Here are seven sneaky things contact centre employees do to avoid taking calls, along with our advice for how to catch them out!
Call Center Tricks to Avoid Calls
1. Shuffling to the Back of the Pack
If your telephony system allocates calls according to which advisor has been available the longest, as most do, then this is an easy system to manipulate to avoid taking calls.
On a quiet day, when there are several people on ‘idle’ status (perhaps in both senses of the word), setting yourself to unavailable for a few seconds, then back onto available again, can shuffle you from the front of the queue for the next call, right to the back.
This is the easiest and most obvious way of slacking off and call avoidance. It’s easy to find an excuse to be offline for less than a minute: taking off a jumper, getting a new notepad from the stationery cupboard, getting a glass of water or uncoiling a headset wire will do the job.
How to Spot It
Always look for patterns. If you can view the status logs for an individual advisor whom you suspect to be shuffling, the pattern is easy to see.
Look for the shortest periods of unavailable time – the ones that last only seconds. If most of them are preceded by long periods on available status, you’ve got a shuffler.
2. Sitting on a Hanger or Transfer
Contact centre advisors rarely end a call themselves – they say goodbye, the caller hangs up and the line goes dead. Sometimes, though, the line doesn’t go dead. The caller has gone, but the line remains open. It just hangs.
If you were an honest advisor with a good work ethic, you’d hit the ‘terminate call’ button and move on to the next one. The alternative, though, is to just sit and chill out for a while.
According to any kind of telephony software, you are still ‘on a call’ and working hard, so no one is likely to ask why on earth you are sitting there doing nothing.
The same principle applies when transferring a call, as the original advisor could keep the line open while a second advisor handles the query.
How to Spot It
It’s very difficult to know when a member of your team is using either of these tactics.
If you regularly walk the floor and evaluate call recordings, you might spot it now and then. If you don’t do one or the other, it’s probably happening a lot more than you think.
3. Rounding up Breaks
When does a break start? Is it the moment you click the ‘unavailable’ button, or is it when you physically walk out of the office?
It’s an important distinction, because there are plenty of time-wasting opportunities with the latter.
If your lunch break is at midday, you can come off the phones bang on the hour, then go report something minor to your supervisor, quickly reply to an email, get your sandwich out of the fridge, put your coat on then walk out the door, looking at your watch and thinking “right, I left the office at ten past twelve”.
If you do something similar when you return from break, you could feasibly eke out a half-hour lunch break into fifty minutes off the phones.
How to Spot It
Very easy. If it’s happening, then you already know about it.
The harder bit is stamping it out. If it has always been an accepted part of the office culture, then a very clear line must be drawn to put an end to it.
4. Making After-Call Work Personal
Some calls require a minute or two of after-call work, just to tie up the admin – some don’t.
But unless you are being directly monitored, supervisors have no way of actually knowing which calls require after-call work and which don’t.
So if you want to send a personal email, check the footie scores, find some juicy celeb gossip online or just sit there for a bit, you know there is that one or two minute pause after each call that is never going to arouse suspicion.
How to Spot It
Internet histories, email monitoring or screen recording (if you have it) are the best ways.
It sounds like a lot of work to be constantly scrutinising your advisors’ logs, but you don’t have to actually do it – just say you will.
The ever-present possibility of a surprise inspection is often enough of a deterrent.
5. Tactical Toilet Breaks
Now here’s a difficult one to enforce.
If an advisor goes wandering for a full ten minutes and then tells you they were on a ‘bathroom break’, are you really going to ask for all the gory details of how those ten minutes were spent?
Six of those ten minutes could have been spent leaning against the sinks, texting or Twitter surfing, safe in the jurisdictional blackout zone of the ladies’ or gents’.
Tactical toilet breaks can also be used for shuffling to the back of the pack or just going for a wander.
How to Spot It
We all know how long a toilet break should take, even the (ahem) lengthier ones.
Spotting tactical toilet breaks and enforcing them are totally different propositions. If you’re the boss then it’s your choice, but it’s a can of worms that few are willing to open.
6. Hiding Behind the ‘IT problem’
IT problems are a pain and hearing all the details about them is boring. If an advisor says they’re offline because of an IT problem, you may just tell them to call the IT guys to fix it and get back online asap.
There are many kinds of IT problems, though: is it a ‘blue screen of death’ that renders the entire workstation unusable? Or is it just a minor fault on a single software package that isn’t even essential for handling calls?
If you don’t ask for details, you’ll never know. That’s when ‘IT problems’ becomes a catch-all excuse to get a few minutes off the phones.
How to Spot It
If you can’t take an active interest in every case, get your IT department to give you a periodic log of all problems remedied.
It only takes a moment or two to glance down the list and check status logs. If ‘tab key not working’ is being used to justify fifteen minutes off the phones, the advisor in question knows exactly what he or she is doing.
7. Ducking the Last Call of the Day
This is probably the single most common way of shirking work in a call centre.
It’s 4.55pm, you’re exhausted after a long day and you know you’ll be out of the door in just a few minutes, unless you get lumbered with that last call of the day.
Almost all of the previous six tricks can be used as a way of ducking the last call. Maybe you’ll just eke out the after-call work from your previous customer or find a way to shuffle yourself to the back of the pack. Maybe you’ll get lucky and your would-be penultimate call will present you with a hanger to sit on for five minutes.
However you choose to do it, it’s a tad disrespectful to whoever pays your wages and whoever you shunt that last call onto.
How to Spot It
Know how to spot the other six tricks and be extra vigilant at the end of the day.
Overall, there’s no substitute for the occasional stroll around the floor, a perusal of the call logs or a random inspection of a few internet histories. You already know who the most likely sinners are, so it doesn’t take long.
Thanks to Matt Phil Carver
Bonus Call Center Tricks
Here are some additional tricks u that Ian Robertson, Customer Contact Specialist at The Forum, has picked up on, as well as those that we have noticed.
Pressing Mute and Pretending There Is a Fault on the Line
If an advisor wants to take a break during a call instead of waiting until the contact is resolved, some individuals may fiddle with the mute button.
This will either extend handling time, with the advisor being able to take quick breaks to perhaps check their phone, or, as is more likely, the customer will hang up and maybe call again.
The advisor will then move to the back of the advisor queue, while the contact centre cannot be sure as to whose line was faulty and may not be able to tell during quality monitoring sessions.
How to Spot It
The first stage of detecting this trick would to be listen for moments of silence during a call, either through call listening and monitoring or by detection via a speech analytics platform.
While this may not draw any immediate conclusions, as analysts may not be able to spot whose line was at fault, looking out for patterns of repeat incidents will provide you with a good idea.
Advisors Calling Their Own Mobile Phone
Some advisors who can make outbound calls have been known to call their own phone, and perhaps even a friend’s phone, and then leave both ends hanging.
By doing this, an advisor can take all the time they wish to have an unauthorised break at their desk, while most telephony software would report that the advisor is hard at work.
How to Spot It
To see if advisors are calling their own phones, it is perhaps a good idea to ask for their number when gathering their personal information.
Then the contact centre can check call detail records to check that each advisor has not contacted their own phone.
To check that an advisor has not been playing the same trick but instead contacting a friend’s phone, you can check the same call detail records and look for any repeat contacts.
Re-Recording an Answerphone Message
If an advisor making outbound calls were to reach an answering machine, many would have the opportunity to re-record the message that they left the customer.
While this is an option that is used by advisors who would like to re-create their message so that it has greater appeal, accuracy or just so it sounds better, some advisors may abuse this function.
This can prolong a contact when the advisor just has to repeat a simple message and can effectively allow for breaks to be taken on a call.
How to Spot It
This is again an avoidance tactic that can be discovered through call listening.
So, in addition to the more detailed calls that contact centre needs to monitor, it may also be good practice to quickly check the recordings that advisors are leaving customers.
Keeping the Line Open During a Post-Call Survey
Many contact centres will run a survey at the end of a call to formulate a Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES) or to determine First Call Resolution (FCR).
Most of these surveys are done through an IVR, so that advisors have more time to handle the queries of other customers.
Yet some advisors will hold the line instead of hanging up. This allows them to break for the duration of the customer survey, with management none the wiser.
How to Spot It
Again, listening to call recordings is the best method of spotting this trick.
While checking more complex queries and answerphone messages, it is also useful to check calls where the customer has gone into a survey afterwards.
If the call analyst can hear the IVR-based survey in the recording, it is clear that the advisor has held onto the line, despite their obligation not to.
Going into AUX Mode for a Split Second
When it nears the time when an advisor needs to handle a call, some individuals may go into AUX mode, which will signal them as being unavailable for a split second.
While this is only for a short moment, it is enough time for most telephony systems to push that advisor to the back of the advisor queue, meaning that their break between calls increases.
How to Spot It
This call-dodging tactic can be exposed by looking at each individual advisor’s trace report.
If this report highlights that an advisor is going into AUX mode much more than is expected, and for a brief moment in time, it is an obvious sign that they are evading calls.
This technique involves an advisor picking up the phone but not saying anything and hanging up only one or two seconds after opening the line.
When an advisor does this, the customer will simply assume that there was a fault on the line and will most likely call back, while the advisor will fall to the back of the advisor queue. So, the original customer’s call will likely be handled by someone else on the contact centre floor.
How to Spot It
Again, this can be spotted through the inspection of an advisor’s trace report.
This report will provide you with the information of who hung up on the call, and call detail records will give you the amount of time that the advisor spent on each call.
Giving the Wrong Information to a Customer
During a long call, advisors may be tempted to give false information to the customer, in order to bring the contact to a swifter conclusion.
While this is perhaps the most damaging trick, in terms of the damaging the customer–company relationship, it is also difficult to pick up on…
How to Spot It
While it may be problematic to pick examples of this happening at random in call listening sessions, it may be easier if your contact centre records repeat contacts.
If you can pick out a call from a customer who contacted the company again within the next day or two, you can increase the probability of pinpointing these examples.
Transferring Calls Back into the Queue
With advisors having the capability to transfer a call to their colleagues, it is also possible to transfer a contact back into the queue.
This will mark the call as handled by that particular advisor, while the call will be transferred to the next available individual on the contact centre floor.
How to Spot It
Advisor trace reports are again the answer here, as they will give confirmation of repeated call transfers.
Also, call detail records will highlight the length of the calls being transferred. So, by pairing the two, the contact centre will have a clear view of when calls are being transferred, and if it’s just matter of moments after the call reached the original advisor.
Pretending to Not Hear the Caller
According to Dave Salisbury, MBA, his “favourite” trick to both watch and listen back to were incidents where an advisor “was pretending they could not hear the caller and advising them to call back.”
This call would then be handled by another member of the contact centre team, while the original advisor would be entitled to a short break after “handling” the call.
How to Spot It
Call listening will provide an accurate picture of whether or not the advisor was able to hear the caller. If the analyst can hear the customer clearly, the advisor would most likely have been able to do so too.
Also, tracking repeat contacts within a matter of moments of the original call will increase the likelihood of detecting an example of this happening.
Extending Wrap Time
One of our readers, Chris Liko, says that “one scenario that we see frequently is an advisor spending a significant amount of time in the post-call ‘Wrap Up’ state.”
This is where “the advisor will pretend to take notes or update CRM information for longer than necessary,” to delay the next call they receive.
How to Spot It
Trace reports will help the contact centre take notes of the length of time advisors are spending on after-call work (ACW).
While it is difficult to pick one or two examples of prolonged wrap times, because it depends on the nature of the call, keeping an average time for ACW, for each advisor, will provide a bigger picture.
This is when an advisor conferences in the other employee, whether that is another advisor or a supervisor, and stays on the call listening to both the other employee and the customer.
While this can be done for a number of valid reasons, such as it can be a good way to train the team, it can also be used as a way for advisors to avoid work.
How to Spot It
Listening to call recordings of calls with long handling times, is the best way to spot this, as ACD stats would show the advisor as on a call, whereas they could be just waiting for their lunch break or checking something on their phone.
Thanks to Our Readers for Adding Even More Tips and Call Center Hacks
- One trick I notice is the “Query”, where the advisor asks a query perfectly validly, then before you know it, ten minutes has gone by discussing the football scores, drawbacks of the job, what are we having for tea, etc. I strongly believe that persistent time wasters should always be dealt with robustly and trustworthy staff simply trusted.
Thanks to Sally Brown
- What about leading by example? When I see my advisors stuck on a call after hours, I offer to take over the call so that they can go home. And I have done it on multiple occasions. Advisors have a tough job, we need to recognise that. When their day is done, most of then want to go home.
Thanks to W
- These are tricks used by advisors to get a little bit more of a break from customers, and feeling like you need more of a break is often a sign of burnout. I would be looking at seeing what can be done to reduce burnout and possibly giving advisors slightly longer breaks/additional breaks.
Thanks to Jennifer
- Where all of these are enforced, there’s probably a higher turnaround of staff. Letting your advisors off now and again but making them aware that you know the scams pays dividends. You are regarded as a better manager and the call centre is a more pleasant place to work. At the end of the day, it’s human beings that we’re employing not machines, so there needs to be some slack.
Thanks to Paul Evans
- It is worth looking at the reasons advisors might be playing these tricks. Sure, some might just have a poor work ethic, but perhaps the queues are so busy they don’t even get 30 seconds to take a sip of water or take off a sweater, which might mean more staff are needed. Maybe they are unhappy with decisions that have been made and are ‘taking it out’ by not caring about their work and skiving off. Have a conversation with your advisors and there might be tiny changes you can make that will see things improving.
Thanks to Jennifer
What sneaky call-dodging tricks have been concocted in your office – and how do you spot them?
Let us know
Also, give it a BREAK with 7. Last thing i’m going to do when I have 5 minutes to go is risk a call that make take me 30 minutes and then I miss my train home for dinner.
I think we all know people who do many of these examples. With the toilet breaks, we give everybody a set amount of “allowed” time for comfort breaks each day, so whether they use this time for smoking, texting, tweeting or toilet breaks is up to them.
I LOVE IT!!!
Regardless of how far you live from the office or your travel arrangements, you’re being paid to do a job from 09.00 – 17.00 and if you decide that you’ve done enough for that day and are caught then you simply shouldn’t be paid for it. I’ve had to deal with people who not only pulled this trick but also dodged the first 10/20 minutes each day by only logging into systems at 09.00 on the button and claiming they don’t get paid to log in before 09.00. That door swings both ways and with some of them that door turned into the ‘Exit’. Coomon decency and empathy for your supposed colleagues/friends should dictate your actions without someone having to tell you to NOT be ‘that’ person.
Good luck with the job hunt, Nia.
If you’re being paid to do a job from 9:00-17:00, no way should I still be doing that job at 17:30 because you’re expected to risk getting caught on a lengthy call, especially when were I work doesn’t pay overtime.
You’ll be surprised how many contact center agents are this disengaged, miserable and trapped, maybe you like the wool over your eyes. No graduate enjoys ending up in a call center.
I’m glad someone understands, because I feel like a lot of the time, call center managers and supervisors don’t understand because it is one set of rules for them and one set for everyone else. I can’t tell you how many managers I see walking out of the office 10 minutes early on a very regular basis. Not one of our managers stays back half an hour if they are stuck on something, yet they expect agents to complete a call without pay even if it goes 30 minutes after their finishing time. I see managers getting on our backs about toilet breaks and using after call to have a breather, but half of them are no where to be found when you need assistance and a quick look out the window will let you see they’re having a smoke outside. It’s infuriating to be worked to the bone and micromanaged in a job you hate for low pay while managers are not held to the same standards.
And instead of looking at the reasons agents might be doing tricks like this to get a breather, they just start looking at how to stop us doing them, instead of their fact their staff are overworked and unhappy, which just makes us even more unhappy because our ways of coping a little less with how miserable we are are taken from us.
Nia, I think that you have done very well with your 3rd language. I do understand why you would want to leave on time, I think when you find a job you love you will feel that those extra minutes add value to what you are doing. I love working on the phones and get so much pleasure knowing that I have done my best, even if that does sometimes make me late getting home.
I do believe there are many people who hate working in a call center and it completely baffles me. You need to make the most of your situation and perform to your best regardless of the job you are in.
If a persons attitude is to do as little as possible in a call center job the how will that translate if they ever get a graduate level role and decided they walk out at 17:00 on the dot regardless of what deadlines or workloads are present.
Simple answer they would not last to the end of their probation period.
That said people do seem to apply this attitude and it tends to be fairly unique or certainly more the norm in a call center environment.
Looking at retail as an example i have never had a store assistant or check out operator stop talking to me or walk away because their shift had ended.
Like it or not its a problem that exists and is more prevalent in call centers than any other industry i would be keen to see if any studies exist on the subject and how to combat it.
I understand the wanting to get out on time thing as well. I personally have always found it a little rude when a customer calls with a lengthy or very difficult enquiry at 18:58 when the call center operating hours are 7:00-19:00. And they expect the agent to be happy to sit there for half an hour going through it after hours. It’s no different to walking into a retail shop 3 minutes before it closes and wanting to try on 10 outfits. It is very unfair to staff members who have lives and responsibilities outside their work.
Unfortunately I myself manage a team of people and notice the behaviours in this article from time to time.
With regards to the call centre being an unambitious place, i completely disagree. I entered a call centre as a graduate, worked extremely hard whilst suffering colleagues who displayed the call avoidance tricks. After a short period of time my hard work paid off and I was promoted, I have been very lucky that since this time i have continued to be given opportunities to grow. At this point, 2 years after joining I run a contact centre and have 50 people reporting to me.
If you are in a job that you are uninspired by and have no motivation for then it is in yours and your colleagues best interests to leave and find something that you are prepared to stay until the end of the shift for. It makes a huge difference to everyone.
I’m a fellow Gen Y graduate and while I wouldn’t say I enjoy my job and it’s certainly not what I had in mind when I got a degree, I can tolerate it enough that I’m not totally miserable and don’t do tons of avoidance tactics. I’m just quietly looking for another job on the side. I do think there can be opportunities in call centres though, I don’t think they’re dead end jobs. I personally just don’t want to progress at mine because I’m not interested in insurance at all and it’s something to pay the bills. Sometimes I wish my centre wasn’t so horribly understaffed though and I could get a breather, even just half a minute every now and then to take a breath and a sip of water and stretch before the next call.
I will say I am guilty of ducking that last call in the last few minutes though so I can get out on time. I’m in a similar situation to another poster where if I’m reliant on public transport more than 10 minutes late getting out, I have a long wait for the next train and by the time I get to my home station and need to walk 10 minutes home, it’s pitch black. As a female, I feel pretty terrified walking home in the dark so I don’t feel guilty about ducking that last call, especially when I have tried to negotiate an earlier start for an earlier finish and have been told parents get first preference because of school pick ups.
I really hope my leader doesn’t read here because I do most of these and he hasn’t caught on yet 😉
I struggled with this one. On one hand, I’m an agent and I have my days where I hate my job. But then I remember that for the most part I enjoy what I’m doing and that tomorrow is a new day with a new set of problems. I work on a really small team (there are about 14 of us), so I know firsthand when someone leaves for a 10 minute break how that affects everyone. There are also only 4 of us at close (and we close at 7pm Central time), so if someone ducks that last call, there will be at least two more in the queue to be handled. However, I think that it really comes down to team dynamics. If the team dynamic is good enough, then people won’t want to do any of those. Maybe I caught a lucky break, but I love where I work–recently I approached my boss about the possibility of moving up in the department as a whole.
I find it interesting people are being so critical of Nia. Maybe she sounds a little extreme in her loathing for her job, but in my experience, a lot of call centre managers and leaders don’t take the time to make sure their agents are happy or listen to their concerns. As a call centre agent who is now an assistance director of my contact centre, I try and remember how I felt 10 years ago when I was wearing the headset. There are often some fairly reasonable explanations for why agents might be doing the ‘wrong thing’ or why they are unhappy.
One of the most common complaints of Call Centre agents is they feel like their voices are never heard by the people above them. They feel like no one listens when they are unhappy about something, feel like no one cares about them, they feel like they are just told to suck it up and they constantly get burned out from the stressful nature of the job.
Maybe if team leaders and contact centre managers listened to people like Nia they might be made aware of issues affecting staff morale and maybe consider compromises and solutions.
I noticed a lot of my staff were ducking the last call of the day to make sure they got out on time even though we do pay overtime in 5 minutes blocks. I asked why they were still so determined to leave on time. One staff member was taking a night courses towards a masters degree and had a tight schedule to get there that relied on her being out of the door on time. Another staff member had children in daycare to collect and if she was late collecting them, the daycare facility charged 10 dollars per child for her 3 children for every 10 minutes she was late and she was on a tight budget and couldn’t afford to pay 90 dollars to her child’s carers if she ended up stuck on a call for half an hour because it was a lot of money to her. Others expressed a similar concern to Nia that a missed train or bus gets them home after dark and they feel unsafe. Another employee had a child with diabetes that needs to have their dinner and insulin on time and being late can make their child sick.
I also learned that my employees, particularly the younger ones, valued their time as more than money. They didn’t care if they’d get 15 dollars extra overtime for staying back on a call half an hour, it wasn’t ‘worth it’ in terms of lost leisure time after a long day. So we introduced a system where they could leave early on another day if they got saddled with a lengthy final call. So an agent that got stuck for 20 minutes on a call today could leave 20 minutes early one day next week. The call ducking rates dropped in half with that measure.
We looked at giving the employee studying her masters and earlier start time for an earlier finishing time on her study dates and giving pre paid taxi trip cards to employees whose late finished meant a missed train to ensure they got home safely. We offered to reimburse parents who got saddled with late daycare collection fees if getting stuck on a call affected them arriving on time. We now have very low ‘call avoidance’ in the end of the afternoon because we took the time to listen to the reasons WHY our agents were unhappy.
I also noticed a lot of employees taking long toilet breaks and discovered the reason for that was a lot of employees hated that their breaks didn’t coincide with their friends breaks and they didn’t like eating lunch alone. One girl was sick of constantly getting an ‘early’ lunch at 11:30 when she’d rather eat at 1:30pm. So we introduced a system where agents could nominate preferred times for their lunch break and could nominate up to 3 agents they wanted to share their break with. It was a bit of work for us to coordinate it all, but was worth it in the end because when agents knew they’d get to speak to Sarah or Tom at lunch, they didn’t need to ‘happen’ need the bathroom for 10 minutes during Sarah or Tom’s break.
Maybe instead of getting mad at the Nias of the world, we can ask them why they feel so unhappy and see if there is anything we can adjust to make them happier in the world place.
Judging by your description of your workplace, Nia, it would appear that you’ve landed yourself in an awful place to work regardless of what work that is. I know that most employers will expect some extra from their employees however where I work, and when I managed a team of 15 people, I ensured that this worked both ways and if someone needed time off for a good reason then I would accomodate them as they had supported me and the team when asked.
As I said, it seems that your issues and challenges are due to the employer/company and not specifically that it’s a call centre. If I was being managed like you describe I’d be demotivated and looking for the exit also.
Nia, being a call center manager Imust say it upsets me when an agent doenst feel valued and appreciated. I sarted as a an agent and worked my way up to manager. I do understand not wanting to work beyond your scheduled shift , however i dotn agree with shirking the call onto someone else if it was meant for you. We have all had to stay past shift – I do it all the time and being salaried means I never get overtime. I believe that as part of a team you have to make sacrafices sometimes and maybe if you asked your fellow workers they may be inclined to help you out instead of maybe feeling like you dont care about their feelings or their time as musch as you want them to care about yours. That being said- talk with your management team and let them know how undervalued you feel, if they dont know they cant change, I am sure you are not the only one who feels the strongly. As to the conversation – I talk with my agents and let them know the importance of not avoiding calls and taking longer than needed breaks. Be fair to your collegues and treat them as you would like to be treated. Give 100% and you may soon find yourself on the ups and not the outs.
In my Centre, everyone does the call avoidance in the last 8 or so minutes of the shift. If I didn’t do it, I’d be the one stuck dealing with them all, so I do it because if I didn’t, I’d finish late every single day!
It probably depends on how she has been hired and the country she is in. Some call centres hire on a salary so avoid paying overtime, and it causes a lot of agent resentment.
I have to confess I do several of these. I’m so burned out on call centre work but no matter how hard I try, I can’t get another job that’s more suited to my introverted personality.
Maybe the solution is to introduce 2 shifts , I work in Serbia in one the first Banking Call centeres in my country , here we have 2 shifts , 1st is from 9am-5pm and 2nd from 11am-7pm,client are well informed about the working time until 7pm and trying to be faster in getting information or solution for their problem.
I work in a call center for a whole sale travel agency. It’s pretty rough, I mean our calls usually last a minimum of an hour and a half and getting a call at 6:59 when you are out at 7:00pm is one of the most awful things that can happen because you never know when you’re going to get out the door. But fortunately my company does pay overtime for such situations. Sure we all have bad days but honestly. I’m glad to have a job, and every call is like a puzzle. To me if I have nothing to be home for so be it if I get stuck, it’s more money in my pocket. I understand how much it would suck if I wasn’t getting paid for being stuck.
I agree with everything Nia says and so do 99% of other call centre agents. ‘Managers’ who can’t comprehend this just reveal they don’t actually have any people management skills.
This happens to me often. On every shift, regardless of Shift end time. I am always rostered with these culprits. I am going to miss the train and always take it on the chin. It often helps my stats anyway. More fool them I say.
I am a call centa agent and i presnallly think managers just dont get it. my work only gives me an hour for lunch (unpaid) and egspect me to go on the phone straite after.
I am maid to call at least 20 people a day even if they are over 60 (Im like OAP Woooot?) and some of them are so old all they wanna do is talk for ages.
Yesterday my manager had a go at me for takin an extra fag brake when i was workin late that day and stressed coz i got in to work an hour late.
the wage is rubbish. I only get £20,000 a year and this is whilst raisinga few children.
Somethings cannot be helped, for example the guests that expect to be treated like royalty.
Management always has room for improvement, but has the agent(s) tried speaking with their superiors to voice their opinions? Same goes for management, have you taken the time to sit down with your staff to dissect the problems at hand? Understand that the agents may not feel comfortable with sharing their opinions at first, but that is for management to figure out how to ease the agent to let it out.
Everyone has reasons for not doing or doing something no matter where or what the situation is. People just need to communicate with each other and proactively work together more figure out a solution.
I’m a supervisor, and I wish I could change a lot of things for my staff but at the end of the day I still have my own superior and there is only so much I can do without the approval. Honestly, there is nothing I do unless it gets approved, and most the changes asked involve *cough* increase pay *cough*. That is something in which i have no say unfortunately… There are limitations to what a supervisor/management can do as there is always someone in a higher position and without the green light from the top, there is absolutely nothing the lower level authorities like myself can do :T
Then again there are some people who do not actually care about their job and it boggles my mind that they are still stuck in the call center for 3+ years discretely searching for another job. Shouldn’t take that long to find another job even if there is a job shortage in wherever you are and if there is, like someone has said before, be happy that you at least have a job. if everyone worked together and saw the bigger picture as a whole and worked together as a team, then there wouldn’t be so many issues. But… that’s just wishful thinking. Society and human nature will not allow it.
I’m guilty of every one of these things. I think most people who work in a call centre are.
I fully appreciate where the advisors are coming from in these comments. (advisors not agents – I find that word demeaning) I think we who are in a position to change things need to take a good look at these comments and take note. Working in customer service, especially over the phone, is a thankless job and it is hard. I am more than aware that targets and KPIs mean that we have to be fairly inflexible but these comments make me realise that we need to start educating people on the whys more than the whats.
Whilst many of these things MAY happen, depending on individuals and / or company ethics – however, as a manager, I found this article to be very condescending, elitist, and negative. I personally dont think this kind of content that needs to be presented in this way.
This is managerial skills being lacked – not just shirking employees.
I say this as a manager of teams from 5 to 500 – rather than create content for articles which point a finger and how to “catch them out” go and have a look at your own managerial skills and see why you have the issue in the first place.
im proud to say that my agents and i are proud of each other. communication is importaint and as a team leader we communicate on a daily basis about absolutly anything that holding us back. as a leader i think its importaint to connect with your agents. Agents love working with good leaders
I would like to know if management call the call center as a undercover boss just to see how associates handles calls under different circumstances.
If you micromanage every second of your techs lives as if they are little better than teenaged delinquents, sooner or later, that is the only kind of employee you will have in your call center.
I do all of these. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane.
My ethos is this, and it’s simple…. paid by the hour to work by the hour. Today’s workforce seem to be extremely selfish in their employment outlook. Me me me, entitled, my right, me me me. Be thankful you have employment – if you don’t like the job then don’t work there.
anything over 40 hours a week for hourly is overtime. I believe this is federal law. If they are not paying you over time for working over 40 hours then you need to bring this up to management and possibly other people that they are in violation of state and federal workforce laws.
As far as being the voice of the agent I have worked in 3 call centers now. The first was an Apple offshoot one and the 2nd was for Dell. I actually went from one department to another….
Working for the 2nd one though was fantastic. Employees and manager both were respectful about all the call hopping. We get 2 15 min breaks and a lunch. We can do callbacks as well. The idea was if you take breaks take them right after a call ends. This way you are last in the queue and so taking it them wont impact anyone. If you wait till your first you will essentially have that whole time you were not doing anything and then 15 extra min and then another whole time your not doing anything as you are now at the bottom again once break ends.
Same for calling customers back. Do it right after another call ends. This way your not avoiding taking calls. I see an agent who will use all the aux codes very strategically. He’ll go to lunch, and break when hes in 1st and if hes used those he’ll “have to make a callback” when hes in 1st again. He’ll take like 3 calls in his shift (7-4) and then I get in and take 7 or 8 calls…. between noon and 5. And its not just a matter of im better at solving them its a matter of him ducking calls.
We have another agent who will go into aux to do callback and then wander around aimlessly, chit chat and so forth. Or they will be on a call, put thier customer on hold and talk about god knows what with other people…but not work on the actual case.
The problem with people like this is that in some cases if you avoid your work its only on you for the most part. But for every call you avoid taking that means someone else is now taking the call that should have been yours. Someone else is now having to literally do your job for you. It is super annoying to watch the same agents day after day aux hop and nothing happen to them…..I realize everyone has their reasons and so forth for this and that and wanting to not get calls at the end of the day but in the end….your directly affecting a fellow co worker….and those co workers…are going to turn on you if you keep doing it.
I found dell’s call center (at least in pro support) to actually be very good. I enjoy working there. especially in my current job as I am top dog at my position :p I still have some to learn but I have learned a TON….and its great having developers people WANTING to fix bugs in their products. I admit I sometimes do things outside the norm that they want us to..For example I go strait into uax to call back all my customers at the start of my shift. But at the same time I actually call back my customers. I do it fast, quick, and don’t waste time. Thne I am in available the rest of the day (minus breaks and lunchs which I take once calls die down). Becuase of how use my aux times and my technical abilities I think thats why management leaves me alone. I actually ahve the biggest ego right now in my job…I feel a bit like Rodney McKay from StarGate Atlantis. xD Im good and I know it! 🙂 But I still help everyone…even when i go to break or lunch i walk around helping everyone else with thier calls. My biggest weakness is being personable to customers. Im technical so dealing with upset customers is not my thing. however I am so good technically that I make up for it by solving customers issues and solving them quickly.
My first call center I hated. I was good solving the issues there too but you had people waiting up to an hour to get to tier 1, troubleshoot for an hour, get to tier 2 (me) and have me solve it in like 10 min. I found the one thing you dont want is customers who are too hot or too cold…..they get cranky…..fast….and if our product didnt work….ac/heating wouldnt work. talk about pissed off customers! When every single customer is SUPER pissed off it sucks :/ Working for Dell people are a lot less pissed off. Ive only ha d acouple in 2 years. And we have special people they can talk to whose entire job is centered around pissed off customers. =D
Very good advice for a call center, you should always have the best disposition to give good customer service
I am at a call center right now getting ready to go into after call in about five minutes because I am tired I’ve been here all day long.
The thing that gets me in a call center is the management. Everyone in management positions are not always fair. They see what they want to see. Sometimes it depends on who is actually rolling the cue. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful supervisor for right now anyway. I am furthering my education and I am out of here, unless I move up ofcourse
There’s one person at work, relatively new, who plays the number 1 trick every Friday evening right before knock off time. She has a complete disregard for colleagues and like clock work thinks nothing of bumping everyone else to the front of the queuue so she doesn’t get stuck on the last call. I’m keeping records and am going to raise it with management because I know I’m not the only person noting it. It’s so bloody rude and unprofessional.
I have been working in the call center industry as an agent for the past four years. My first employer had an awesome working environment. Managers spoke to their staff and if there was a need to get off the phones, meetings were scheduled where the team could take a break. This was done with many other ways to have colleagues nominate someone who will be the person to raise it with management and get the feedback to the perspective colleagues. I also know that product information and systems knowledge was a priority with extensive training to be provided for any scenario that might arise and if there was none, an action plan to make sure the relevant people are informed as it might not just be one person that might be having the issue.
I was just fired for call avoidance by my second job. The evidence given was the day that I had to leave due to severe toothache. I left immediately after transferring the customer to a department that is equipped to deal with the query. Yes I did not advise them and cold transferred the call – but knowing that cusomers can keep us on the line even when we do tell them we have to transfer them through was not an option with the pain I was experiencing. I got a doctors note and handed it in to show that I had a valid reason for my actions. This was not taken in consideration and due to their zero tolerance policy that i was told I am aware of, it was a dismiss-able offence and was suspended. I get the fact that the business is affected by these actions – but so is promising calls to customers and you fall ill and do not come in. THe customer is also affected by that – however, the operation has no policy in place to deal with that incidences. There are so many ways to just get rid of agents that might seem the right thing to do from a business perspective – but there are so much more damage done to those ex-colleagues with re-employment and the state of mind of that person. I am a guy and I do not cry easily – but after this happened, I was broken.. Call avoidance has elements that might seem like it is valid but factors that is not recorded by the operation when asking for help, requiring further knowledge to assist the customer or even just taking a moment to regroup ones thoughts (some customers do not have empathy for agents as a human – they have a problem and the demand for unrealistic expectations does impact us, even if some do not want to admit it. Call avoidance seems to be an easy way for call centers to use as an excuse whenever they feel like it and that is unacceptable advantage that needs to be addressed in a better manner than just firing someone that only made this mistake in a week of their 10 month employment with the customer.. Team managers and call center managers – I heard how you deal with staff and take the time to hear them.. I will be taking this when I face them in court as it is important to know that as a manager, a choice to subject a person to dismissal by failing to take responsibility to manage people to avoid areas impacting the business and shows all efforts to take action rather after the incident has taken place that shows bad management and poor attention to details that should be monitored regularly and not just occasionally when they want to.
Nia, the thing about ducking out at the last minute is that you are giving that call to another person on your team. I was on a team where I consistently got the last call 9 out of ever 10 nights. Everyone would get out, leaving those last few calls to come in. I was on a call so I would have 3 or 4 calls in queue just for me while everyone else left. I would be there an extra 30 minutes. If everyone had shared the work, we would all be done at a reasonable time even if a few minutes later.
Hi, how do you generate a report in Avaya CMS to see if an individual is “Shuffling to the back of the pack”?
I was looking for some way to deviate calls before they get to me, without marking as avoiding calls, like on the avaya phone, or in the pc (although it is very limited), or disconnecting the cable from phone to pc, or wall to phone, etc… Didn’t find anything on Google…still…..but I’m gonna, or else I just work on some other job for undergraduate
If your agents are displaying call avoidance behaviours then they are a) disengaged b) In the wrong job / bored or c) burned out.
As managers it is our job to work with people to engage them and make sure they want to work hard – or to have the conversation that perhaps this isn’t the best role for their particular skillset.
…also with the last call of the day issue why not run the shift 15 minutes after the phone lines close? That way theres no rush, customers still get a great service and there’s always offline work that can be done if there are no calls in the queue..
Wow, thanks for all these tips!! I obviously have been too honest in the past, because there is a number of them I hadn’t though of yet. I’ve actually been thinking about calling the hotline myself while I’m working and then hanging up to get my call times down. But I’m a bit worried someone else will pick up and hear the call center in the background and realise what’s happening.
I wouldn’t be thinking about scamming my employer if they hadn’t kept stressing me to the point of burnout. They don’t provide decent contracts, so you continually have to worry about your contract not being renewed and need to always be on the look out for the next job. This is pretty stressful when you are trying to get a visa for your partner based on the fact that you have a secure financial situation (for which a “permanent” contract is preferred). Not very conducive to loyalty (which they nonetheless demand).
They agreed to give me two set days a week off to work elsewhere and then 1-2 days a week off for r&r yet they have currently scheduled me to work 14 days straight. Not because they need me but because I have minus hours on my “flex”time.
On top of that there is a flat hierarchy which means I have about 20 different bosses and my team leader for a particular project said there is no limit to call time for that project yet a couple of the people who do the call controlling keep hassling me to keep my calls to 2 minutes on average. I had never seen the statistics on this (mine or anyone else’s) until I lost my cool pretty badly in a call after being put under unnecessary pressure by a new guy. Now I have seen them and there are at least 4 colleagues worse than me (in a team of about ten) and not one of us has a 2 min average call length. I think one person was under 3 minutes.
Now I had to sign a written reprimand stating that I promise to improve my performance and meet all these totally unrealistic targets. They said they weren’t going to renew my contract but now they have said they will, because of my situation. Which is awesome if they do, but if they had stuck to their agreement in the first place with regards to my working hours I never would have been so stressed as to lose it at work. And I haven’t seen anything on paper yet and after that was offered they scheduled me to work through the second week in a row so now I am afraid they are just going to let me work my butt off to make up the hours then leave me hanging.
I’m sure many of you are working under much worse conditions around the world, but I’m in Germany ffs! You would think there would be more protection of worker’s rights. They have strict laws here about not working Sundays except for essential services yet somehow I am on the phones dealing with trivial consumerism on a Sunday. Turns out the company can make me work 19 days straight if they want.
So I am very grateful to the author for providing such a comprehensive list of tricks of the trade :-))) Well done, keep up the good work!
Single digit dial
An interesting trick that one of our (now ex)advisors found was if they pressed a digit as if you are making an outbound call, then system can’t push a call to them and also does not show they are on an outbound call as they have only pressed one digit.
How to Spot It
They will remain in the idle queue while their colleagues take calls over them, even though they are next in line! it simulates that they are not skilled for that style of call or have lower priorities.
On the whole leaving on time / being stuck on a call thing – we were able to introduce some flexibility in certain situations i.e. flexing a shift by 15 mins in some situations so even if you did get stuck you were able to leave before the end of the day in most cases.
We also allow agents to claim back TOIL when they have been stuck on calls past the end of their shift.
We found that this worked really well for morale, kept staff engaged, still allowed us to hit service targets and prevented anyone from call avoiding at the end of the day 🙂
Don’t like the whole us & them attitude, I’m a Resource Planning Manager but once upon a time I was a phone agent, it’s important not to lose sight of everyone’s needs / requirements.
Hey, Gavin, do you allow your staff to put in an overtime claim for the time they work after 5pm? Bet not. You said it yourself…if you’re paid until 5pm, then you work ’til 5 pm…no later. Employers are always great at bitching when staff rip them off a whole 5 minutes, but don’t bat an eyelid when staff put in extra time.