Overcoming Call Center Agent Challenges

By | September 18th, 2015

We’ve all spent a few minutes on hold waiting to speak to someone from customer service or technical support. Okay, maybe more than just a few minutes. It’s often a dreaded experience, a last resort after scouring the Internet for answers to your questions involving a product, whether it’s your computer or cell phone, a kitchen appliance, or perhaps a problem with a purchase online. We often initiate the call in frustration, perhaps even anger. How we complete that call, and how we feel about the product and company behind the product or service, is largely a result of a) how easy or frustrating the wait was to speak with someone, and, more importantly, b) our experience speaking with the representative for the company (usually a call center agent).

Now, let’s turn the tables. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the call center agent and the call center manager. Imagine what their day is like, what their biggest challenges are, and what is expected of them.

I recently undertook a project to call just under 300 people to qualify them for a technology purchase. It was an interesting experience and I learned much from it. True, it wasn’t the same challenge as being a call center agent, handling incoming calls of frustrated customers. But I was asking people for a few minutes of their time to answer a few questions, and I was probably one of many people who barrage technology professionals to buy products. Surprisingly, no one was nasty to me. The worst that happened was a few people hung up on me, and more than a few people brushed me off with the claim of being too busy (probably true). But 45% of the people (more than expected) did take a few minutes to listen to my questions, and a few who were qualified even answered them.

The organization ICMI (International Customer Management Institute) has actually studied call centers and their agents, and offers performance improvement consulting and training. ICMI’s research shows that contact center agents have the most potential to affect a customer’s experience, either positively or negatively. So it’s perhaps surprising that most businesses:

  • View their contact center as a cost, rather than a driver of business and customer retention
  • Provide inadequate investment in tools to make contact center agents more productive
  • Expect agent loyalty, yet don’t invest to achieve it

The white paper “The Ugly Truth: You Suffer From Agent Apathy” explores the challenges faced by most call centers today, and how call center agent morale directly affects customer experience and agent performance. It presents and recommends the corollary: that improving agent experience can actually reduce the costs associated with agent turnover, while simultaneously increasing customer retention.

Quantifying the value of investing in improving call center agent experience requires a serious analysis of customer lifetime value: measuring the true costs of agent onboarding and acknowledging the value of customer retention vs. the cost of acquiring new customers.

Download this white paper to learn more about the importance of improving your call center tools.