In this article by George Dixon we explain how to identify the five danger signs of agent complacency in your contact centre.
Staff positivity, productivity and general engagement can make the difference between a thriving business and corporate ruin.
So, when agent complacency begins to rear its head at work, it’s not an issue to be brushed off lightly – especially when the situation begins to worsen, steadily, over time.
Five Danger Signs of Complacency in Your Contact Centre
Read on for the five most common danger signs of complacency in your contact centre, and our suggestions on how to nip them swiftly in the bud.
1. The Employee’s Quality of Work Has Dropped
Perhaps the most important signal of agent complacency comes in the form of a lowered standard of customer service, which, if left unchecked, has the potential to severely damage your company’s reputation, and ultimately send customers running to your nearest competitor.
In the case of written communications such as email and webchat, red flags can include the use of informal, unprofessional language (or, conversely, too much internal jargon), a marked increase in spelling or grammatical errors, and a tendency to transfer customers to other departments when it isn’t strictly necessary to do so.
Often coming hand-in-hand with a declining quality of work is reduced overall productivity. From orders processed to complaints handled and the number of sales achieved, a complacent agent is likely to miss their KPI targets frequently.
Together, a fall in quality and quantity of work represents an unsustainable state of affairs which can directly affect your profit margins and your standing as a top-class service provider.
To help identify when and where these issues are occurring, ensure that all forms of communication with customers are routinely monitored.
Pay close attention, too, to any feedback and/or surveys provided by customers; intricate analysis of these will usually highlight any problem areas to be addressed.
Then, ensure that all agent one-to-ones are understood to be confidential, so that employees aren’t afraid to highlight any instances of poor service that they’ve noticed in the office.
Finally, make sure that team leaders are monitoring their agents’ productivity daily, and offering incentives for top performers. After all, employees who don’t know that their work is being observed and appreciated will naturally be tempted to cut corners at some point.
To find out which metrics you need to keep an eye on, read our article: 5 Important Call Centre Metrics to Improve Agent Performance
2. The Agent’s Appearance and Mannerisms Have Declined
A lapse in all-round professionalism is perhaps one of the most worrying signs of employee complacency. This is because, when left unchallenged, it tends to be contagious, and has the potential to quickly “infect” multiple other members of the team.
The good news, though, is that lax behaviour tends to be easy to spot – so it can be addressed and corrected before spiralling out of control.
The biggest red flag is a general discourtesy towards colleagues and the working environment.
Eating at the workstation, keeping a chaotic desk and leaving mess in communal areas are good examples of this; as well as being a matter of hygiene, and presenting a potential health and safety risk, such conduct symbolizes the agent’s attitude towards their surroundings, and implies that they have either begun to take their position for granted, or are actively looking for a new job elsewhere.
Other unacceptable behaviours to look out for include a consistently uncouth appearance, gossiping, vaping in the office, telling inappropriate jokes, contributing minimally to team meetings, or using foul language, especially when within earshot of ongoing calls.
All of these present a liability to your operation, and tend to be “slippery slope” behaviours which get worse over time. Even so, they can usually be dealt with via an informal meeting or, this failing, a more formal one, followed by an intervention by HR.
Remember: all unprofessional conduct at work should be identified and dealt with as swiftly as possible.
By letting behaviours like this slide, even a little, you’ll inadvertently be setting a bad example for the entire team. If you as a manager aren’t able or willing to apply company rules in practice, then how can agents respect those rules enough to work by them?
3. Their Punctuality Has Lapsed
Bad timekeeping is one of the most basic indications that an employee’s commitment to your company has dwindled, and that their respect for their colleagues leaves something to be desired.
After all, it’s the rest of the team who will need to pick up the pieces when their “weakest link” isn’t pulling their weight.
If an employee ceases to be dependable – whether that manifests in the form of excessive absences, regular lateness, or disappearing from their desk entirely for frequent unscheduled breaks – it can cause a breakdown in morale and a collective drop in regard for the principles of good teamwork.
As a result, it jeopardizes the team’s productivity, directly affecting the success of your business.
To bring your previously punctual agent’s attendance back up to scratch, discuss your concerns with them privately, and determine the cause of the situation as best you can.
It could be that they have become dissatisfied with their position because of a perceived injustice in the office – a modest pay rise, for example, or what they see to be unfair distribution of work across the team.
Whatever the case, make clear your commitment to ironing out any disgruntlements, whilst at the same time asserting their obligations to colleagues.
Try appealing to the agent’s empathy, citing specific examples of how their complacency has affected team drive or caused major inconvenience to a customer.
Be conscious, though, that, like the other items on this list, the poor punctuality associated with employee complacency may also have an unexpected, more innocent cause.
For example, their behaviour may be the result of challenges they’re facing in their personal life (think divorce, bereavement, moving house or a similarly stressful situation).
If this is found to be the case, they can be spoken to in a confidential, informal meeting, where it may be agreed to refer them to HR (and potentially to an occupational therapist), so that they can be given the help they need to overcome their circumstances and reclaim a happy, productive work life.
For information on how to measure and calculate absenteeism, read our article: How to Calculate Absenteeism – Including the Formula
4. Management Are Being Questioned or Criticized
This sign of complacency often involves agents who have been with your company for some time. For any number of reasons, they have begun to feel underappreciated, and lost their respect for management.
These employees, sometimes rightly, feel they know better than the newer personnel your company has taken on, and generally resent their more highly paid colleagues.
They also tend to feel that their lack of career progression is down to favouritism rather than merit of work and, as such, have lost their former fervour for helping your company reach its goals.
These agents will sometimes air unhelpful views in team meetings, subtly question the authority of management and criticize the performance of other teams and departments.
You may also overhear them in the office, expressing reluctance to participate in teambuilding exercises, train new staff, or cooperate with forthcoming company projects they deem to be pointless or inconvenient.
The trouble with this form of complacency is that it can lead to more widespread discontent in the office, and undermine team cohesion as a whole.
Aside from an inherent lack of productivity and a less pleasant working environment, the trouble with this form of complacency is that it can lead to more widespread discontent in the office, and undermine team cohesion as a whole. This is why it must be confronted as early on as possible.
It’s a good idea, initially, to sit down with the agent and explain the negative effect that their actions are having on other employees and on the department in general. More likely than not, the nature of their grievances will become evident during the discussion.
Together, you can then work to identify a solution, be it a route toward career progression, more performance-based awards, or whatever else the employee reasonably feels is lacking.
Remember, this agent will likely have been with your organization for many years, so there’s likely a very good reason for their recent conduct. And, since they have a wealth of valuable knowledge and experience, it’s in both your interests to fix things.
To help prevent a recurrence of problems like this in the future, it will be important to ensure that employees have a means of openly expressing themselves (personally, through frequent one-to-ones, and confidentially via, for example, an anonymous suggestion inbox).
Then, do your best to keep morale consistently high by investing in and rewarding your employees wherever feasible; even in these economically difficult times where pay rises are not always viable, it is possible to do this through less tangible benefits, such as extended breaktimes and regular upskilling.
5. The Agent Has Given Up on Progression
Much like the theoretical employee above who routinely questions authority and stirs up dissidence among their colleagues, this individual is likely to be among your most longstanding agents.
And, like them, they may also have built up a private grievance or resentment against some aspect of their employment.
For example, they may have applied unsuccessfully for several promotions, or already reached the top band of their pay scale, or be bored with the monotony of their job in general.
As a result, this employee has become disenchanted with the company and their place within it. Rather than reacting with passive aggression, however, the agent puts in the minimum effort they can get away with, from attendance to enthusiasm and general quality of work.
This employee type will frequently be late or absent (though not frequently enough to trigger any sort of disciplinary process, the thresholds of which they are well aware).
They can also be found taking personal calls at their desk, texting, checking their social media, making excessive visits to the coffee machine, shopping online and even applying for external jobs at their workstation.
Left unconfronted, this agent will continue in these habits until it’s either time to retire or one of those applications is successful.
These behaviours, obviously, set a bad example for the other members of the team, particularly newcomers, and if you tolerate them in isolated cases, then their colleagues may be next.
It would be a shame to let all that time and training go to waste, when instead their enthusiasm for the company could be reinvigorated.
Consider, also, that you have invested heavily in this agent during their employment; they now know your customer service policies and software systems like the back of their hand.
So, it would be a shame to let all that time and training go to waste, when instead their enthusiasm for the company could be reinvigorated.
Speak to your agent to express, firstly, your appreciation for their work over the years, and secondly, your concern for their recent conduct.
Ask what can be done to revive their interest in their role. More often than not, boredom or an unsatisfactory salary will be the chief cause of contention, and if this is the case, then the solution isn’t far off. Together, review the agent’s professional aspirations.
Are they a leader by nature? Perhaps their preference is with the technical side of customer services, rather than frontline.
Whatever the case, propose that you both work towards reaching their goal, via colleague shadowing, for example, so that when a new role becomes available, they’ll be in a far better position to get it. The only thing you’ll ask in return is that they revert to more professional ways of working.
This way, everyone wins – you regain an efficient, experienced member of staff, they get the motivation to ditch their bad habits, and the other team members gain morale in seeing that loyalty and professionalism go a long way at your company.
Read our article 5 Signs Your Agents Don’t Care for more red flags that suggest an agent has ‘checked out’
Thanks to George Dixon for this article. If you want to discover more great insights from George, read these articles next: