3 Things most call centres are getting wrong

What most call centres are getting wrong

3 Things most call centres are getting wrong

Contact centres are still an essential part of any business dealing with high volume B2C sales or service. No matter how sophisticated your systems are, there will always be a need somewhere to bridge the gap between humans and technology – the demand may be lower, but there’s no getting away from the fact that we are all human beings (although I have met one or two who I wasn’t sure about!).

Anyone who has ever managed a contact centre will be aware that they are also expensive, time-intensive and require a level of multi-tasking that is well outside of the norm for most other environments.  Anyone who has ever worked in one will agree that the role of a contact centre agent is stressful, demanding and requires a vast amount of knowledge. They will also tell you that in general contact centre staff are seen as the bottom of the chain – undervalued, underpaid and always the last to find out whats going on despite being the first line of contact for customers.

The way contact centres are operated is all wrong!

‘’Get it right every time, for every customer’’ is a pretty simple goal…but ‘’do it faster, with little to no training time, whilst saving money and monitor the crap out of every person in there in order to be efficient’’ – that’s something that most contact centre managers are expected to achieve.

This creates an obsession with metrics – and the wrong focus on the wrong metrics creates routines that damage the company. Give an agent an incentive or target on call handling time and they will compromise quality to rush through the call. Give them a ‘’balanced scorecard’’ of multiple targets and they will likely disengage and switch off. A disengaged workforce = Call avoidance, high sickness, poor attrition and when the you-know-what hits the fan they are unlikely to want to go the extra mile to help out.

“In most cases, the answer to poor performance in a contact centre is more control, more rules and more restrictions by management.”

Team leaders are forced to spend more time monitoring their agents’ every move than developing and coaching them. This, of course, does NOT make the operation more efficient. It disengages people further and creates a whole lot of stress, micromanagement and a big expensive headache!

There are a number of things that fundamentally need to change within the contact centre industry:

1. The obsession with targeting people on every available measurable metric

Pick one metric for the department that influences all of the other metrics.   Measure it in the right way, analyse it in the right way and get board level managers to be involved. A perfect example in a typical service centre environment is Customer Satisfaction. Everyone agrees that its a key metric.

Dissatisfied customers will monitor and measure every metric that counts and if you look at it in the right way you will pick up on all the defects in your processes, training and skillsets. Correcting those will improve just about every measurable metric. Have the CEO read all escalated customer complaints – once it’s on his/her radar and the impact is made clear then things will get resolved pretty darn quickly.

2. The toxic environment that is the Call Centre.

Agents are told what to say, when to say it and how to say it. They are told when to take their breaks, they are told when they will be working – even their toilet breaks are monitored. In a nutshell, they are rarely permitted to really think for themselves.

They have little to no control over their own environment or working practices yet they have more targets on more metrics than probably any other employee at that level. They burn out, disengage and then complain to anyone who will listen before leaving the company, a toxic trail lingering behind them like a fart in an elevator.

RE-ENGAGE THEM!!! Involve them in the process – take their feedback and invite them to do the same. Give them control over their environment –and treat them like grown-ups! Teach them how to communicate in the right way and make sure this is embedded within the culture of the organisation. Welcome and reward good suggestions. Allow them to think for themselves. It’s not an easy transition to make but its worth doing.

Finally, factor in training and 1-2-1’s in shrinkage figures, don’t leave it out to be ‘’more efficient’’ – in the long run it will come back to bite you.

3. The poor pay scale/bums on seats approach to recruitment.

Let’s look at the role of a contact centre agent:

  • A contact centre agent represents your brand – whether that’s complaint handling, general customer service, sales or support. That’s a big deal. Through a multitude of channels.
  • They are also expected to know everything about your company and its processes, products, services etc. EVERYTHING
  • Their stakeholders are many – internal as well as the customer base. They have demands placed on them and expectations to be met by just about every other department within the company.
  • They work across a range of channels – many of them written so they need a good command of spoken and written English.
  • They generally receive close to minimum wage
  • Many recruitment agencies will literally send anyone with a pulse for a contact centre role (don’t deny it!!)

Think about the skill set of your front line agents – profile your top performers. Be specific with recruiters and make sure that you have clearly outlined what you’re looking for. Recruit people with the skills that are hardest to train – eg a natural ability to solve problems and a genuinely helpful nature for customer care.

Put a package together that rewards high performance with a progressive salary scale. Reward ideas and initiative. Create a culture of learning, thinking and getting it done.  Give everyone 1 target – 1 metric. 1 area of focus that links in and impacts all other areas.

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Tracy Trew
About Tracy Trew 1 Article

Tracy Trew is a highly experienced, high energy customer service leader/troubleshooter.


A specialist in process improvement, performance improvement and employee engagement experience within the contact centre /service based / retail industries, Tracy is available for consultancy and project work across the globe.

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