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Top 8 reasons why call centre agents leave their jobs

Working in call centres is challenging at the best of times. Call centre roles are highly desirable entry level jobs but often lack variety. They often pay poorly and do not offer vocational training and development. As a result, call centres have some of the worst staff attrition rates in South Africa and this presents a major challenge for HR teams that are responsible for recruitment and retention of call centre agents. 

To learn more about the different types of call centres and their attrition rates read our recent blog: Why do Call Centres have the worst attrition rates in South Africa?

Despite tough working conditions, call centres are one of the only growing sectors in our slowing economy. This is largely driven by a healthy financial services sector and improved attractiveness of South Africa as an international BPO destination.

Increased competition has seen call centres poaching staff from each other. Losing experienced staff who have started performing well is painful and hiring and training new employees is time consuming and costly. To remain competitive, call centres will need to do better at retaining their agents.

Giraffe has identified 8 reasons for attrition in call centres:

Through extensive work with call centres, Giraffe has identified the top 8 reasons for attrition. This blog is part one of a two-part series that unpacks the root causes of why good employees leave. Identifying these is the first step towards tackling the attrition problem.

Reason #1: Call centres are typically a ‘pathway’ job for new entrants in the job market

The vast majority of call centres agents have no more than a matric certificate. Only 3% of agents were found to have no matric qualification. The remaining 13% were found to have a tertiary qualification. Effectively this means that call centres are a ‘pathway’ job for new entrants in the job market, who earn their stripes for a year and then try to move on to greater things. Few new entrants plan to make a career in a call centre. As such attrition rates are naturally high in both inbound and outbound environments.

Reason #2: Low compensation

We’ve established that call centres are typically comprised of younger, medium-skilled individuals who are at an early stage of their careers. These candidates are usually in abundant supply, so call centres are generally characterised by low pay. Compensation has been found to be the primary reason of employee turnover in most call centres with these low pay levels being linked to dissatisfaction, absenteeism and increased turnover. Some outbound, sales call centres fail to pay even a basic salary.

Reason #3: Unstable income or compensation

We have seen particularly high attrition in both inbound and outbound environments where agent compensation is not predictable.

  • In Inbound environments, for example, agents whose shift work is variable will see a variability in their monthly earnings. Since these employees are paid an hourly rate, they are beholden to the shift schedule that determines their monthly compensation. This variability can be very stressful and demotivating.
  • In outbound organisations, sales agents are more often than not compensated on a commission only basis. This means that agents who fail to make sales will not be paid a salary. This will hopefully change with the recent introduction of the National Minimum Wage Act which requires companies to pay their staff R20 for each ordinary hour worked

Reason #4: High transport costs

Urban fragmentation, segregation & spatial inequality is still very much a reality for the medium-skilled workforce in South Africa. The truth is that most South Africans live very far from their jobs and spend a significant amount of their income commuting. Given this, as soon as they find something closer to home, they jump.

Giraffe has worked with numerous call centres and identified the most successful strategies to improve staff retention in call centres. In our latest insights article, we share some of the key learnings.

Download the Giraffe insights paper on 7 staff retention strategies for call centres here 

In this article we look at: 

  • The different types of call centre in South Africa and their attrition rates
  • The root causes of attrition in call centres
  • Tried and tested ways that call centres can improve staff retention


To find out more about the reasons for attrition and what call centres can do about it, download our article on 7 ways call centres can reduce attrition

About Giraffe

Giraffe is a job board that automatically screens candidates so you don’t have to. Giraffe enables South African businesses to recruit medium-skilled staff faster and more affordably than any other recruitment method. Because Giraffe has automated the boring parts of the recruitment process– candidate sourcing and screening– business owners and recruiters can focus on more important tasks like interviewing the best candidates and managing retention. Simply post a job on Giraffe. Let Giraffe automatically screen candidates as they apply. Log in, see which candidates have passed your screening, listen to their voice notes and hire the best ones! 

To post a job on Giraffe click here

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