Remember, Call Center Agents = Your Brand


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Defining your brand used to be so much easier. In the good old days (for me, the good old days were the 80s), your brand was whatever your advertising said it was. Social media changed all that. Now your brand is whatever your customers say it is. And so your brand is largely determined by your call center agents – those often-ignored people who toil day and night to help your customers solve their problems.

Unfortunately, many companies treat call center agents as replaceable cogs in a system. When one leaves, bring in another and move on. During the downturn you could sometimes get away with this, because you could always find another worker. But every time a disengaged agent focuses more on getting off of the call then actually solving your customer’s problem, it hurts you twice.

First, it hurts your brand. That interaction just had more impact on your customer than your CEO. Your marketing, product development and innovation were all just made ineffectual because of a frustrated call center agent. That’s always been true, but we’ve been able to ignore that – even in the face of social media.

But now it’s even worse, because with the improving economy it’s getting harder and harder to find those cogs. The poor ones won’t leave, but it’s getting harder to find the good ones.

We’ve built up bad management practices regarding our call center employees. We subject them to requirements that no other employee would tolerate. During the downturn, companies focused on their own needs and schedules and forced agents to adjust to them. I’ve seen agents who work 8-5 one day, 6-midnight the next, then back to 8-5, followed by four days off. That’s great resource management for the company, but holy terror on an employee. All this while subjecting them to command-and-control structures, close measurement of average handle time, and little hope of advancement.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Engaging your call center representatives is the best way to turn this around, and it quickly pays for itself in improved productivity and reduced turnover – both of customers and employees. Some examples:

  • In a cross-industry study, the Conference Board of Canada discovered that employees’ customer service productivity scores and their employee engagement scores had a correlation of .51. They also found a negative .43 correlation between a company’s engagement rate and their voluntary turnover rate.
  • Gallup’s annual Meta-Analysis of 23,910 business units found that those in the bottom quartile of employee engagement had 31-51% more turnover than those in the top quartile, depending on type of role.
  • Bringing it all together, Towers Perrin found that companies with high levels of employee engagement were able to improve their operating income by 19.2%, whereas those with low levels saw a 32.7% decline.

The call to action is clear – engagement matters for all business units, but particularly in the call center. It’s here where pay is often the lowest, and you can find yourself far removed from the company’s focus. So take some time to look at your current practices. Are your intraday management initiatives geared toward productivity, performance – and the well-being of your call center agents? If you aren’t measuring employee engagement, it’s time to start. Then take a look at how to do better. Your customers will thank you.

This post was originally published at Intradiem.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jim Tincher
Jim sees the world in a special way: through the eyes of customers. This lifelong passion for CX, and a thirst for knowledge, led him to found his customer experience consulting firm, Heart of the Customer (HoC). HoC sets the bar for best practices and are emulated throughout the industry. He is the author of Do B2B Better and co-author of How Hard Is It to Be Your Customer?, and he also writes Heart of the Customer’s popular CX blog.


  1. JIm, thanks for this important reminder that contact center reps are key ambassadors for the organization. Their disposition can be a customer’s peephole into the culture of the organization. When customers have a negative experience with the ambassadors at the “front door,” they generalize their assessment to the entire organization–fair or not. Just like trash in the restaurant parking lot causes potential patrons to worry about what might be happening in the restaurant kitchen, the call center rep can make or break a company’s reputation and brand value. Besides, when contact center reps or not fully engaged, they are reluctant to be the brilliant customer intelligence scouts needed by the organization they front for real-time understanding of customers’ ever-changing needs, expectations and aspirations.

  2. Jim – great that you call out how the union of analytics and poor judgement from management creates bad outcomes.

    Back in 2008, I wrote about this in an article, “PLEASE Buy From Me: The New Ann Taylor Shopping Experience.” It illustrated measurement gone amok, and how corrosive that can be to a company’s brand and image.

    This was the quote from Ann Taylor’s Director of Store Operations:

    “Giving the [productivity measurement] system a nickname, Atlas, was important because it gave personality to the system, so [employees] hate the system and not us . . . If we know that it takes five minutes to work with a client when they walk in the store, we won’t go over five minutes.”

    I find the first sentence utterly creepy, and the second sentence myopic. But both reveal a lot about how managers regard employee job satisfaction, as well as customer experience.

    Based on what you describe still happening today, we have a long way to go when it comes to figuring out the right things to do.

  3. There are many companies that wash their hands off call centres, because they believe they have done their customer duty by having call centres. This is written in my book, Total Customer Value Mangement


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