How to slow outbound sales turnover

Feb 12

How to slow outbound sales turnover

No matter how good or bad the relationship was, breaking up almost always hurts. And normally, even though it takes time, the recovery is the same. A few nights out with friends, a tear-jerker movie and too much ice cream helps to dull the pain, and we begin to see that we might live again. But when it’s a staff member who’s ‘broken up’ with you by resigning, it’s not a matter of getting over it, but working out how the work is going to get done now they’re no longer there. And when you have to deal with a new ‘breakup’ every few weeks? The truth is that if you’re managing a outbound sales call centre, the upset of high staff turnover may be a fact of life.

Take heart that you’re not alone. Outbound sales staff turnover rates are a problem all over the world. The overall average for the contact centre industry ranges from 30 to 45%, and while some centres see almost no turnover, and others see triple digit percentages.

Not surprisingly, over a third of call centre attrition happens within the first six months, when your new staff are most likely to be feeling overwhelmed by the role. And because staff turnover costs Australian call centres an estimated $3.8 billion in lost productivity and another $385 million in recruitment costs, it pays to invest in solutions to decrease your turnover rate.

If you want to slow the rate at your call centre, it goes without saying that you’ll already be treating your agents the best you possibly can. Of course, employees want respect, trust, and dependability from their manager and fellow co-workers, but sometimes, even that isn’t enough to keep staff on board.


Focus on bringing in the right fit

Use the interview stage to find people who are not only skilled at outbound sales, but are a great fit with your corporate values and culture. Look at those who are performing the best in your organisation, and find people who share those same characteristics. When a position opens up, consider your current staff to see if you can promote from within before turning to outside sources. If you’re going to have to train someone, it make sense to start with someone who’s already familiar with your company and how things work.


Realise the importance of a competitive salary

The average salary for an outbound agent ranges from $35,428 to $53,114 a year, depending on location, experience, and tenure with a company. If your business isn’t paying at least the bottom dollar of this range, chances are you’re not going to attract top talent, and you’ll have a harder time keeping the talent you do bring on board.

A recent survey shows over 60% of job seekers consider compensation and pay the number one factor in job satisfaction. While it doesn’t take the top spot as to what’s most important for employees – we’ll get to that later – it is among the top five factors. In other words, if you’re not offering your agents enough money, even if they do come to work for you, chances are they’ll soon leave for something that pays better.


Look to see what other benefits you can offer

Take a close look at the benefits you offer your outbound sales agents. The same study showed that two thirds of workers considered benefits to be the most important factor in job satisfaction. In terms of those benefits, paid time off was ranked as most important, followed by health benefits, the flexibility of work/life balance, retirement plans, and other family friendly benefits.

While budget may be an issue, it’s okay if you can’t offer a top-of-the-line benefit package to all employees. Consider offering a free or discounted employee wellness program, offering free lunch on Fridays, and other small benefits that can boost staff morale.

A 2012 meta-analysis of 42 corporate wellness studies showed that wellness programs lead to a 25% reduction in absenteeism and sick leave, 25% lower healthcare costs, and a 32% reduction in workers compensation costs, so an investment in employee wellness could prove to be a smart move for your company’s bottom line.


To keep outbound sales staff turnover low, give them ample time off

While this sometimes goes hand-in-hand with benefits, regardless of whether that time off is paid, employees need to have time to relax and recharge. Working too much can put a damper on productivity and lead to burnout.

A 2006 study revealed that the more vacation time an employee took, the better the employee performed. For every 10 hours of vacation time an employee used, there was an 8% growth in their performance review scores. Employees who took their vacation were also more likely to remain employed with the company for longer periods of time.


Turn idle time into a sales training opportunity

On-going training helps keep agent skills sharp. If there’s idle time between outbound sales calls, keep employees productive with training activities. Whether it’s through having them watch videos online, reading to improve their knowledge and outbound sales skills, or sharing feedback, these minutes can add up over time, so you want to encourage them to be used wisely.


Provide opportunities for advancement

Outbound sales agents are likely to become discouraged when they see there’s no room to advance within the company. It’s important to let recruits know that there is room to grow within the company, and you’re willing to promote from within before looking to hire from the outside.

Advancement motivates employees to work harder, but also benefits your call centre. Since it can take some time to get an outside hire acclimated to your company’s processes, they often don’t perform as well as someone who is already working with your company. Considering most turnover takes place within the first six to 12 months after hiring, you’re taking a chance that the new hire may never reach the productivity levels of the old employee.


Treat your agents as well as your customers

The most important factor for employees in job satisfaction is respectful treatment of all employees at all levels. If you want employees to respect you and work hard for the business, you must respect them in exchange. You teach them to respect your customers, so by treating them with the same respect, you’ll see more employees are willing to stay with your company and work harder.


Exit Interviews

It’s inevitable that a breakup or two is going to happen. No matter how much effort you put into developing effective call centre agent retention strategies, you’ll never be able to stop employees from leaving. If you formalise an exit interview, you can gather a great deal of information from your staff about why they’re leaving and ideas that help motivate others to stay. This information can help you identify patterns so you can fix problem areas in an effort to reduce turnover in the future.


For more hints on how to run an effective outbound sales call centre, download our ebook The psychology of a high performance contact centre today.

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Image via Flickrcc/jen collins