Those sneaky agents: Top strategies for managing call center agents

by Justin Hill on March 13, 2017

I’ll never forget the story I heard from one of my call center customers a few years ago. We had recently implemented a large 3CX customization project for his contact center. The whole project was going very well – except for one thing. To be clear, there were no problems at all with the call center software system we had provided; in fact, my client was ecstatic about the performance. The problem he was having was with some of his agents.

Apparently, some bad blood had developed between two of them. So bad, in fact, that one afternoon the two ladies got into a full-on fistfight in the front office. On this particular day, the company happened to have their tradeshow booth on display in the lobby to showcase their brand. The fight between the two ladies quickly escalated to the point that they both fell into booth, completely destroying it (along with their careers as call agents).

Needless to say, this was not the best way for a company to show off its brand. The good news is that the call center system we had delivered gave my customer some valuable data tools he could use to monitor and manage his team going forward.

Better call center management through data

Let’s face it, managing a call center is hard work. And the hardest part usually has nothing to do with schedules, payroll, IT challenges, etc. The hardest part is the people – the simple ongoing work of managing call center agents.

Of course, some agents are hardworking, stellar performers.  Others, however, can be downright sneaky and highly proficient and avoiding work, which makes it hard to manage a team to top productivity. These are challenges every call center manager must face, but there are strategies to ease the burden of dealing with less-than-productive call center agents.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those strategies all relate to how effectively you use your data.

What are your agents doing?

To manage a successful call center, you need to carefully track your agents’ activity and productivity. You need to know not only who’s working, but how they’re working. If one of your agents is showing lots of activity, he might look busy while he actually has his best friend on hold for an extended period of time.

A detailed management dashboard is the key to getting past this kind of cheating. You need a real-time view of your data that includes color coding of idle times on dashboards, plus descriptive agent statuses with thresholds. Properly integrating the data from your VOIP phone system (whether 3CX or another system) is what allows you to identify these issues as they happen.

How are your agents performing?

The balance between talk time and wrap-up/disposition is another place agents might cheat. If your agents are spending too much time on one or the other, your call center productivity is falling off.

To correctly monitor wrap-up time between calls, you need to have clear data on your dashboard that highlights the contrast between talk, wrap and idle time, as well as a summary of overall activity. This, along with a detailed gap analysis, is critical for analyzing agent performance.

With this type of data at your fingertips, you can quickly separate the performers from the slackers.

How can you optimize agent scheduling and performance?

Running a top-performing contact center requires access to real-time data about your agents’ activities. This is especially important when it comes to time management and scheduling. You need to know how much time is being used (or wasted) when agents take breaks, lunches, sick time, etc.

At JBHworks, we’ve added custom functionality to 3CX for many of our clients that provides custom statuses so that call center management can closely monitor time usage. This gives them an easy way to automate away and queue in/out options.

Another important way to analyze agent performance is with call recordings. Be sure your call center software has a way to quickly locate and play them back on demand. By regularly reviewing recordings, you can find and fix agent problems before they get out of hand. And just as importantly, you can identify top-performing agents and use their work for coaching/training the rest of your team.

Summary

When it comes to minimizing the “sneakiness” of call center agents and maximizing their performance, there’s one key thing to remember: You can’t do it without the right data.

Successful call center managers use call center software and analytics, along with intuitive, real-time dashboards, to give them the information they need to get the best out of their teams. The key to be sure your software is tracking the right data, and that you have the information at your fingertips when you need it.

At JBHworks, that’s our specialty. Our WorksCC™ call center software has been used by large, complex call centers to get the best out of their agents. It’s based on powerful 3CX call center technology, which we customize and extend to meet the exact needs of our customers.