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The Exit Interview

The exit interview is part survey and part sales pitch. The
objectives are to find out why customers are leaving, and to prevent
them from doing so. It is particularly appropriate for companies
whose customers have "accounts," -- banks, brokerages, internet
service providers, cable television, and mutual funds, to name a
few.
The interview is administered by an employee who receives a
request to close an account. The interview can be conducted either
in-person or via telephone. The process is relatively simple.
Step 1 -- Diagnose the Problem
A short series of questions should be asked of the customer to
determine why she is leaving.
Step 2 -- Empathize
If any of the reasons for leaving are related to issues within the
control of the company, such as product or service problems, or
pricing concerns, the employee should apologize for the problem,
state the importance of the customer relationship, and ask if there
is anything that could be done to keep the customer from leaving.
"Scripts" should be written for the entire process so that the
employee does not have to ad lib. Different scripts can be written
for different types of problems. The employees who administer the
exit interview should rehearse the scripts in advance of conducting
exit interviews.
Step 3 -- Make a Counteroffer

It is possible that the customer will change her mind about leaving
after receiving an apology in Step 2. If not, it is appropriate to make
a counteroffer. Counteroffers should be scripted, and related to the
specific problem identified in Step 1. A typical counteroffer to a
pricing-related concern might be something as simple as "We really
hate to lose your business. Would you stay with us if I offered you
50% off your next six months of service?"
Step 4 -- The Follow-up Letter
Whether or not the employee is successful in keeping the employee
from leaving, a follow-up letter should be sent to the customer
within one day. If the customer has agreed to stay, the letter should
state how much the company values the customer's business. If
the customer left for reasons within the control of the company, the
letter should extend another counteroffer.
Step 5 -- Analyze the Data
The data collected should be entered into a database and analyzed
to quantify the main reasons customers want to leave
.
Step 6 -- Make Adjustments to Business Practices
The data analysis should clearly identify areas in need of
improvement. Management should address these areas, which may
consist of the treatment customers receive from employees,
product problems, pricing, etc.

Embellishments
Not all customers are profitable. If you keep a database on the
profitability of individual customers, you may want to write more
aggressive scripts for very profitable customers, and let
unprofitable customers leave without a counteroffer.
You can measure the effectiveness of each counteroffer, and make
adjustments to maximize customer retention.
Exit Interviews
The HR Solutions' exit interviews are a fully custom, four-part
assessment system which can enable organizations to more
accurately and more confidentially measure the reasons why its
employees are leaving.
Results
HR Solutions' exit interviews assessment can result in:
Improved Employee Retention/Reduced Turnover.
Increased objectivity, both perceived and real, since the Exit
Interviews Assessment would be handled by a fair and nonpartisan third-party.
Benchmarking against industry norms which HR Solutions
maintains for the majority of the exit interview survey items.
Additional benchmarking for exiting employees' scores against
overall Employee Opinion Survey results to determine if employee

satisfaction impacts turnover. If your organization does not


currently administer an Employee Opinion Survey, HR Solutions
can provide this service.
The exit interview data can be run on a quarterly or bi-annual
basis. This on-going feedback will allow you to determine and
quantify where improvements have had a positive impact, as well
as identify where other improvements are needed. In addition, this
comparison will exhibit any trends which have formed regarding
employee dissatisfaction.
The multiple sources of data gathered throughout the process can
provide your organization with a richer foundation of information.
A savings of time for your Human Resources department, since
the Exit Interviews Assessment can now be outsourced.
Dimensions
Each item in the survey is combined with other related survey
items to produce dimensions. The exit interviews Assessment can
solidly measure reasons employees are leaving your organization
in the following key areas:
Supervision and Management
Work Satisfaction
Workload Distribution and Schedule Flexibility
Salary

Benefits
Training and Development
Career Advancement Opportunities
Organizational Culture
Organizational and Work Group Communication
Assessment Process
The assessment process can include up to four major components:
the Exit Interview, a Comparison of Jobs Questionnaire, Employee
Interviews, and the HR Solutions Exit Analysis Report (HEARTM).
HR Solutions gives you the option of selecting any or all of these
components, dependent upon your organization's specific
information needs. The HR Solutions Exit Analysis Report
(HEARTM) component is included with each option. A description
of the four major components are as follows:
A. The Exit Interview
The survey will be fully customized based upon your organization's
specifications. Typically, the Exit Interview will ask the exiting
employees about themselves, their reasons for leaving, their
satisfaction on several aspects of the organization, and if any
changes would have enticed them to remain at your organization.
B. Comparison of Jobs Questionnaire
Ninety days after the exiting employees complete the Exit Interview,

they are mailed a Comparison of Jobs Questionnaire. This


questionnaire asks the employees to compare their new job to their
previous job with your organization, examining whether the "grass
truly is greener."
C. Employee Interviews
This is a critical step in completing the Exit Interview process. It
requires a sample of exiting employees to be contacted by an HR
Solutions consultant for an exit interview. Typically, the interviews
are conducted by phone. During the interview, the exiting
employees will be probed for more detailed and specific
information regarding their employment experience at your
organization. HR Solutions recommends a minimum sample size
(dependant upon the size of your organization) of exiting
employees be interviewed to collect valid data.
D. HR Solutions Exit Analysis Report (HEARTM)
The HR Solutions Exit Analysis Report (HEARTM) contains the
tabulated survey data in statistical and bar graph format. This
report is included with each option and will allow your organization
to identify the necessary steps to take in order to prevent future
employee turnover. The report can be designed to include any
number of demographic or work group breakdowns, which gives
your organization the luxury of identifying which work groups may
be more vulnerable to future employee turnover. Most clients order
their HEARTM report on a quarterly basis.
Getting to the truth in exit interviews
"Someday when I leave this place, I'm really going to tell them what

I think!" If you've ever had a boss you disliked or a job you hated,
these words probably sound familiar.
When you finally had that exit interview, did you tell the whole truth
about why you were leaving? Probably not.
Interestingly, many departing employees don't take the chance
when they get it. In fact, a recent study by Joseph Zarandona and
Michael Camuso, found that employees have no real incentive to be
honest during their exit interviews. Since they are on their way out,
they feel that they will not directly benefit from any action taken as
a result of their honesty.
Also, many employees follow the "golden rule" of organizational
exiting: "Leave on good terms."
Exit interviews may encourage an employee to provide false
information for other reasons. They may fear that negative
comments will be made to their new employer or that they'll get a
poor reference. If they hope to be reemployed by the original
organization, they will guard their comments closely.
In addition, exit interviews often give employees the impression
that the organization is not really interested in why they are leaving.
The interview seems merely another mandatory procedure that
must be completed before a final paycheck is issued.
In these cases, exiting employees usually provide professionally
acceptable responses for their action: "They made me an offer with
substantially more money," not "Career advancement here is
limited."

To find out how truthful exiting employees are, Zarandona and


Camuso studied 99 randomly selected employees who had
voluntarily resigned 18 months earlier from a major engineering,
construction, and consulting firm.
All 99 had been through exit interviews and stated their reasons for
leaving. These former employees were then contacted by telephone
and led to believe that they had been randomly selected by an
independent research company for a general quality-of-work-life
study. They were given the same five reasons for leaving-work
environment, position responsibilities, career advancement, salary
and benefits, and supervision-and asked to select the one that
weighed most heavily in their decision to leave their company.
What do you suppose they found? You guessed it. They revised
their reasons for leaving. At the time they left, for example, 38
percent pointed to salary and benefits as the primary reason; 18
months later only 12 percent responded the same way. Four
percent had originally said they were leaving for supervisory
reasons, yet this percentage increased to 24 percent 18 months
later.
In the article, "The Exit Interview: Effective Tool or Meaningless
Gesture?" (by Pamela Garretson and Kenneth Teel, Personnel
Magazine, August, 1982) 18 major organizations were sampled to
determine their exit interview procedures.
The authors were surprised to find that just slightly over half make
any use of the information obtained in the interviews. Perhaps the
data isn't used because it isn't reliable. So why bother collecting
the data if it won't be used?

The following ideas will help organizations collect useful


information to help them make needed changes in their policies,
supervision and culture:
1. Develop a standard interview format. Ensure that personnel
representatives ask the same questions during each interview in a
structured sequence.
2. Conduct the exit interview anonymously. Companies can employ
outside firms to hold discussions and later submit raw data. They
can also schedule discussions after employees have separated.
Under these conditions, employees will not be afraid to tell the
truth, since they will have no fear of retribution from their
employer.
3. During the interview, convey to exiting employees that
management is concerned with the actual reasons for their leaving
and will use this information in a constructive, not retaliatory,
manner.
4. As a part of the procedure, have the personnel representative
speak with the exiting employees supervisor and co-workers to
help determine the actual reasons for termination. The company
will then have a global picture of the reasons surrounding the
employees decision to leave.
5. Conduct studies like the one described above to analyze internal
exit information.
Many companies are paying big bucks to hire corporate culture
gurus who interview and survey employees. It seems to me, that
these companies are missing a golden opportunity to get honest

input on a regular basis by simply using a smarter exit interview


procedure.