Intense working conditions are the main cause for turnover rates as high as 80 per cent in some call centres.
A survey of more than 120 organisations and 250 call centres published by Incomes Data Services last week revealed the average rate was 20 per cent, slightly higher than the previous year’s figure of 18 per cent.
Of those questioned, 44 per cent claimed the intensity of the call centre environment was a major factor and around 39 per cent blamed competition from other employers for staff disloyalty.
Larger call centres with more than 150 employees were more than twice as likely as smaller ones to report retention problems, and the numbers reporting turnover difficulties were greatest in Scotland and lowest in Wales.
Suggestions for improving working conditions included integrating other tasks to allow agents periods away from the telephone and providing a games room, gym, restaurants and better parking facilities.
Report author Sarah Miller said, “Changing job descriptions so that people got a varied workload rather than spending all their time on the phone helped with retention.”
Other measures taken to attract and keep staff included extending career development opportunities, more flexible working options and offering permanent contracts to temporary staff.
The survey found there was a problem with recruitment with 30 per cent of call centres and employee turnover problems in 40 per cent.
The survey of employers such as Transco, BT, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Axa Insurance also revealed a massive expansion in the call centre industry.
Dr Michael Reddy, clinical psychologist and chairman of the Independent Counselling and Advisory Service, said, “To cut turnover, better support and training for team leaders is key. Some call centres have also introduced counsellors to support the needs of agents.”
By Richard Staines