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Contact Center Horror Stories

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Kim Austin Sr. Content Strategist

If you’ve ever worked in a contact center, you know that challenging customer behavior isn’t seasonal. But since October is a month of spooky and frightful things, we thought you might enjoy a few horror stories from the contact center realm. 

One of the ever-present challenges is that customers often feel more empowered to shelve their good behavior when they’re not interacting face to face. It’s much easier to yell at a voice on the phone or someone via chat than it is to stand in front of someone and do the same. (Although some people have mastered the in-person version as well.) We’ve seen stories that range from rude to threatening.  

Vocabulary Lessons  

In my early days in customer service, I managed to pick up a long-standing unresolved query. This woman was not happy and didn't like my explanation or how I was offering to resolve her query. Hers was the first call I ever had to escalate to my manager. My manager was brilliant and always liked to have you listen in to learn how to handle conflict yourself. My manager spoke to the customer over her Bluetooth headset while I listened in. The customer was going mad. In the end my manager drew the call to an end, I hung up my desk phone and called the customer a name. Unfortunately, although I had hung up, the connection stayed open through my manager's headset and the customer heard me! Thankfully, the Ops Manager looked up the dictionary definition of the word I used and confirmed that my description had been correct! 

How Five9 Can Help: Five9 Quality Management provides monitoring, voice and digital-interaction capture, screen recording, coaching, and live monitoring and assistance. Monitor agent interactions and desktop activity virtually, in real time, with the ability to provide behind-the-scenes coaching or assist directly as needed. For new agents, think of it like a driving instructor that also has a set of brakes on hand for emergencies 

Clowns on Duty 

A limousine service ran a bare-boned call center to take calls for its limousine clients. It had three people scheduled for Sunday afternoons, when business was typically slow. One weekend, a local event unexpectedly pushed up limousine requests, and the call center was flooded with calls. But no one picked up. Two of the three agents scheduled to work called in sick. (Unfortunately, the call center had low employee morale.) The agent who showed up said he was present all day, but the software was down. Our software reports showed he had logged in but had accepted no calls. The owner then reviewed the security camera footage: The agent had spent all day practicing cartwheels in the hallway for a local clown act he was in instead of taking calls. 

Let’s Play a Game: The contact center can be a challenging place to work. Boring one moment and emotionally charged the next. With Five9 Gamification, help to temper the challenges and boost morale by rewarding agent behavior to help agents build positive work habits. Or, maybe even include a special badge for handling a horror story interaction! 

Going Old School 

As for me, my worst experience was probably the woman who had saved my home phone number thinking I was the manager of a major discount store. She constantly called me to complain about service in the store. And when she didn’t get what she wanted, she’d threaten to call the national office to speak to my manager. I’m not sure how many calls she made to Michigan, but I was never fired from the job I didn’t actually have at the store where I’d never worked… But that didn’t stop her from angry-calling at least once a week. Ah, the days before call blocking! 

Get Proactive: Take advantage of workflow automation and CRM integrations to know when a customer has made a purchase so your outbound team can reach out. The modern contact center integrates with a wide range of systems like CRM, service management, order entry, billing, and more that support different functionality and store unique information. Five9 Workflow Automation connects these often-disparate systems to help provide a holistic view of the customer for the agent and enables the automation of simple to sophisticated workflows based on key triggers in the customer journey. 

Next Steps 

Keeping up with the rapidly evolving demands of customers requires your business to adapt faster than ever before through the power of data and the cloud. Five9 enables you to maintain business continuity and agility while more effectively managing agents and personalizing experiences with your customers. Check out Five9 products for employee engagement to explore ways to improve the agent experience and make the horror stories a little less scary. 


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Kim Austin Sr. Content Strategist

Call 1-800-553-8159 to learn more about Five9