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Why Agents Hate Coming to Work

Guest Post by Sheila McGee-Smith

President & Principal Analyst, McGee-Smith Analytics

It's amazing how many jobs I had as a student that prepared me for life as a contact center analyst. One was international operator for AT&T. There was a lot of manual dialing, typically punching in up to 15 or 20 digits. It could be quite frustrating trying to find information for a customer, which often involved flipping through pages of manuals and little handwritten notes.

I also spent time as a market research interviewer. At the beginning of a shift, you would be handed a list of phone numbers. Or worse, it was random digit dialing and you were just given a number to start with. Although some surveys were automated, many were still paper and pencil, requiring you to jump around from page to page depending on the answers to certain questions.

Compared to the life of an agent in the 1970s, the veritable dawn of the call center era, agents today would seem to have an easy life. Numbers are automatically dialed from targeted lists, computers make searching for information much easier than scanning page after page, and programming automatically brings agents to the next field that must be populated on a form.

The problem is that today's primarily millennial and Gen X agent workforce is not comparing their work environment to the earliest days of ACDs. They can't understand why they have to drive to a building and sit in a certain chair in a certain room with dozens of others to work on a computer. They don't know why it isn't easier to find the information customers ask them for. They want to say "yes" not "I don't have the ability to do that with my system" when customers ask for an email or text message for the information that needs to be conveyed. They are comparing the experience working on your agent desktop to the latest popular collaboration application, like Snapchat on their just-got-yesterday iPhone.

The biggest issue, however, is that agents understand that a lot of the frustrations of their daily lives don't need to be that way. Unlike my work life as a pre-personal computer market research interviewer, there is no logical or technical reason that agents can't have a better work experience. As an industry, we talk a lot about the customer journey and perhaps not enough about the agent experience.

On April 14th, Sean Head of Five9 and I will shift our contact center focus from the customer experience to the perspective of the agent in a webinar, Why Agents Hate Coming to Work and What to Do About It.

We'll discuss the laundry list of complaints that agents have about their work life...and what relatively easy steps can be taken to turn their frowns into smiles. And we all know customers can hear those smiles.

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