Each month, I highlight one Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for service and support. I define the KPI, provide recent benchmarking data for the metric, and discuss key correlations and cause-and-effect relationships for the metric. The purpose of the column is to familiarize you with the KPIs that really matter to your organization and to provide you with actionable insight on how to leverage these KPIs to improve your performance!
This month, I examine annual agent turnover, which is the percentage of all agents that leave a support organization over the course of a year. Let’s say, for example, that the average agent headcount for your service desk is 15 and that 5 agents leave and must to be replaced during the year. The annual agent turnover would therefore be 5 ÷ 15 = 33.3%. The metric is equally applicable to the service desk and desktop support, but the examples and illustrations I use in this month’s article are specific to the service desk.
Some organizations make a distinction between good turnover and bad turnover. Bad turnover is when an agent leaves the company altogether because of performance issues or to pursue other job opportunities. So-called good turnover, by contrast, is when an agent who is otherwise performing well is moved or promoted to a non-customer facing position in the service desk or accepts another position in the company that is outside of the service desk. Both types of turnover are included in the calculation of annual agent turnover because both types of turnover create a vacancy that must to be filled.
Why It’s Important
Agent turnover can be detrimental to a service desk because it typically results in a seasoned agent being replaced by a less experienced agent. When there is turnover, the knowledge and experience of the agent leaving the service desk walks out the door with them. For those who have worked in a service desk, you know how painful this can be! Industry estimates place the cost of replacing an agent at more than $12,000 in North America. This includes the cost of identifying, screening, recruiting, and training a new agent, as well as the indirect cost of lower productivity that results when a new agent encounters the learning curve of a new job.
In a previous Metric of the Month, I showed that one of the primary cause-and-effect relationships in the service desk is between agent job satisfaction and agent turnover: high job satisfaction is strongly correlated with low agent turnover rates and vice versa. The reasons for this are fairly obvious. When agents are satisfied with their work life, they tend to stay put. When they are unhappy at work, they are more likely to leave. It is important to note, however, that turnover can be controlled to some degree by proactively managing agent job satisfaction. The previous article also showed that effective career planning, training, and coaching can drive high levels of agent job satisfaction and reduce turnover accordingly.
Benchmark Data for Annual Agent Turnover
It is common knowledge that technical service and support is a high turnover industry. Some of this turnover is due to the high stress nature of the job. While job stress may be a non-controllable factor, certain other factors, as mentioned above, can be managed and controlled to reduce and minimize turnover.
Technical service and support is a high turnover industry. The average turnover is nearly 40% per year!
As the figure below shows, the average turnover in the industry is nearly 40% per year! This means that the average service desk agent stays for just 2 ½ years before moving on.
The next figures show how agent turnover affects some of the most important KPIs in the service desk. Since agent turnover is inversely related to agent experience levels, one can deduce from these benchmarks that less experienced agents have a negative impact on both first contact resolution rate and customer satisfaction.
In general, the more experienced the agent pool, the higher the first contact resolution rate and customer satisfaction will be. It turns out that agent turnover is not only costly, it also has an adverse impact on service desk performance!
Please join us for next month’s Metric of the Month: Chat Metrics Overview, where I will discuss some of the more important KPIs for managing the chat channel.
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Jeff Rumburg is the winner of the 2014 Ron Muns Lifetime Achievement Award, and was named to HDI’s Top 25 Thought Leaders list for 2016. As co-founder and CEO of MetricNet, Jeff has been retained as an IT service and support expert by some of the world’s largest corporations, including American Express, Hewlett Packard, Coca-Cola, and Sony. He was formerly CEO of the Verity Group and Vice President of Gartner. Jeff received his MBA from Harvard University and his MS in Operations Research from Stanford University. Contact Jeff at
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