New research is challenging the assumption that excessive stress and poor pay are to blame for high levels of staff turnover at call centres.
Instead, poor career prospects and a lack of long-term career options are more likely to cause staff to leave, according to a study of more than 800 UK call centre managers by performance management software company Performix Technologies.
Call centres employ almost two per cent of the UK workforce, but 61 per cent of staff leave their jobs, and often the industry altogether, within two years.
Performix marketing director Rosemary Turley said: "This is an unacceptable churn rate which dramatically affects both the operational costs and quality of service provided by all contact centres.
"Part of the problem is that contact centre agents often feel that hard work is not recognised or rewarded. One of the most demotivating aspects for agents is when they do not receive feedback on their own performance."
Some 54 per cent of respondents said that employees worked harder to reach set targets when rewarded on individual rather than team performance.
Setting clear objectives, introducing a well-structured career path and encouraging diversity within the role were also highlighted as the most effective strategies for retaining staff.
Turley also warned that there is too often a mismatch between call centre performance measurements and overall business objectives.
"It's important that organisations understand what they're trying to achieve and how that impacts on individuals' objectives," she explained.
But Colin Mackay, director of quality and standards at the Call Centre Association (CCA), the professional body for the UK call and contact centre industry, maintained that standards across the industry had improved dramatically since 'phase one' call centres five or six years ago.
"Individual companies saw call centres as a cost extraction opportunity. But now forward thinking call centres are focusing on their people and not just their customers," he said.
"The industry is forecast to grow by 50 per cent over the next two to three years, so the opportunities are very significant," he added.
The CCA is developing professional qualifications to raise the profile of the industry and tackle misconceptions about careers in a call centre environment.
"We're working on the principle of building a profession," said Mackay.
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