong and leads them to seek opportunities outside.

Customer service staff attrition is not just an expensive and time consuming problem, it also gives rise to some very unpleasant and vicious behavior on the part of current staff, which further erodes employee morale and hurts customer service further. The remaining staff tends to exhibit:

– Aggressive, dominating and highly volatile behavior due to an undue feeling of importance thinking that the company cannot do without them since so many have left.

– Some become very self-focused, working only to cover their back and not caring about the team or exhibiting flexibility to adjust

– Laxity in their work, promising and not delivering and covering up their faults.

– Disorganized and highly resistant to change behavior. They refuse to comply or follow structure, unwilling to learn new skills and have a tough time adapting to the situation of flux.

These behaviors are reflected in the way they serve customers, which again leads to customer complaints, ire and ultimately the attrition of customers. Customer service staff attrition impacts customer service in ways that are irreparable. Companies must focus on processes and strategies to recruit the right staff, train them adequately, have incentive and reward programs in place and outsource some mundane and ‘brain dead’ jobs to a third party. An ongoing and consistent effort made to retain staff and reduce staff attrition, will help keep customer service standards at a level that customers will want to remain with you for.

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