15 Mistakes Your Contact Center Agents Make


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Life is a constant learning process. We’re never at the end of the journey, and there’s always some way that we can get better. The same goes for your call center.

Even if you have a well-developed training program and agents that perform at the highest standards, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to improve. There may even be some common call center mistakes that your management team and agents are making that could have a serious impact on your company’s reputation and bottom line.

Not all call center mistakes are obvious, but all come with consequences that could result in poor customer experience, legal liability, and lost ROI. In this article, we discuss some of the most common mistakes we’ve seen in the call center and how to overcome them.

Common Call Center Mistakes Management Makes
Your management team is the beating heart of your call center. How they communicate and behave will trickle down to everyone below and around them, which will have a significant impact on your call center performance. They must be exceptional leaders.

Unfortunately, there are many common call center mistakes your management commits that you need to stop immediately. Doing this will improve the customer experience and the engagement of your call center agents.

Good leaders are consistent in their attitudes and responsibilities. No matter the situation, management should continue to demonstrate a good attitude and hold to their values and principles. And when it comes to responsibilities, management needs to be predictable in regards to what they accomplish and when.

To improve consistency in your call center management team, focus on three key areas:

1. Ensure there is plenty of time available for management to connect and communicate with agents. Make space on calendars, and implement regular team meetings. Anything you can do to support growth.
2. Help management follow-through on their words. Your management needs to say what they mean and mean what they say.
3. Commit to plans of action through completion. Don’t switch goals or focus halfway through a project.

Lack of Self-Awareness
One major call center mistake that happens too often is the assumption that they are above reproach. However, no one in the call center is perfect. As we said at the beginning, there’s always something new to learn, and your leaders need to be open to this idea.

One way to improve self-awareness is to implement anonymous feedback for managers in the same way you gather feedback for agents. Then, on a monthly or quarterly basis, begin a formal review process for management where they can hear from their team about and then reflect on what they do well along with areas for improvement.

Not Having Transparent Goals and KPIs
Management might know where the company is headed and how they want to get there, but if those goals and KPIs aren’t shared with their agents, they’re not worth much. All goals and KPIs should be visible to the entire team so that they understand what they are working towards. A secret goal is an unmet goal.

Not Giving Agents Enough Credit
Quality leadership may be the beating heart of your call center, but they couldn’t be successful without their agents. One common call center mistake is not giving your agents credit for their hard work and dedication.

It’s essential that your agents feel appreciated for their work and empowered to take their development into their own hands. There are a few ways to do this:

Create a performance review system, such as Scorebuddy’s scorecards, and then use that to make agents accountable for their own actions. And don’t forget to reward best-in-class performers. Similar to how the Scorebuddy platform uses Kudos points to highlight call center agents who perform at a high level and meet their KPI’s. After which you can give them monetary rewards or other valued things such time off work based on the points they receive.
Don’t speak in anger. Instead, wait for strong feelings to pass before handling difficult situations.

Motivate your employees by noticing the small things they do to improve the customer experience. Call them out directly in appreciation.
Don’t criticize, inspire. Avoid phrases such as “Why can’t you…” or “How many times have I said…”

Lack of Training
Your call center agents won’t know the anatomy of a really good customer service call, best practices for live chat, or how to remain compliant with regulations unless you train them. A mistake many managers make is assuming their agents know everything that’s expected of them and how to perform without regular training, coaching, quality assurance, and opportunities for feedback.

Training is the backbone of every call center and essential to delivering great customer service. Not only will it improve your agents’ interactions with customers, but it will increase their engagement in their job, help them develop confidence, and ensure they make fewer mistakes.

Just remember that training doesn’t have to be formal. You don’t need to send your agents to a special conference to train them. You can train weekly using call center training games, agent scorecard feedback, and more.

Agent Mistakes You Need to Fix
For management to be successful, they must be aware of the most common call center mistakes your agents are making, and how to fix them. They typically fall into three categories:

• Communication Mistakes
• Chat Mistakes
• Compliance and Regulatory Mistakes

Communication Mistakes
Communication is key to an exceptional customer experience, and that’s down to excellent customer service calls. Unfortunately, there are several areas where communication mistakes can happen, which your agents need to avoid at all costs.

1. On Hold Too Long
Customers get frustrated easily by being placed on hold. And unfortunately, it’s one of the most common agent mistakes. Even if there’s a valid reason to put the customer on hold—the agent needs to research something important or speak to management—they should focus on keeping the hold time to a minimum.

How long is too long?
15% of callers tend to hang up within 40 seconds, but the average hold time is 56 seconds.
On average, customers will only wait 90 seconds before hanging up, and 24% of callers who hang up won’t ever call back. And, when you consider that in general (FCR) First Call Resolution is one of the key metrics for most call centers and something which delights their customers, this becomes a major issue.
Unreasonably long queues are just as problematic. Just because the hold happens at the beginning of the call instead of in the middle doesn’t mean it’s any better. Traditionally, call center industry standards state that 80% of calls should be answered within 20 seconds.

2. Passing Off the Caller
Callers don’t want to be passed from one individual to another. It means their issue takes longer to resolve, they have to repeat their problem over and over again, and in turn more likely to get stuck on hold.

That’s why it’s essential to train your agents to handle as many different situations as possible. They should be cross-trained to resolve a variety of problems, and if that’s not possible, a system should be in place that automatically directs calls to the agent who is best capable of handling them.

3. Demonstrating Poor Emotional Intelligence
Successful agents demonstrate emotional intelligence during every customer interaction. However, many agents mistake friendliness with emotional intelligence, and those aren’t the same things.

Emotional intelligence is how your agents help your customers feel like they are heard and understood. It requires the ability to:

• Anticipate customer requests
• Deliver explanations and justifications
• Educate customers
• Build rapport
• Provide emotional support
• Offer personal information

4. Only Using One Communication Channel
Customers use multiple different channels to communicate with your call center—phone, email, social media, and live chat are just a few examples. As a result, your agents need to be able to handle your customers queries and issues however they are received. This requires an efficient omnichannel experience that doesn’t require your customers to repeat their questions or problems across channels.

To ensure you handle omnichannel support correctly, you need a more robust quality assurance framework that helps you track agent performance and identify agent mistakes across channels. The tools you implement should keep all customer data in one place for ease of use.

However, make sure you don’t just shuffle a customer off to your website when they contact you. If they could find the information on your website, they wouldn’t have contacted you in the first place.

5. Missing Any of the Seven Elements of a Good Customer Interaction
Every customer interaction should include seven essential elements:

• Tone of voice
• Listening carefully
• Speaking professionally
• Language
• Effective questioning
• Rapport building
• Closing the call/chat

A common communication mistake is to assume that you can skip one of these best practices and still handle the call appropriately. However, all elements are crucial to a quality customer experience and will have a significant impact on the outcome of your customer service call.

While these metrics can be difficult to measure, it’s a worthwhile process. By implementing a QA system, such as Scorebuddy’s scorecards, you can identify agent behaviors that need to be addressed and corrected meanwhile celebrating top performers. The more robust your QA process, the better.

Chat Mistakes
According to Kayako, 41% of customers prefer live chat when contacting support because it has some of the highest satisfaction levels. So you can’t afford common chat mistakes that downgrade the customer experience. Here are a few things to look out for when it comes to live chat best practices.

1. Not Using Automation
Chat automation is not a bad thing. A system that helps you engage with customers efficiently can only be beneficial. When implemented correctly, automation helps you eliminate customer frustration, begin customer service immediately, and increases your agents’ efficiency.

You can implement live chat automation for:

• Canned replies that help you more effectively ask customers questions, respond to initial introductions, and collect information.
• Collecting customer information via pre-chat surveys, which will help you identify the customer’s issue before the interaction begins which frees up time for your agents to respond in real-time.

2. Lack of Personalization
Just like with phone calls, chat requires personalized support. A common call center mistake is not to grant agents the freedom to connect with the customer and build rapport. You have to demonstrate that you are listening to the customer from the very start of the interaction and that you care about their issue.

To do this:
Implement an advanced chat feature that allows your agents to use their name and photo.
Use the appropriate tone and voice throughout the chat so that the brand is accurately reflected.
Demonstrate emotional intelligence through active listening and empathy.

3. Not Setting Clear Expectations
The goal of live chat is to answer your customers immediately, but it’s not always possible. And unfortunately, many customers expect 24/7 live chat support, even if that’s not possible. The key is to let your customers know exactly what to expect when it comes to live chat.

A common call center mistake is not to clarify your live chat operational hours. The last thing you want is for a customer to wait for minutes or even hours because they assume your live chat is available when it’s not. Instead, you need to set up a system that allows you to disable live chat whenever your agents are not available, so there’s no confusion. Alternatively, you can offer the ability to schedule a time to live chat with an agent through providing a calendar option.

Compliance and Regulatory Mistakes
Compliance and regulation are one of the most daunting challenges facing your call center. There are dozens of different things your business has to do to ensure that you and your customers are protected from risk. In particular, poor agent performance can represent a significant risk to your organization when it comes to regulatory compliance.

To reduce the risk of fines, here are some of the most common call center mistakes when it comes to compliance and regulation.

1. Not Getting Monitoring Consent
If you don’t have a system in place that automatically tells your customers that the call is being monitored and recorded, it’s up to your agent to state it every time. You need an agent script in place for both incoming and outgoing calls that makes customer consent the number one priority of your agents.

2. Collecting Payment Data Incorrectly
According to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS) Council, there are specific standards that your agents must follow when it comes to collecting payment data and storing it. A common call center mistake is not setting up hard-and-fast rules to ensure your agents remain compliant. Your agents need to be aware of these standards as well as the risks if they are not followed, and have a script that they follow whenever they deal with payment information.

QA Can Help You Avoid Common Call Center Mistakes
If you want to avoid the most common call center mistakes, the most important thing you can do is create a quality assurance program. This will help you determine if you are meeting your customers’ standards and how effectively you are following them. Unsurprisingly, the more robust your QA process, the better. It must cover a range of criteria, including:

• Professionalism
• Emotional intelligence
• Politeness and tone
• Communication skills
• Response time
• Resolution quality
• Regulatory Compliance

Scorebuddy’s quality assurance software is ideal for monitoring all interactions within your call center for the most optimal omnichannel support. You can easily create customer Q forms that allow you to evaluate your agents and management for call center mistakes to ensure your standards are always met.

To learn more about the benefits of Scorebuddy for QA, read The Ultimate Guide to Call Center QA today or simply contact us today.

Dick Bourke
Co-Founder - Scorebuddy Dublin, Ireland. My role is to develop our business locally and internationally. In addition I identify new service opportunities to bring to our development team and to evolve our service offering.


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