Featured Image for the blog: The Secret Lives Of Contact Center Agents

Tucked away in a hidden corner of the internet, exists a forum that exposes what it’s really like to be a contact center agent. And, if you’ve ever wondered what your agents thought or said once the headset is off and their shift is over, this is where you would find it.

Free from the fear of repercussions, agents share uncensored opinions and stories of their daily lives within contact centers. They talk about everything from lack of training to frustration with unattainable KPIs. It’s no holds barred, uncensored, and nothing is off limits.

Reading through the thoughts and feelings of these agents is sobering. An uncomfortable realization starts to settle in, and your heart breaks. The stress and demands these agents face on a daily basis is destroying them, and they receive very little support from supervisors.

We want to bring these agents’ stories to light because they provide an unflinching look into what life is really like for a contact center agent. But, also because these agents deserve to have their pains acknowledged some place other than an anonymous forum.

For the sake of the agents’ privacy we won’t reveal the source and some comments have been edited.

Here are the secrets agents are keeping:

“If we do something right or go above and beyond, we never get praised for it. But, if our hold time is 10 seconds over or we fail to use the customer’s name twice during a call, we receive serious infractions and face potential corrective action. I truly believe this is a big reason our call center has a lot of turnover.”

“I was consistently hitting all my KPIs, and then suddenly they added several new metrics that we all needed to adhere to. Over 90% of us went from ‘exceeding expectations’ to ‘developing,’ and didn’t qualify for raises anymore.”

“I really want to quit my job. I’ve only stayed this long because I’m hoping to move into an internal, non-customer facing position. However, they are really difficult to get. I have constant anxiety and nothing seems to make it go away.”

“The message from management is pretty clear. If we don’t like it here, we should leave. There are plenty of unemployed people waiting to take our place. It feels like we’re all individually worthless.”

“My manager will sit with me and only point out all the mistakes that I make. When that happens, I feel so angry, ignorant, and apathetic…all at once. Honestly, I want to cry in those moments but, I’ve become so immune to the constant criticism from management and customers that I just go numb to cope.”

“Our supervisor decided to drastically increase the quota without explanation. They are impossible to reach. Any and every day we don’t meet the quota, we’re pulled aside for 30 minutes and basically threatened with formal write ups. It’s taking a major mental toll on me. Nobody in the department has been able to hit quota yet, and the threat of losing our jobs looms over our heads everyday. With little support, all we can do is try our hardest.”

“I hate everything about my job. I hate that I’m unable to step away without feeling watched. I hate that our targets are mostly out of reach, and if we don’t hit them, we’re immediately put on a performance improvement plan.”

“I got put on a performance improvement plan, and to avoid disciplinary action I had to meet 4 emails per hour and maintain a quality score of 85% or above. There were a lot of roadblocks during that time. Our CRM system constantly crashed and our emails would be lost. Our quality matrix is harsh and inconsistent minor mistakes would lead to you critically failing a monitor, and management who simply couldn’t give a crap about doing their jobs.”

What’s causing the misery?

There are obviously some big issues happening within contact centers that need to be addressed in order to improve the lives of agents. One of the most common complaints from agents are unattainable KPIs and lack of training. These go hand in hand, as more capable agents would lead to more efficient agents.

Studies show that supervisors are only able to spend 7% of their week coaching their teams, and spend the rest of their time doing administrative tasks. So, even if a supervisor has good intentions for their agents, they are doing the best they can with the time they have.

However, not all is lost. There are little changes contact centers can make now to improve morale and relieve agents and supervisors of some of their daily stressors. These strategies help supervisors find more time to support their agents and empower their agents to be more efficient.

Allow supervisors to train agents to do the smaller administrative tasks.
This has two main benefits – agents can learn new skills, which may open up new internal career opportunities, and supervisors will have more time to spend supporting and training their agents.

Survey agents to identify gaps in communication and training.
Many of the agent statements mentioned frustrations with unattainable KPIs. This is due to a lack of support, training, and communication. Rather than assuming agents are lazy or immediately defaulting to a performance improvement plan, survey agents to find out exactly what they’re struggling with, why they’re struggling, and what management can do to help.

Example questions:

  • Do you feel like your KPIs are fair? Which ones and why?
  • If you’re struggling to hit your targets, why and what can your supervisor do to help you be more successful?
  • What additional training do you need to be better at your job?

Re-evaluate your QA agent surveys.
QA surveys are meant to measure the quality in terms of internal metrics, but they also need to fairly measure the quality of service provided to the customer. Sometimes scorecards put too much weight on internal quality, and don’t really judge an agent on their ability to deliver quality service.

When this happens, agents feel nitpicked for little mistakes. They are caught in between what is right for the customer and what is needed to achieve a high QA score. They feel like their effort and performance are unfairly scored, which leads to disengaged, ineffective, and discouraged agents. And they start to look for other career opportunities.

If you feel like you are constantly putting agents on performance improvement plans, or if your agents express frustration about QA scores, it’s worth re-evaluating how you’re scoring performance. You can read more about this in our blog post “How To Improve Contact Center Quality Management Program.”

No more secrets.

The customer-first approach has turned many contact centers into highly controlled, stressful environments where meeting expectations is almost impossible for agents. The end goal of everything is to keep operations costs low and customer satisfaction high. But agents and supervisors are paying the price.

And that’s only half of the problem. Contact centers need to create an environment where agents feel they can share their frustrations and suggestions without fear of repercussions. These agents shouldn’t feel so helpless that their only option is to vent in an anonymous forum.

It’s never really been a secret that agents are unhappy, but the true depth of their despair is rarely acknowledged. But contact centers aren’t doing themselves any favors by ignoring the happiness of their agents because 92% of customers say that an agent’s perceived mood affects their experience.

By acknowledging and correcting agent frustrations, contact centers can leverage the agent experience to improve the customer experience which is the ultimate win-win.