How to lose your call centre agents

losing call centre agents is like having a leaky tapYes, you read that right. Most call centres would say that attrition – losing call centre agents – is a major headache. 

It costs time, effort and money to recruit and train new staff. Not to mention piling buckets of stress on the agents and team leaders left behind – lowering morale and, ultimately, the customer experience. It’s hard to imagine a worse recipe for business.

Is it really inevitable that, on average, 24% of call centre agents will leave each year – over half within 90 days of joining? Can anything be done?

It can sometimes be useful to look at a problem from a different angle. What insights might we gain if our aim was to increase agent attrition – to actively try to lose staff? Here’s a fun starter for ten.

1. Recruit the wrong people

OK, it seems obvious. Of course we can expect people to leave if they’re wrong for the job in the first place. But recent studies by ContactBabel and TalentQ show that this is the top reason for high churn. Yet up to 40% of recruiters do it knowingly because they are under such intense pressure to fill vacant roles quickly.

2. Don’t train them

As well as hiring unsuitable people, avoid helping them develop their skills and confidence.

If you have an induction for new recruits, make sure it provides just the bare minimum of telephone skills training. Anyone can use a telephone, right?

Assume they know how to build rapport, manage a call, use their voice and handle difficult situations that are specific to your business. Avoid any kind of role play or the chance to evaluate their own calls. This ensures their first week on the floor will be memorable – for all the wrong reasons!

If they do manage to make it past the first week, don’t bother upskilling them, as this gives them the impression that they are valuable assets to the organisation rather than just cannon fodder.

3. Lie to them

As part of the interview and induction process, make sure you create a mismatch between their expectations and the reality of the job.

Don’t let them meet any agents, visit the floor before they start, or allow them to listen to any calls. Play down or ignore any challenging aspects of the job. Make misleading promises of career progression and reward opportunities.

Do this well, and they should be completely demoralised within a few weeks of joining the organisation.

4. Expect them to leave

Work agents to their absolute physical and mental limits in the expectation they are going to leave anyway.

Push them to be on the phone all the time, focusing on productivity or utilisation above all else. Make it clear that any kind of down time between calls is frowned on.

Reinforce this by giving them only menial tasks, and not providing any developmental training or career progression. This works magnificently if they are young and ambitious.

5. Don’t praise them

Ensure that you never publically acknowledge their achievements as this can be terribly motivating. Instead, highlight weak performance on a regular basis, and make sure the whole team suffers.

If there are any reward schemes, make them irregular and unachievable for the majority of staff (like employee of the year).

6. Don’t listen

Steer clear of any kind of open forums or upward feedback. Make it clear that their well-being and ideas for improvement are not valued or important to the organisation. Alternatively, ask them for suggestions, and ignore the findings. 

Of course, no call centre would dream of doing any of these things, surely? What’s your experience? Can call centre agents be retained cost effectively?


Image courtesy of Mister GC at

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