Article week 15 – 2024

„Till retirement do us part“? – Employee Retention in Customer Service

Anyone who has ever sat in a call center agent’s seat and done this job knows how demanding and challenging it is. And the changes in customer needs and expectations have taken this job to a new level over the past 20 years. As an agent, you need to be an experienced professional with a high level of social, problem-solving and counselling skills so that customers are satisfied and perhaps even happy at the end of the conversation. Of course, a high level of motivation and stress resistance is also essential. For this responsible task, you need the Jack of all trades. After all, it’s about nothing less than customer satisfaction and loyalty and therefore the success of the company. 

When I started as a call center agent in a large corporation more than 20 years ago, I often heard the statement: „I won’t do this job forever!“. For many employees, it served more as a springboard into other departments or temporary employment until their actual career dream is realized. And that’s not counting the many students who were merely using this activity to finance their studies. Fluctuation and the loss of valuable expertise were therefore pre-programmed.

Back then, the reason for this was sometimes the high workload and pressure to perform, often combined with what was perceived as low pay. And even today, not much has changed. According to a study by the auditing and consulting company Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the fluctuation rate in the German call center industry was between 20 and 40 percent before coronavirus. Sounds like a lot? Yes, it does indeed. The fluctuation rate in call centers is the highest compared to other industries.

It will never be possible to avoid employees leaving the company. However, staff turnover and the associated personnel costs can at least be reduced. In addition, employee loyalty also ensures the quality of customer service, as it benefits from the expertise and experience that employees have acquired over the years.

Employee retention is the buzzword here. Today also known as employer branding.

The first thought that may creep into your mind is the issue of payment. This is of course an important factor, but not the only one. A study conducted by Capterra in 2023 on the subject of job satisfaction showed that salary is important to 46% of respondents. The majority of respondents cited fulfilling work and a good working atmosphere above pay.

So, if a company wants to retain its employees in the long term, it has more options for doing so than just tweaking their salaries. And being aware of this can be a real game changer, because employee retention takes place on four levels:

Rational level                                      e. g. bonus systems, working time models
Emotional level                                  e. g. appreciation, relationships with colleagues/managers
Perspective level                               e. g. career advancement, development
Normative Ebene                             e. g. values & objectives, clear vision

In the course of my professional life, I have heard and learnt from both colleagues and customers which aspects are considered most important for employee retention. They can be summarized as follows:

Equal treatment

Starting with salary structures and internal agreements (e.g. regulations on mobile working) through to the distribution of tasks. Equal treatment creates a level playing field and fairness and prevents competitive comparisons.

Transparency and communication

Secrets are necessary when it comes to planning birthday surprises. Secrets and a lack of communication in the working environment, on the other hand, can cause dissatisfaction and mistrust among the workforce and ultimately fuel unwelcome rumors. Employees are the driving forces behind customer service. They expect honest communication and rightly expect to be involved in what is happening in the company.

Participation and identification

Employees who identify with the company’s goals and the associated tasks are very valuable. This is because they often show more commitment, are more motivated and make their contribution to the company’s success. The foundation for identification with the company should already be laid during the onboarding of new employees by communicating the company’s DNA. This contains the values, corporate culture, history, vision and goals. However, the key to success here also lies in living this DNA and thus being credible. Involving employees and actively integrating them into the DNA strengthens the sense of belonging. Regular team/personal development measures, feedback discussions, surveys and involvement in strategic work can be good ways of doing this.


As in many other areas, there is no single truth when it comes to employee management. However, what is generally desired by employees and helps them to develop is individualized leadership. Not every employee wants more personal responsibility and autonomy in their job across the board. Just as not every employee needs precise work instructions and results checks on a daily basis. As a manager, it is therefore important to respond flexibly and individually to your employees, promote their strengths and understand what they need to perform well. Individual leadership characterized by open communication, appreciation and equality creates trust and integration.

In order to find out how employee satisfaction and loyalty are in your own customer service area, surveys can provide clear insights. The feedback can be used to identify the potential to increase employee loyalty to the company and reduce staff turnover, and therefore also personnel costs and quality losses.

Melanie Harth – Consultant


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