Tips from Uber for Reducing Agent Turnover



There's a lot of advice out there on reducing agent turnover. With some of the highest employee turnover of any skilled job in the labor force, it's not surprising. However, unfortunately most of it focuses on high-level niceties hard to put into action, such as corporate culture, or big-dollar initiatives, such as giving them better technology. Although such advice shouldn't be ignored, there are other tactics service managers and HR can take to chip away at agent attrition with far better results.

The gig economy has influenced a lot of the way hourly employees think about pay and their engagement in their jobs. It's not surprising that a search for call center agent openings on many job boards now delivers Uber as a contact center alternative. For modern, actionable tips on improving retention, we can learn a lot from Uber. Here are some of the lessons:

Give employees more control over their paychecks.

For the growing percentage of employees living paycheck to paycheck, greater control over pay is a critical factor for both retention and performance. From the tactical (how they will get to work) to the strategic (how they can best perform when worrying about dinner, children, or bill collectors), giving employees more predictable pay and the ability to impact it make them more productive on the job and more likely to stay. Tactics to consider here include the following:

  • Adding metrics on dollars earned per case closed or hour of calls completed to ongoing metrics agents can see. Making readily visible how much agents are earning while they're on the job reduces the time they spend doing calculations themselves, checking in with HR, or raising issues about their paychecks after they've been issued. Giving them the ability to set goals toward certain take-home dollar amounts and see their progress toward those goals can be a powerful motivator to completing a shift and showing up for the next one.
  • Considering on-demand pay. A number of payroll vendors are introducing on-demand pay options for HR to provide hourly employees with access to pay they've earned before payday. Although this is an emerging area with many different considerations, it's one for HR to consider, particularly in roles where employees are living paycheck to paycheck. In on-demand pay, employees can access a portion of their earned income (typically through a paycard or direct deposit). For agents, it can be a motivator for showing up for work and staying in a job longer.

Let employees pick when and where they work.

Although contact centers have to be staffed to meet capacity at hours of operation, more flexibility for agents on when and how much they work can be an important retention factor. Providing agents with access to self-service shift swapping or allowing agents with top rankings to pick their shifts first can help put them more in control of when and how much they work. Although flexible work locations or the ability to work from home are not practical for many contact centers, when it works it can be a great way to retain highly qualified agents.

Give employees culture and community.

Corporate culture is an important part of setting the tone of the contact center, but letting agents bring their whole selves to work can be just as important in an environment where individual identity isn't rewarded. Supporting and enabling social collaboration around non-work topics can help build collaboration and camaraderie among agents, even those on a part-time basis. Agents who find colleagues who are interested in similar topics&mdashsuch as volunteering for a particular cause or yoga—and can connect with them at work are more likely to keep showing up. Supporting employee referrals can be an easy way to build and retain community as well.

Give employees a career path.

A career path is one opportunity Uber can't match. However, today the disconnect between many contact centers and the rest of the organization drives home the perception that agent is a dead-end job. Offering opportunities for career and skill development beyond the contact center, linking agents with mentors within the broader organization, and promoting success stories of agents who have made the leap— either within or beyond the organization because of the skills and resume gained on the job—can drive better performance on the job as well as greater longevity.

For better or worse, the gig economy has taken contact center jobs off the radar for many motivated, results-focused individuals, but it's given us insights into how to better motivate and retain the modern hourly workforce as well. Stealing from Uber's playbook on control over work and pay can help attract and retain staff in today's contact center environment.


Rebecca Wettemann is vice president at Nucleus Research.