2015

When we see New Year’s resolutions for the call center are we to believe that there is something wrong with our call center today? I believe that in most call centers today there is nothing seriously wrong with your call center.  Sure there is room for improvements to be made but nothing so earth shattering that your call center will make the Top Ten list on this evening’s news.

The resolutions that I think are important are the ones that agents are considering in this New Year.

  • Look for a new job;
  • Change their role within the current contact center;
  • Work from home;
  • Change the schedule adherence;
  • Become more efficient and effective;
  • Become more involved in the contact center.

Depending on the contact center and the company agent turnover can be a challenge for the manager.  Agents can be looking for a new job and the second week of the New Year is the prime time that agents begin to look.  The new job may have nothing to do with the call center; it is a personal change the agent is looking to make.

The question that you the manager should be asking yourself is why are my agents looking to leave.  Here are five reasons why agents leave:

  • Stress.  The calls they have to take with disgruntled customers who take out their anger on the agent can be very stressful.  The agent maybe taking calls for policy or order cancelations which to the business is lost revenue.  The pressure put on the agent to not lose the business is stressful.
  • Pay. Agent pay in some contact centers can be slightly above minimum wage.  Agents that have been on board for more than a year can now start showing their job loyalty, knowledge and skills to others.  If they are able to find a higher paying job they will leave their current stressful position.
  • Work load. What is the policy and procedure for the agent for each call/email/chat? Does the contact center change throughout the year adding more work to the agent?  In a call center that has turnover does that work fall into the hands of the remaining agents without the agent getting additional pay?  From the agent point of view the changes, the procedures and the pressure because of too few agents is causing a stressful position and enough to make them look for a new position.
  • Schedule adherence. There are always two points of view to schedule adherence.  Agents believe in flexibility.  If they meet the adherence for the day, week or month they believe that they have done nothing wrong.  Yet the agent feels their supervisor is all over them because they were not meeting the call center schedule.  Even these minor differences are enough for agents to leave the call center.
  • Not feeling valued by the company or manager.  Agents that do not believe they are getting paid what they should be paid will use this as a reason to leave. Not hearing from their supervisor that they have done a good job when they have done something over and above the typical standards for the call center.  Agents need to feel they are valued or they will leave the contact center.

Contact centers have many different roles to fill.  At the agent level the position can change based on the agents skills, flexibility, personality and desire.  Agents that believe they are in a stressful or lower paying position will be looking to make a change internally to an opening.  Allowing agents to make internal moves will help reduce the overall agent turnover ratio.

Managers should always consider filling positions with internal people rather than go outside to fill the role.  This may seem like a standard operating procedure yet today many companies still first look outside of the company to fill a position.  The managers are comfortable with the people they have and the roles they fill.  These managers do not want to move them around and create internal problems.  These same people do not understand the value of these moves and the overall cost reductions that come with it.

Agents look to move around for multiple reasons by allowing this happen the agent turnover ratio for the entire call center is reduced which saves time and profitability for the business.

Over the last 15 years the number of people working from home has increased by 41% according to Global Workplace Analytics.  There are many reasons for this change including business cost savings, employee flexibility, reduced employee turnover, employee loyalty, attracts and retain quality people and absenteeism reduction.

The challenge for the work at home agent depends on the business, industry and the calls/emails/chats the agent is managing.  Highly secure businesses such as financial do not use many at-home agents.  Other contact centers that do not require this security or confidentiality continue to explore ways to benefit from the at-home contact center.

Schedule adherence is a metric used by the call center to determine if the agents are working the amount of time they are scheduled to work. When agents do not meet their adherence the work falls onto others or negative results occur in areas that the manager does not want. Lack of adherence can result in higher abandon rates, lower service levels, a drop in CSAT and FCR rates.
Regardless, agents continue to look for changes to the schedule adherence because of the pressure that is put on them.  Agents often talk about work that they are required to do yet are not allowed to log out to do this work.  They have to multi-task on their job and turn in accurate results.

From a manager point of view this is common sense and expected of all agents.  But in some call center industries this creates a high turnover ratio.  Contact center industry standard suggest that agents should work between 60% – 80% on calls/email/chat per day.  Less than the 60% results in boredom and above 80% create a stressful working condition for the agents.  On a daily basis it has been recommended that the manager give agents their quiet time to help them relieve themselves of a stressful day.

New Year’s resolutions from agents can also be on the positive side where they look to improve their efficiencies and effectiveness at the job.  Some may say this has ulterior motives such as raises, promotions and job security.  However, there are people that actually want to do right by the company they love working for and managers should embrace these agents.

Agents that have this in mind look for ways to do more for their group and become a go-to-person within the call center.  They want to help others and not just be thought of as the leader in the group.  There is a difference between the two.  The ones that want to help are loyal respectful agents they are not necessarily looking to move on to a new position or company.  Leaders on the other hand may be someone that is looking to move up or on to another company.  If, as a manager, you see these personality changes within an agent you might want to look into this further to learn the final goal of that agent.

Another piece of the efficient and effective agent is the desire to treat customers with respect and truly want to help them. These agents end up with high CSAT ratings but can have a longer than the norm AHT.  The manager must decide what is more important CSAT or AHT.

These same agents want to show more respect and empathy to the customer.  These agents understand the value of the customer and do not think about “just doing my job”.  When these agents take this approach it is important that the manager respond with appreciation to these agents as it will continue to improve their performance and value to the contact center.

Supervisors will also find these agents trying to learn more about the products and services offered by the company, ask more about the actual customer and show the customer they truly care.  These multiple levels of change have tremendous positive results within the call center.  When agents make New Year’s resolutions that have a positive result on their job efforts it is up to the manager to take advantage of these changes.

New Year’s resolutions can be positive and negative for the contact center.  This does not mean there is a problem with the call center goals and objective.  Typically these resolutions are personal goals for the agent and often the results are positive for the business.  It is up to the manager to see these changes and show the appreciation to the agents.