February 11, 2021

An Interview with a Call Agent: What’s With The Burnout?

According to recent reports, 89% of companies now claim to be differentiating and competing based on their customer service.
However, a different study reveals that only 1% of customers are satisfied with the support that they receive. What’s more, consumers are not the only ones being affected by poor customer service. 70% of call centre agents are reported to be unhappy and disengaged in their workplace.
What is going on here?
While call centre managers try their best to hire only agents who demonstrate best call agent skills like excellent conversational skills and empathy, the same candidates often change drastically once hired.
An agent who seemed jovial and positive is now described as rude by customers. What gives?
We interviewed Tony Smith, a 26-year old who’s been working as a call agent for three years in the U.S to find out more.

The Psychology of a Call Center Agent

Q1. What’s the best thing about being a Call agent?

Tony: “Quite contrary to public opinion, working at a call centre can be quite liberating. For example, I don’t (or usually don’t) take work home with me. I can be present in my life because I don’t have to worry about a pile of files waiting for me in the morning. Also, I get to work with lots of co-workers, so x-mas parties at the office are just the best. Lastly, I like the fact that I have plenty of opportunities for promotions to all different departments.”

Q2. What’s the hardest thing about being a call agent?

Tony: “Well, a day at the call centre involves short, repetitive tasks sustained over an extended period. Each time a customer calls in, I have to pick up, assess the problem and offer a solution.
More importantly, I have to build a relationship with this complete stranger. I have to use cognitive effort to ensure effective communication with the customer.
Even though the customer may already be irritable, I have to remain kind, respectful and patient. All of this often leads up to an energy depletion problem. My mental resources are chipped away minute by minute, call by call, as I try my best to communicate effectively.”

Q3. Considering your experience, what do you think is the key to unlocking an agent’s potential?

Tony: “I think the secret to unlocking an agent’s potential is through relieving their stress. Excellent communication isn’t always simple, especially under the unique pressure of a call centre. I would recommend that you find a way to relieve the agent’s stress, lighten their cognitive load and provide the necessary tools they need to have empathetic and productive resources.”

Q4. If you could change one thing about the Call Center, What would it Be?

Tony: “I would give agents access to all the information they need to answer callers’ needs. In my experience, I often have to flip from one screen to another with no idea about what I’m saying to the client.
For example, running through a camera’s specs when I’ve never even used it. And if the caller asks me something that I can’t find on the screen, then I would have no idea how to answer.
One more thing I think should change is that managers should look at improving caller and employee’s experience rather than aiming at targets or providing the cheapest services.”
The crux of the matter is call agents don’t wake up one day and decide to go rogue, neither do you hire agents knowing they will be condescending or rude to customers. You hire agents like Tony, whose persona is charismatic and jovial, but if put under the stress of a call centre, can transform into something unpleasant.
If there’s anything to take home it’s that taking care of your customer agents should be your priority. Talk to Call Criteria to know how to improve your agents’ experiences.