STAFF TURNOVER - FRIEND OR FOE?


Submitted  February 18, 2000 by John Carver, Call Centre Manager Bank of Montreal, MasterCard Division.

What's the most likely topic of conversation when two or more Call Centre Managers get together?  New technology is sometimes discussed and/or
debated. Good management practices may be shared. Benchmarking, targets, first call resolution, customer complaints, the web, results...some of
these issues may creep into the conversation. It depends on how well the members of the group know each other. But without fail, in a formal group
meeting or in a subsequent social get-together, EMPLOYEE TURNOVER is raised, and usually in negative tones.

Why is that? Turnover has traditionally been viewed as a negative measure. The higher the turnover rate, the more the Call Centre Manager has been
perceived to be ineffective.   High turnover causes higher recruitment, hiring and training expenses. Is there a cause and effect between turnover
and morale?  Does high turnover lead to bad morale or visa versa?

But it doesn't have to be that way. Turnover can be viewed positively. In our Call Centre turnover is encouraged, in fact, celebrated. The higher,
the better. It's part of our Culture. A week without a couple of promotions out of the centre is a rare one. No, I haven't lost my mind. Let me
explain. When we hire into our Call Centre we hire people looking for a career, not just in the Call Centre, but anywhere in our Bank. We recognise
that many have higher ambitions, and that they are applying for a Call Centre agent position because they see it as a door opener. I talk with
each new hire class and let them know we're OK with that, and that we're here to give them a start, an entry into the Bank of Montreal. We give them
a fantastic grounding in sales and service in the card business, where they master negotiation and communication skills, and then send them on their
way.  Be successful in our Call Centre and your management team will do all it can to help you move along with your career.

Two years ago we had a 100% turnover rate. Last year and this year to date it's running at 60%. We see ourselves as a human resource pool for our
Bank. I believe this strategy is worth considering in any call centre in any industry. Is there a better way to become well versed in your business
than to talk with 100 or more of your customers every day for a year or two?

If this strategy doesn't fit your particular situation, there are many other good reasons to view turnover positively. Here's a few to consider:
Attitude:  If your hiring is done right, new agents will bring positive attitudes to your centre.  We've found that new agents are generally very
receptive to change, and we all know, change is a way of life in call centres.
Enthusiasm:  Don't exclude students when hiring new agents. You may have to work their school hours into your schedule, but once this is accomplished,
they are receptive to flex hours which is a plus for most call centres...and, they are full of enthusiasm. How long has it been since you
heard a positive buzz on your floor?  Students do that for you. Another plus...many will return to you when they have completed their education.
Training:  Turnover means new, fresh minds to challenge your training group, and challenged minds become more creative.
Morale:  Yes, morale can improve with high turnover. We've proved it in our centre. Our employee commitment index is the 10 highest in our bank (of 700
groups measured) and best of groups with more than 100 people. As we all know, call centres are not expected to lead the way in morale measures.

There are other good reasons to view turnover positively, but these, to me, are significant ones, worthy of mention. The most important message I can
provide is "start looking at, and talking of turnover in a positive light".
Be a leader in this regard. When the Manager sets the climate, employees
respond.


submitted by:
John Carver,
Canadian winner of the 1999 Global Call Centre Manager of the Year Award
Bank of Montreal, MasterCard Division.
E-mail John.Carver@bmo.com


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