Three Strategies to Stop Call Center Attrition

A spike in the rate of attrition has lead some credit unions to explore new ways to retain their call center employees.


The 2005 Merchants Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report reveals that attrition rates in contact centers across the world have risen by 4 percent in only 2 years. The average annual rate of staff turnover now stands at 23 percent, compared to 19 percent in 2003. This increase is causing many to take a closer look at the causes of, and solutions to, call center staff attrition.

According to a survey by the Incoming Calls Management Institute, the top three reasons for call center turnover were: better opportunities elsewhere, lack of career development and repetitive work. 

From both a cost and effectiveness standpoint, these concerns are critical for credit unions. It costs roughly $3,000 to train one call center representative for a two-week period – an average of $15,000 total to add a new agent in the financial services industry. 

Not only is the training investment lost with high turnover, so too is the knowledge that comes with experience. Successful call centers must manage their attrition rates to ensure that levels of service are optimal and consistent. Call centers that are successful at limiting their turnover rate are focusing on three key areas:

Not Just Experience
Call centers, unlike specialized departments, require the employees to be jacks-of-all-trades. Not only must the employee be aware of and understand all of the credit union’s general services, he or she must also stay on top of current promotions and be prepared to answer questions on a range of topics through a variety of channels. In light of this, many credit unions look for call center representatives with more than a financial services background. 

According to Robin Jurkowski, call center manager for BCU in Vernon Hills IL ($1.02 billion), the credit union looks for employees that “can learn and adapt quickly, are able to multitask and have the right mindset for serving members.”

Successful call centers work with their employees to find what motivates them and then they offer the incentives to match.  For some, it may be monetary rewards for achieving set goals, for others it may be as simple as verbal recognition for a job well done, and for others it means developing a skill or career path either within the call center or the organization as a whole. 

Making employees aware that their work is valued and that there is room for growth within the organization is critical to retaining call center representatives.

Be “Creative”
Technological advances are increasing the functionality of call centers beyond just inbound calls; call centers now routinely handle faxes, e-mails, instant messages, and even outbound calls. While these technologies improve the contact experience for the members, other technological advances are helping employees and, more importantly, helping employers keep employees.

New functionalities such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) enable agents to have access to all of the credit union’s systems from the comforts of their home or elsewhere. Such tools act not only as a retention tool, but they also expand the pool of potential agents beyond those within commuting distance. 

Stanford Federal Credit Union in Palo Alto, CA ($641 million) already has two call center representatives working remotely and is considering doubling the number of offsite employees.

Given the urban setting of the credit union and the fact that many employees commute over 100 miles to work, offering successful and committed employees the option to working remotely is a great retention tool according to Sam Tuohey, vice president of information services.




Jan. 30, 2006


  • A fair overview of the three ideas in general but thin with pratical ways for implementing them. For example, one CU was cited in the "Not Just Experience" section to underline the importance of hiring staff that can multitask; great, but what did they do to find such employees? What previous employement backgrouds have proven to be the best fit? Another example was in the "Be 'Creative'" section. Lots of creative technologies out there but the only specific example given was VoIP - one CU with 2 offsite representatives. Maybe a good start for developing the point, but creative? The jury is still out.
  • As a former call center manager for a savings bank, my view of my employees was the opposite of the view taken by the article. My employees moved to the phone center as a promotion. The people in the call center do have to multi task be very involved in the pluse of the organization because the call centers is the first place quetions are going to come from when new proucts or services are launched. The call center is the first line of defense when there is a problem that affects the members. For these reasons my turnover was the result of other areas raiding my employees.
  • I don't agree with this article. If you want to find out about real retention strategies, you need to check out Clear Harbor, headquarted in Atlanta with operations in the Eastern Caribbean. Their attrition is at 7% per year, and expanding their staff, how they do it ?I am still trying to find out.Check them out
  • What have you found out Kevin? I am interested to know how Clear Harbor has kept its turnover rate at 7% yearly.