Magazine article CRM Magazine

The Call Center: Talk about Issues! Three Observations on Keeping-And Cultivating-Agent Talent

Magazine article CRM Magazine

The Call Center: Talk about Issues! Three Observations on Keeping-And Cultivating-Agent Talent

Article excerpt

MANAGING a call center poses some unavoidable challenges. The very nature of the business involves fielding complaints, solving complex problems, defusing situations, and calming the occasional crazy folks.

And the people calling in sometimes have issues, too!

Was that unkind, taking that easy shot at the agents in the trenches who field the calls? Maybe, but there's an element of truth there. Resolving all the confusion and irritation that callers can toss their way and somehow converting those callers into satisfied customers can take its toll on your agents. With a few insights and strategies, call center managers can keep agents from reaching the breaking point and unloading their problems in the workplace.

From practical experience--first as a call taker, then in succession as call center manager, regional manager, and national manager of more than 38 sites--I offer three key observations to help call centers attract and keep top talent.

1. People who possess the most talent for the job are some of the most difficult to manage. Two factors are at work here. First, your top performers have options. They'll leave. But the people who aren't good you're stuck with for life! (OK, maybe not for life--you can let them go, but they're less likely to choose to leave than your top performers are.) Second, it takes a certain type of person to excel at converting irked callers to satisfied customers. Agents offering the best customer support tend to be people pleasers with a range of emotions, which enables them to convey the empathy customers need to hear. This quick accessibility to a range of emotions--the same quality that makes your best agents compassionate and effective on the phone--might make them mercurial or erratic as employees. Navigate well around those emotions or you might lose your top performers.

Solutions: Spend time with your best people. The most productivity, the most money, the best customer service will be delivered by that small percentage of people who are great--not by the masses. You get much more mileage from good people getting better. Give top performers your time and attention, unleashing their talent and spreading it around the call center rather than trying to help low performers fight their way to the middle. …

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