Hug an Agent

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Have you given your agents a hug lately?  These folks have a challenging job.  Using the common military analogy, the call center agent constitutes the "front line" of the business.  When a customer is unhappy, they ring the call center.  When the customer has a question, they ring the call center.  When the customer needs to give you money, they ring the call center.  They represent your company every time they pick up the phone. 

Unfortunately (still running with the "soldier" analogy), some businesses operate on a war of attrition.  They burn the agents out and just assume new ranks will fill the gaps.  Sometimes the organization simply hasn't bothered to outfit the agent with the right training or equipment to be successful.

I once visited a center that heavily uses an automated callback feature so that callers can wait in queue without having to actually wait on the line.  When used prudently, callback is a great solution for the periodic call spike … but with this center callback was standard practice.  Virtually every caller was immediately put into a callback state due to chronically insufficient staffing.  From the caller perspective, the experience isn't terrible.  They call in and can expect to be dialed back in a few minutes.  From the agent perspective, however, the situation was pretty rough.  The agents had zero downtime between calls.  As soon as one call was finished, the agent was listening to ringback for the next callback.  Agents would scamper to try to document the call before the next customer picked up the phone.  If the next call connected before the agent had completed his notes, he'd eventually have to place the customer on hold to finish the notes from the PREVIOUS call.

100% occupancy doesn't sound like a lot of fun to me, and the chances of that agent delivering a "moment of truth" are going to be pretty slim in that environment.  Agents aren't always going to be perfect, but you have to be very aware of those resources that will enable them to be successful.  You'll always have to deal with those occasional agents bent on "gaming the system", but give those metaphorical hugs despite the bad apples.  Make sure your agents have enough time both on and off the phone to properly represent your organization.  Make sure they have proper training, tools, and processes to be successful.  Furthermore, get your staffing right.  It's a miserable experience to be so busy that you literally work every second from break to break.   In the call center world, agent attrition is just a part of the business … but when those agents are operating on your front lines, don't let them fall to friendly fire!