5 Signs Your Agents Don’t Care


Here are five typical red flags that suggest an agent has ‘checked out’ – that they don’t give two hoots. That they just don’t care any more.

1. They’ll be late and lethargic

It’s pretty easy to enforce major lateness, but it’s usually the little-and-often kind of punctuality problems that surface when agents lose their enthusiasm. Ten minutes late for their shift, five minutes late back from lunch – that sort of lateness.

And lethargy usually manifests in the small things too. Often they’ll lose their attention to detail and silly little admin errors will become a regular problem. They don’t adhere reliably to schedules, they stop up-selling and they make the same mistakes repeatedly. You just can’t rely on them any more.

What you can do about it

When you see little patterns like this, it’s worth trying to tackle the underlying problem instead of taking the disciplinary route. Sit them down and ask if you can do anything to help them get motivated.

You could also try showing your agents the impact of their non-adherence, using a cash incentive and displaying performance statistics to the entire call centre.

For more information on techniques for nipping late and lethargic behaviour in the bud, see Top tips for improving attendance and adherence.

2. They’ll brazenly take sickies

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It’s not an admirable practice, but there’s a certain art to making a sickie look convincing. In fact, there’s even an extensive wikihow guide to pulling the perfect sickie.

It takes some effort to get away with regular ‘duvet days’, though (the wikihow guide has 12 separate steps). When an agent has ceased to care, they won’t even bother to make it seem convincing.

What you can do about it

This will depend on what kind of disciplinary process you have in place (and how easy it is to enforce). The friendly, ‘sit down and chat’ approach probably isn’t going to work.

But when they return to work, it’s sometimes worth directly asking the question: “are you lying about being sick?” They’ll say ‘no’, of course. But at least then you’ve broken the façade.

You can also try harnessing the power of peer pressure to deal with frequent offenders. One way to do this is to set team targets and refer to absenteeism as a challenge which hinders performance.

Agents are more likely to drag themselves into work if they feel like they are letting their teammates down.

Agents also don’t have to jump through the same hoops as the management team when it comes to addressing difficult issues – and so will be far quicker to pull their colleague up on “pulling a sickie” (especially if they spot any incriminating Facebook photos!)

For more advice on taking a firmer hand with absenteeism in your contact centre, see 5 Practical Solutions for Tackling Staff Absence.

3. They’ll play tricks to avoid taking calls

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Abusing bathroom breaks, ducking the last call of the day, exaggerating IT problems… There’s plenty to choose from.

Be careful here, though, because even the most hard-working agents do these from time to time. After a really tough call, they might head off for a bathroom break when they don’t really need one – just to clear their head. So it can sometimes be fairly innocent.

What you can do about it

All these things are tricky to enforce, but you mustn’t let it become common practice. When you can see an agent is using sneaky tactics to duck calls, let them know you’re onto them. Often that’s enough.

If you have an inkling that one of your agents is bending the rules, you can also try casually mentioning the problem behaviour in a team meeting. The offender(s) will know you are talking about them (even if no one else does) and they should think twice before doing it again.

See 7 Tricks That Call Centre Employees Play for more on these sneaky tactics and how to spot them.

4. They’ll escalate a lot of calls to supervisors

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When diffusing an angry customer, patience is key. But with lack of effort comes lack of patience.

This means more calls get escalated. Your disinterested agent picks up the type of call that typically lasts 25 fractious minutes, and that seems like too much effort. So they return fire with some sharp comments or start raising their voice, just so the customer will ask for a supervisor. It’s a sure-fire way of passing the buck (if they don’t care too much about the quality of the service they give).

It’s usually not as calculated as that. But ultimately what they’re saying is ‘You’re going to ask for a supervisor eventually, so let’s just cut to the chase, shall we?’

What you can do about it

This one is usually a result of frustration as much as apathy, so it’s definitely worth having a chat about. It’s not a brazen act of defiance, so sitting them down and asking ‘why are you escalating so many calls?’ could help you find out the root of their indifference.

Don’t give up if the agent refuses to give you a straight answer. It may be the case that a personal issue or lack of confidence is driving their less-than-desirable behaviour.

Practical strategies for improving agent attitude include leading with a confident smile, tackling the fear of failure with clear objectives, and finding out what is important to them.

Follow the steps in How to Coach Agents for Attitude before showing any agent the door.

5. They’ll disrupt the morale of the whole team

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When one person isn’t pulling their weight and is generally exuding negativity, it can spread fast – especially if the management team are tolerating it. Suddenly, other agents are dropping their standards, expressing discontent or even leaving – saying ‘I just need a change’.

The attitude of ‘why should I put in the effort if he/she gets away with it?’ can be really toxic when it starts to spread.

What you can do about it

You need to take direct action, but you need to answer one question first: does this agent just have an inherently bad attitude, or is the underlying problem something I can fix?

That’s the crux of the entire issue and the reason why communication is the key. If your agents feel they can talk to you about anything – that they’d honestly tell you if there was a fundamental problem that was affecting morale – then you can approach the problem with much more confidence.

Matt Phil Carver

Matt Phil Carver

You can help promote good communication in your contact centre by adopting an open-door policy, placing a suggestions box on your contact centre floor and including a ‘questions and answers’ section in your team meeting agenda.

Have you spotted any of these signs in your contact centre? What have you done about it?

With thanks to Matt Phil Carver, a regular contributor to Call Centre Helper

Published On: 5th Aug 2015 - Last modified: 21st Jul 2017
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3 Comments
  1. To read a collection of wisdom from experience and keen observation is just brilliant and heart warming at the same time. Puts a smile in your face knowing that we all share similar experiences. Thank you for putting these all together and calling it as it really is. Saves us from sleepless nights wondering, analyzing and heartaches from poor performance and attrition.

    Ed Jesuitas 6 Aug at 1:47 pm
  2. Great Article – and very very true points 3 and 5 I see on a daily basis – a sign of immaturity quite often, and no work ethic!

    adrian 17 Sep at 1:25 pm
  3. Not necessarily “immaturity and no work ethic”, but the nature of call centres is people don’t take these jobs because they want them, they take them because they need work and they are usually looking for something else on the side. They often burn out before finding something else.

    Manuela 1 Apr at 1:38 am
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