What Your Agents Aren't Telling You About Working in a Call Center

What Agents Aren’t Telling You About Working in a Call Center

Average Americans spend five years of their lives being bored. And, what’s rated as THE number one most boring task that sucks up years of everyone’s life? We’ll let you in on the secret. Watching water boil and waiting for paint to dry is NOT as boring or taxing on a person’s mental state as waiting on hold for customer service. Out of all the painfully boring experiences in life, people tag this as number one.

As you can imagine, this preconceived notion about the state of customer service means people aren’t all that eager to speak to the helpful representatives on the other side of their phone or computer. And because the occasional dreadful service interaction created an entire stigma of negativity for the industry, your agents take the brunt of that negativity from your customers.

Your agents are on the front lines fielding phone calls and ferociously typing to answer live chat and email messages as quickly as possible. All the while trying to help customers who are either A). bored out of their minds (literally) after waiting on hold, B). overcome with frustration, or C). in a rush to get their problem solved ASAP with little to no effort on their part.

We wanted to see what goes on behind the scenes. So, we pulled some intel from a variety of review sites and forums to get a glimpse at untold agent stories. We’re sharing with you, so you can learn what your team struggles with, and how you can help.

Here are three things we found that agents aren’t telling you about working in a call center.

Interested to see some of these stories first hand? You can find them here.

1. They get blamed for user error.

Agents have to problem-solve for user error, and it negatively impacts their agent experience. Sometimes the user error was simply because of poor training on the company’s end, and a quick conversation with an agent that knew what she was talking about brought the clarity the customer needed. But other times, customers misused a product or were completely careless, and they still expected agents to solve their problem. And if the agent couldn’t solve the problem, they were blamed for the carelessness of the customer.

That time a microwave turned pink.

One woman microwaved her nail polish, and it exploded, ruining her microwave. She called customer service and asked them to replace her microwave because it was still under warranty. When the agent told her that her warranty didn’t cover incidents surrounding misuse of the product, she was, to say the least, mad. And she wasn’t just mad at the situation, but at the agent, nonetheless.

What you can do about it:

Implement better customer training. Work together with other departments in your company to create training manuals and helpful guides for customers. Push for better training and upfront contracts that are clear and concise for customers. Have a team dedicated to checking in on new customers to see how satisfied they are with their recent purchase. Take some of the burden off your agents, and be a leader who drives the whole company to solve customer problems.

2. Micromanaging isn’t the kind of management they need.

We’ve talked a lot about the need for frequent coaching in your contact center.

But, frequent coaching doesn’t mean you need to micromanage your employees. Looking at agent stories, there are so many agents who complain that every move they make is monitored and every call that goes a tad beyond average call time is scrutinized. They feel that metrics are not only unobtainable, but they’re constantly a point of contention. You can make agents aware of areas where they can improve without creating a culture of fear and negativity. Agents want the freedom to do their jobs and help customers the right way, and sometimes that means missing a metric or two. But, they still want you to be available when they DO need help, too.

The daily drive by.

An agent has been working in a call center for eight months, and his manager pops up every time one of his calls extends past the 15-minute mark. His manager scolds him for being on the phone too long, then when he promptly hangs up to please his manager, he’s scolded again for not solving the customer’s case during the first interaction. Meanwhile, when the agent takes a call and begins to work through a scenario he’s unfamiliar with, his manager is nowhere to be found. The agent has questions, but he doesn’t have resources or a leader to help him answer those questions. So, his metrics are once again squashed. This isn’t the time to dish out repercussions for lengthy calls. Instead, managers should look at why the call took so long. Is there an empowerment issue for the agent? Or, are there gaps in the agent’s training that need to be addressed?

What you can do about it:

Use positivity to coach your agents frequently. In-line training lets you coach often without hovering over your agents. You can send them quick feedback and words of encouragement after interactions, so you can keep tabs on what’s happening, while not being too overbearing. Emphasize the positive interactions your agents have, not the negative ones. Don’t buzz around the office like a fly your agents wish they could swat. Schedule time to discuss metrics when needed, but don’t hound agents about numbers every single day. Remind agents and your team of overarching goals, and encourage them to always do better. And be available and approachable when your agents need help, so they have the resources to always do better.

3. Poor interdepartmental communication creates blockers for agents.

When departments aren’t aligned on their goals, customer communications, or promotional efforts, agents have to deal with the repercussions. This might mean that customers get information your service team doesn’t know about. So, when a customer reaches out with a question, your agents don’t know how to answer it. Or, it could be that customers reach out about certain promotions, new features and benefits, etc., and they get information that isn’t accurate because the right stakeholders weren’t involved in the internal communications. Your agents then have to fix a problem that shouldn’t have occurred in the first place.

A pale of empty promises.

Let’s say, for instance, that a member of the sales team isn’t aware of a promotion the marketing team launched. So then, a sales member unintentionally misleads a customer. This misinformation causes problems for the customer service team. False promises or wrong coupon codes leave the sales team member with an upset customer. They’re likely to send the customer over to the customer service department to fix the issue. Then, your agents have to deal with the frustrations and come up with a solution that benefits both your customer and the company. That’s a lot of pressure.

What you can do about it:

Encourage your team and team leaders to communicate more frequently with other departments, and do the same. Communication doesn’t always have to be formal. You can drop by their section of the building, send a few emails, or even chat in the break room to start building more relationships. Take it a step further. Hold meetings with company stakeholders, or send informative company-wide communications when you have news to share. Keep other leaders informed about what’s happening in your contact center, and encourage them to follow pace with their department’s communications, too.

Understandably, with a negative perception of customer service, customer interactions can come with frustrations for your agents. But, listening to your agents and coaching the right way can help your agents experience more of the special joys and perks of the job, instead. There are dozens of untold stories about your agents’ daily experience – tune in to what’s really happening, so you can change their stories for the better.