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Frontline Employees on Understaffed Teams Twice as Likely to Consider Quitting as Employees on Well-staffed Teams

Last updated:  February 27, 2023

Employees who interact directly with customers can make or break the customer experience; but only 57% believe their leaders are investing in their team

PROVO, Utah & SEATTLE, February 27, 2023 – Workers in customer-facing roles are stressed and nearly one-third (31%) think about quitting their job multiple times a month, according to new research from Qualtrics (Nasdaq: XM). More than two in five (44%) say their workloads have increased, and one-third say customers have become ruder over the past year.

While many customers’ first interaction with a brand may be online or through another digital channel, frontline employees such as retail sales associates, customer service agents and restaurant staff are typically the first human point of contact between customers and a business. They therefore play a major role in the overall customer experience. Bad customer experiences put up to 8% of sales at risk for organizations. Globally, this adds up to $3.1 trillion of sales at risk every year, according to research from Qualtrics XM Institute.

But challenges facing frontline employees could make it harder for companies to retain this critical part of their workforce. For example, 38% of these employees say they are stressed at work at least half the time, and 41% feel emotionally drained from their work. And despite the fact that nearly 60% say they got a pay raise in the last year, about half of those workers say it is harder to keep up with living expenses than it was a year ago. It’s worse for employees who haven’t received a pay raise; two-thirds of them say it’s harder to cover their expenses.

“Frontline employees are aptly named, often acting as the first – or only – point of human contact between a customer and a company, so their impact on the overall customer experience cannot be underestimated,” said Fabrice Martin, Head of Customer Experience Product at Qualtrics. “It’s essential that organizations provide their human frontline with resources to support their well-being and help them be more productive so they can consistently deliver excellent service and develop loyal customers.”

Key Takeaways for Leaders

This research reveals strategies to improve retention among frontline employees:

Demonstrate that leadership is investing in customer-facing teams

When workers don’t believe their company leaders invest in their team, they are more likely to seriously consider quitting. In fact, more than half of workers who do not feel supported by leadership are likely to think about leaving.

Be aware of the toll of being understaffed

Understaffing is a major contributing factor. Employees who say their team doesn’t have enough people to handle their workload are twice as likely to think about quitting multiple times a month, and 11% of workers who say their team is understaffed think about quitting daily.

Streamline responsibilities to boost frontline productivity
Dividing frontline workers’ attention among multiple channels such as social media, in-person customers and online service tickets can make matters worse for understaffed frontline teams. About 40% of employees who say their team isn’t well staffed also say there are too many channels for them to manage in their day-to-day work.

Give employees the opportunity to provide feedback

While 40% of employees say they are regularly asked to provide input on improving business processes, about one third (34%) of frontline employees say they aren’t. Asking for this type of feedback can help retain workers. Just 28% of workers who have the opportunity to weigh in frequently consider quitting, while 37% of employees who aren’t asked for their opinions do so.


Responses were collected from full- or part-time employees who primarily interact with customers for their job role, or oversee employees who do. There were more than 1,400 total respondents, with about 200 responses each from Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.

About Qualtrics

Qualtrics, the leader and creator of the experience management category, is a cloud-native software provider that helps organizations quickly identify and resolve points of friction across all digital and human touchpoints in their business – so they can retain their best customers and employees, protect their revenue, and drive profitability. More than 18,750 organizations around the world use Qualtrics’s advanced AI to listen, understand, and take action. Qualtrics uses its vast universe of experience data to form the largest database of human sentiment in the world. Qualtrics is co-headquartered in Provo, Utah and Seattle, and operates out of 28 offices globally. To learn more, please visit