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Problems Facing Call Centers

Sales Management

Just as productivity metrics fail to fully measure the effectiveness and performance of call centers; they also fail to solve, or even recognize, the most pressing problems call centers face. For example, low FCR and high abandon rates are problems; but so too are low levels of customer satisfaction, high employee attrition and the inability of call center agents to sell. Productivity metrics simply fail to address, or even acknowledge, these basic problems. Call centers must address qualitative and human issues, such as:

Poor Call Performance – How skilled are your call center employees on the phone? If you could score their customer service or sales skills on scale of 1-10 (10 meaning they’re supremely skilled, and 1 meaning they couldn’t sell something to their own mother) where would you rate them? What about customer service? How would you rate their customer service?

Whether you want to believe it or not, the public believes that call centers provide poor customer service. You can almost hear the average person sigh in frustration when they realize they’ve reached a call center. For many Americans, call centers represent the stereotype of bad customer service.  The public believes that call centers are the epitome of what’s wrong with corporate America.

To be frank, some of that perception is accurate and some of it isn’t. Call centers get a bit of a bad rap, but some call center employees are simply…’not good’ on the phone. Most people could share a personal experience of calling a call center and being stunned by the poor level of service they received.

Let’s leave it at this: it’s a safe bet that the quality of your employees’ phone interactions is not as good as it could be.

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Employee Turnover – Depending on the call center type and size, employee turnover rates can range from 20% a year to over 100% a year (some call centers report turnover approaching 170% a year). That’s rather stunning when you think about it. That means every few months the management of that call center has to train the equivalent of a new workforce. Very few other industries would accept such huge turnover.  Imagine if a doctor’s office had 100% yearly turnover. Or if a sports team had 100% turnover from one season to another.  It would be nearly impossible to establish any continuity or system of successful performance.

Additionally, high employee turnover is expensive.  It costs an average of $8,800 to replace a call center employee.

Employee Disengagement – A study by Gallup found that when employees are engaged (motivated, challenged and learning) business performance significantly improves. Companies with engaged employees are 56% more likely to have better than average customer loyalty, 38% more likely to have higher than average productivity, 27% more likely to have higher profitability and 50% more likely to have lower turnover.

Disengaged and indifferent employees can do a great deal of damage to your business. A remarkable 68% of customers say they’ve stopped doing business with a company because of an interaction with just one employee they ‘perceived’ as indifferent.

What does an indifferent call center employee look like?

Well, one apparently started a blog called ‘Call Center Purgatory’. The author of the blog is a call center employee named AC. The purpose of AC’s blog is to “explore the mind numbing insanity and the childish corporate culture of the unknown call center employee.”

In the blog he writes about his ongoing battle with boredom, his hatred of management and his utter and complete disdain for the modern corporate call center. He quotes the movie Shawshank Redemption frequently (a movie about a man escaping from a high-security prison). He says, “I hated my management, my direct supervisors, my customers and finally I hated myself for working at a call center.”

His last blog entry discusses his last day in the call center before leaving for a new job.  “There had to be a better world somewhere outside of this place.”  Then he writes about his new job saying, “It’s not perfect…but…at least I feel like part of a team, and not a cog in a machine. I feel appreciated and challenged. It’s nothing like I experienced at the call center.”

Now, we can look at this cantankerous blogger in two ways: 1) a call center employee who was probably lazy and was consequently unsatisfied with his job at a call center; or, 2) a call center employee who was probably lazy and was consequently unsatisfied with his job at a call center, from whom we can learn something.

Perhaps our friend A.C. felt disengaged because he rarely received feedback or praise from his superiors. Perhaps he felt indifferent because he did not receive ongoing skills training that would help him do his job more effectively. Perhaps he felt like a pawn on a chessboard because his on-the-phone performance was never measured. He was only evaluated based on productivity—quantitative goals. Perhaps he felt like a cog in a machine because, well, that’s how he was viewed by his supervisors and treated by his company.

What’s my point? Employees at your call center can achieve every quantitative and productivity goal you set for them, they can make hundreds of calls a day, but, if they are disengaged they will not be effective. Your customers will notice. And your call center will suffer.

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Comments on this Article: 1

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  1. True, feeling unwanted and unappreciated in the work place can lead to disengagement for an employee.

    Call center agents, after all, work odd hours and have strenuous schedules. They usually have no control of their own time in the office and must comply to strict rules that their company has in place.

    Being appreciated at work and valued by others can mean all the difference to a simple call center agent. A telemarketer that loves his/her job will most certainly be more productive than one that doesn’t.

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