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Why is it so hard to keep in-house customer support agents?

Luna Tidrick

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The benefits of in-house agents versus outsourcing are often debated, but there is no doubt that the latter provides a good structure for running a business. In order to maintain consistency and improve customer service across all departments it's important to find ways on how these services can be done effectively while still meeting demand with budget constraints.

Foreword By Richard Tanksley, Business Development Executive - SupportNinja

I sell outsourced customer support and I talk every day with executives who are struggling with finding and retaining customer support agents for their company. I talked to a guy yesterday who normally has 7 in-house agents but 3 quit last week and 2 put in their notices yesterday. He says it has been like this for years and he's frustrated.

I hear this same story every day. But why do your in-house CX people keep quitting? To be frank, it's usually a shitty job. The pay is normally at or just above minimum wage, there is little chance for advancement, and you spend more time interacting with strangers (usually not happy ones) over the phone, email or chat, than you do with your colleagues.

Why Customer Support Matters

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Customer support agents are representatives of a company who interact with customers on behalf of the business. They are responsible for providing customer service and ensuring that customers are satisfied with the products and services they have purchased. In today’s competitive market, it is essential for businesses to provide excellent customer service in order to remain successful. There are a number of ways to achieve this, but one of the most important ways is to have a team of customer support agents who are knowledgeable, friendly, and efficient. 

Any successful business knows that customer service is key to retaining customers and building brand loyalty. A quality customer service experience can be the difference between a customer who continues to do business with you and one who takes their business elsewhere. Customers who feel appreciated and well-supported are more likely to stick with a company, even when there are bumps in the road. In addition, they're also more likely to recommend the business to others. So, while quality customer service may require a bit of an investment up front, it can pay off in the long run by helping businesses to grow and thrive.

Keeping In-House Agents Is A Struggle

Let’s face it. Keeping in-house customer support agents is difficult. With the pandemic still ongoing, the era of The Great Resignation leaves us with a job resignation rate of 23% as compared to pre-pandemic reports, challenging businesses to offer better opportunities for employees compared to their direct competitors. A recent 2022 Salesforce poll surveyed service agents about their current employment. With 71% of agents considering leaving their current role in the last six months, and 69% of those agents strongly considering leaving the service industry altogether, it comes as no surprise that companies are having a hard time keeping people in these positions.  

As explained by SupportNinja Business Development Executive, Richard Tanksley, “Customer support agents act as the bridge between the product and the customer. There are very few companies or products out there that are the only ones doing what they are doing. If a company did achieve this, they would quickly have competitors. Good customer support becomes a competitive advantage.”  However, attaining this advantage comes with its own struggles. While having in-house customer support agents seems ideal, incurring the unexpected costs of hiring (and rehiring) customer support agents is not. Here are 5 frequently cited reasons why agents are leaving their support positions

  1. Low Pay - More often than not, customer support roles offer minimum wage compensation. When factoring in the additional four reasons below, agents become frustrated and leave to pursue a job where the pay matches the time and effort put into the position.
  2. Limited Advancement Opportunities - Oftentimes, the role of a customer support agent is considered an entry-level position. Limited opportunities for promotion or upskilling can hinder a customer support agent’s professional development, which can spur them to pursue growth opportunities elsewhere. 
  3. Overwhelming Workload - It is understandably difficult having to balance the responsibility of diffusing tense situations with upset customers, as well as responding to ongoing customer phone calls, emails, and online chats, all while maintaining professionalism, patience, and calm at all times. Furthermore, the nature of customer support requires agents to successfully put aside any personal feelings that may negatively impact their performance, which isn’t always easy to do.
  4. Repetitive Tasks - While the workload for customer support agents can be overwhelming, they can also be viewed as repetitive and even monotonous. Lack of change or flexibility in day-to-day tasks can cause customer support agents to feel unmotivated, uninspired, and even uninterested in what they are doing. 
  5. Toxic Work Environment - Whether it’s the late night and weekend shifts, the unhappy customers, micromanaging supervisors, or being tied to a desk, customer support agents often claim the pressure to perform, and criticism when they fall short, is highly toxic and stressful.

Identifying Your Next Steps

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First of all, you can treat your support team as something more than a call center. Supporting the products or services that you sell IS your business. It should not be an afterthought or a line item on the cost side of the balance sheet that you continually work to reduce.

Next, avoid the pitfall of insufficient training. By building a thorough and responsive training program that empathetically improves the work lives of your employees, not only will your customer support agents have a deeper knowledge of your company's products, services, protocols, and policies, they will also have the proper tools, technology, and support needed to achieve success. Furthermore, providing in-depth training provides agents a clear understanding of the vision and mission of your company, allowing them to take ownership of their roles and responsibilities and to embody the brand voice of the company. In turn, they will be more successful at communicating those values to your customers. In addition, offering quality training will allow you to better support your own support team, establishing a positive working relationship and setting them up for success. 

Another option is to outsource the entire support function to a business process outsourcing company. At SupportNinja our business IS optimizing human performance, ensuring staff happiness, and increasing retention. We treat our staff better than most other BPOs so they stick around at twice the industry standard rate. Is your company ready to outsource your tasks? By outsourcing CX to us, you can focus on your business while we focus on making sure you are not losing any more of your customer support agents every six months.

Additional Resources

Making The Transition: In-House To Outsourced Customer Support

The Best Business Model And How It Impacts The Customer Experience, Revenue & Reputation