How to improve call center agent performance: Strategies for success

Customer Experience

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Call center productivity and agent performance are critical to your business’s success. When your call center agents can effectively respond to customer queries and requests, your customers are happier and more likely to become repeat or long-term customers. 

Bad customer service agent performance can be attributed to many factors. Still, all can be improved when you fully understand why the call center agent is struggling. When you have measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) in place to track agent performance, you have the data-based insights you need to make improvements and, by relation, elevate the customer experience. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of tracking call center agent performance, share strategies for success, and introduce how to use AI-based customer satisfaction software to get the data-based insights you need to measure performance, growth, and success.   

Why is call center agent performance important?

Successful call center performance is when your customer service team is meeting your customers’ needs effectively. Therefore, successful call center agent performance is usually linked to customer satisfaction.

To meet customer expectations, your call center agents need to respectfully and expeditiously solve their problems to either incite a conversion or encourage loyalty. 

👉Is your customer support team suffering from poor service? Get actionable tips for fixing bad customer service.

How can call centers improve agent quality?

When you notice your call center agent scores are low, here are some ways you can boost agent performance to provide a more positive customer experience:

Record or track calls

Begin tracking and recording customer service calls. Evaluating these calls will help you categorize call center performance issues as any one or combination of the following:

  • Agent-related: These are issues that affect only some call center agents and are not universal across the team. Agent-related issues can be determined by their emotional intelligence, and how well they know their job and their processes, and their problem solving skills. 
  • Customer-related: These are “avoidable issues” that unnecessarily take up too much of your agent’s time. A customer could solve these issues independently if given an appropriate self-service support option. 
  • Process-related: These are issues that uncover inefficiencies or confusion regarding internal processes or systems. For example, the chat software your agents use may be slow, and agents struggle to use the software. It also could be that your internal processes or customer service playbooks need to be updated or are too restrictive. 
  • Product/Service-related: These are issues related to bugs or problems with your products or services themselves. For example, by tracking and categorizing calls by problem, you may see that many people are calling about the same issue. You can fix this by changing your product or service so the bug or customer confusion no longer exists and customers stop calling. 

It’s also helpful to categorize calls by customer journey stage. This will identify which agents are better at supporting newer customers and which have the knowledge and skills to support your long-time and VIP customers. Having clear, data-backed insights about your customer journey can help you train-up agents who need it, or reassign calls to agents better suited for these customers. 

👉 Learn more about how your customer support team can benefit Idiomatic’s customer feedback analytics software.

Set clear performance expectations

With any job, employees often perform better when given clear expectations for their conduct and performance. For call center agents, this means setting goals or minimums for them to achieve through measurable metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators). 

Here are some examples of performance expectations you may have:

  • Customer support calls must be solved within 10 minutes (except in complicated issues).
  • Call center agents must use the provided playbook when remedying a customer problem.
  • Call center agents must maintain a minimum 80% customer satisfaction score. 
  • Agents must address all callers by Mr. or Ms. (or any pronouns they share with you).

By setting clear expectations, you’re telling your staff what you expect them to do and how to be successful at their jobs. When you track their performance using measurable KPIs, you have recourse for promotions, demotions, or lay-offs based on performance. Using objective data like this helps avoid any appearance of favoritism or bias. 

Provide agents with helpful technology and systems

Hard-to-use or outdated technology unnecessarily complicates a call center agent’s job and can cause frustration and work dissatisfaction. By reviewing data from customer support calls and feedback from your call center staff, you may discover that your sales software isn’t well integrated into your customer profiles, and agents can’t view enough detailed information about a caller. This means your agents can’t provide the personalized level of service to deal with customer queries. 

To empower agents to provide the personalized level of service your customers want, ensure that your technology and the integrations between them are working as expected. Your job is to provide as much customer detail as possible so agents can solve customer calls quickly without needing to ask questions that a well-integrated CRM could provide the agent in advance. 

Provide regular training and coaching

Both high-performing agents and agents struggling to meet expectations should receive regular training and coaching.

  • High-performing agents can act as leaders and mentors to the rest of the team. And being a team leader and mentor can be a stepping stone to internal promotion. 
  • Lower-performing agents can either get group training or specific small group or 1:1 training in areas they need to boost performance.  

In these training and coaching sessions, you can:

  • Provide detailed product and services training (so they can better support your customer’s queries).
  • Teach communication and interpersonal skills (so they can communicate with customers honestly and respectfully).
  • Do team building activities (to boost morale and learn how to work as a team to solve customer problems).  

Use call center monitoring score cards

You can use a call center monitoring scorecard to measure agent performance objectively and consistently. These brief metrics score different aspects of customer service performance based on what customers expect and your business needs. 

A scorecard is created for each customer conversation (or a random selection of conversations for each call center agent). Each interaction within that conversation is score-weighted depending on its importance to customers and relevance to your business. 

For example, how the agent opens the conversation (what they say and how they set the tone for the call) significantly impacts your customers as it builds trust and rapport, but is less critical to your business’ larger priorities. How the agent uses the company playbook to explore the customer’s issue and discover the root cause of the problem or query is very relevant to your business but less so to your customer, as they simply want their problem to be solved. 

👉 Learn more about how to set-up and use call center monitoring score cards (includes free template). 

Do regular performance reviews

Sometimes, a call center agent may not know they’re not meeting your expectations. You can do a pulse check to evaluate agent performance by scheduling regular performance reviews or team meetings. Monthly or quarterly reviews help the team stay on track and catch any agent performance struggles early so they can be corrected before customer service is severely impacted. 

In these performance reviews, you can discuss the following:

  • KPIs – reviewing agents’ scores and discussing how individual call center agent performance can be improved to boost these metrics. 
  • Call center scorecards – reviewing transcripts of calls and the agent’s scorecards.
  • Two-way feedback – giving the agent a chance to provide feedback on their performance and struggles in the role. 
  • Action plan for growth – creating an actionable plan for how to improve call center agent performance. 
  • Goal planning – creating expectations and goals to work on before the next review. 

Eliminate avoidable calls

By analyzing call scripts and topics, you may see a trend in similar customer queries. If so, and the outcome for each one is the same, you could create a self-service support option for customers to get the answer on their own. This may include adding the question and answer to a knowledge base or creating a walk-through or explainer video. 

Improving agent performance can happen after you eliminate unnecessary customer calls. It can be monotonous and boring for agents to deal with the same issues repeatedly, especially when the remedy and outcome is the same for each customer. When you can reroute these repetitive customer queries to a self-service option (or to a specific agent who excels in these types of conversations), you free up your other agents to handle more calls or more calls in their area of expertise.

Create a positive work environment

Good call center agent performance is also partially related to how positively the employee feels about their job. If you can create a positive work environment with clear opportunities for personal and professional growth, contact center agents are happier and more willing to go above and beyond for your customers. 

Often, you can boost the positivity and employee satisfaction and support a positive work environment by scheduling a team building activity. Bring in someone to do a fun activity (like laughter yoga, trust-building activities, or a team game or sport) or take the team out for an activity like team ax-throwing, laser tag, or an escape room. 

What are the 3 most difficult things about working in a call center?

While the most challenging aspects of working in a call center may vary depending on the agents and the business, these are typically the top three most difficult parts:

1. Dealing with difficult customers 

All customer service agents will deal with demanding customers. It can be mentally draining to answer these calls as often the agent will get yelled at, berated, or not treated with respect. You must train your team on handling these calls, what accommodations they can make for overly difficult customers, and when to escalate a caller to call center managers. 

2. Managing emotions 

Call center agents are expected to have a friendly and helpful demeanor. If the agent doesn’t have the skills and experience to give 100% to every call, their emotions (including exhaustion or frustration) may show through in their voice or words. 

An agent’s accurate display of appropriate emotion and empathy are essential for rapport building according to the situation at hand. To improve the performance of your agents, some may need some emotional intelligence training. 

👉 Learn more about the benefits of emotional intelligence training for your customer support staff. 

3. Understanding the product/service  

Agents who don’t understand your business and its offerings will have a hard time helping your customers. Customers expect your agents to understand every facet of your products, services, or software so they can answer any question. As their employer, you need to provide training and support so your agents know how to answer any questions they may have. 

You may need to provide regular training as offerings are updated, or new products and services are launched. 

What is the key to success in a call center?

The key to the success of your call center is to have actionable recommendations for your employees. Just as you would want actionable insights from customer feedback on any aspect of customer service, you want data-based insights from customer interactions to evaluate the success of your call center agents to improve performance. 

Also, when you can fully understand how your agents deal with different types of cases and customers, you know where to focus your efforts to improve agent performance. With this information, you could provide more training, build a better product that meets or exceeds customer needs, create new customer service playbooks, or publish more self-service support options for your customers. 

To glean these insights, you would have to manually review thousands of customer and agent interactions. But with an AI solution like Idiomatic, you can analyze mountains of interactions within minutes. Idiomatic can help you gather your customer feedback data in one place and do the categorization and analysis you need to understand where inefficiencies lie and what to do about them. As a customer feedback analysis platform, Idiomatic helps your customer service teams perform better by:

  • Discovering what issues cost the most time or money.
  • Knowing which issues can be resolved with automation, a chatbot, or a self-service option.
  • Pre-tagging tickets so they get to the best-suited agent.

When you can understand where your support team is missing the mark and why, you can then identify key actions that will help improve agent performance and thus, customer satisfaction.

Request a demo of Idiomatic to see how you can use it to evaluate and improve your call center agents’ performance at your organization. 

Call Center Agent Performance Checklist

Use this checklist as a conversation starting point. If the agent responds “no” to any questions, open a discussion about what they need to answer “yes” next time. 

(1 point)
(0 points)
1. Do you have a clear understanding of your expectations and goals?
2. Do you understand the metrics used to measure your success?
3. Do you understand the team and reporting structure for your role?
Systems, Tools, and Processes
3. Do you feel equipped with the right tools for your job?
4. Are you comfortable using all tools and resources at your disposal?
5. Are the systems and processes clear?
Emotional Intelligence
6. Are you empathetic and patient with customers?
7. Do you begin each call with a cheery welcome and introduction?
8. Do you regularly pause for 2-3 seconds after a customer speaks to ensure they’ve completed their thought?
Company Culture
9. Do you feel safe and welcome on the team?
10. Do you get the support and feedback you need from your team?
11. Are you confident in your knowledge of the company and its offerings?
12. Are you following the Customer Service Playbook?
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