Here's what your contact center agents are really thinking

 Do you know what your contact center agents are thinking?

Do you know what your contact center agents are thinking?

A study from BenchmarkPortal reveals new insights into what contact center agents are really thinking.

The Agent Voices study was based on over 5,000 surveys with contact center agents in North America. It reveals that overall job satisfaction among contact center agents is 76.2 percent. Not surprisingly, the thing agents like best about their jobs is working with customers.

There are a few interesting highlights that deserve attention from contact center managers.


New agents need more support

A whopping 92.9 percent of agents gave their new hire training program high marks, but only 60.8 percent felt their transition from training to the contact center floor was adequately supported.

The training program itself may be part of the problem.

Call center agents must simultaneously use a wide variety of skills to do their jobs. This may include recalling product knowledge, navigating a variety of software programs, and interacting with the customer in an appropriate way. Many call centers train their new hires on one skill at a time, which makes them easier to learn.

Unfortunately, this method can also cause agents to experience a form of mental gridlock when they first try to use all the skills together at one time. This typically happens as agents make the transition from training to the contact center floor.

Call centers can overcome this problem and speed up new hire training by moving to scenario-based training. I’ve used it to cut new hire training time by as much as 50 percent while still improving new hires’ performance. You can learn more about this approach from an article I wrote for ICMI earlier this year.


Agents want a better work environment

Most call center agents really want to do a great job for their customers and 83.8 percent said they’re proud to work for their organization. The survey also showed that call center agents generally gave their co-workers high marks and felt a strong sense of teamwork.

These results were tempered by some signs that work environment needs improvement in many centers. One of the most striking findings was that only 44.6 percent of agents agreed that their working atmosphere is usually optimistic and positive.

One explanation is the way responsibility is structured in many contact centers. Agents often solve problems caused by another department, such as a shipping error made in the warehouse or a bug in a new software program. They must also frequently rely on someone in another department to implement the solution. 

It can be discouraging to repeatedly face problems that appear to be outside of your control. Many contact center agents are susceptible to a condition called Learned Helplessness where poor service seems like a foregone conclusion. Agents experiencing Learned Helplessness can stop trying to serve their customers if they believe their efforts will be fruitless.


Good relationships with supervisors, but not executives

A contact center agent who works for a financial services firm recently told me that executives routinely ignore contact center agents when they see them in the elevator. This may be a wider trend - only 56 percent of agents said they trust the messages from senior management.

Things are a little rosier on the relationship front when it comes to agents’ direct supervisor. A total of 77.6 percent reported they had a good working relationship with their direct supervisor.

The lesson here is executives must be visible in the contact center. They need to take time to listen to their frontline agents and explain their strategies and policies. Acknowledging employees in the elevator probably wouldn't hurt either.


Agents don’t feel heard

A majority of contact center agents don’t feel heard. Only 39.1 percent felt their leaders exhibited effective listening skills and only 45.7 felt their opinion was valued.

This may help explain why many employees don’t pass along feedback to management. I uncovered this trend earlier this year in a post titled Why Employees Don't Pass Along Customer Complaints.


Customer service needs work

Agents tend to feel their own teams do a pretty good job on customer service, but the company as a whole needs work. Only 47 percent felt that decisions in their organization were aimed at achieving the highest possible level of quality for their customers, but 71.3 percent felt their customers could trust them.

This disparity may be a product of two things. One, contact centers can sometimes be an outlier where other parts of the organization aren’t nearly as focused on service. Anothe possibility is contact center agents may suffer from the Dunning-Krueger effect where they overrate their own ability in comparison to others. 


What do you think?

If you are a contact center agent, or manage contact center agents, it would be great to hear from you. Are these results true for your center? Or, is your environment a little different?