Contact Center WFM: Dealing With Toxic Employees

Meeting contact center staffing needs goes beyond the science of predicting when you’ll need employees – it’s also about choosing people who are right for the contact center. What happens when all goes well during the hiring phases, but once hired an employee becomes toxic?

Accepting That You Have a Toxic Employee

Toxic employees are much different than difficult employees. They cause psychological pain and often influence others with their behavior. They often find their bad behavior fun and engage in certain behavior simply to find out if they can get away with it. Take note of how your other agents are reacting. Do they seem to have a slump in energy? Are they frustrated most of the time? Do they complain that they’re constantly being put-down?

Determining the Cause of the Behavior

Is the employee not happy with an aspect of their job or are they facing difficult circumstances in their home life? Are they upset with one or more co-workers? If there’s a reason for why they’re acting a certain way, it’s possible that they just need some help in order to improve, saving you the trouble of having to find a replacement.

Explaining the Behavior

Sometimes toxic agents are oblivious to how much destruction they’re causing. Explain to them what their behavior is and how it’s affecting the rest of the contact center. Guide them on how to improve. Make sure that they understand the consequences if they don’t change. Will they lose a privilege that they enjoy, like setting a flexible schedule or getting an end-of-year bonus? The initial consequence doesn’t have to be that they’ll lose their job (though that may be a possibility down the line).

Cutting the Cord

In the end, if the employee will need to be let go, it will require some sort of documentation. Even if you’re confident that the situation will improve without having to fire the employee, document everything from the beginning. A pattern of behavior has to be established by providing as much material as possible. This will protect you in the event that you do need to let the employee go.

It’s not unheard of for a contact center agent to turn toxic once they’ve been hired. Traits that went unnoticed before can be exposed. Knowing the red flags of toxic behavior can help you find and replace those employees immediately.

How Real-Time Analytics Monitoring Improves the Contact Center

Real-time data helps businesses run smoothly. Being able to see the truth about how your company is performing moment-to-moment lets you understand the reality of your business. When you know where you’re losing as well as where you’re winning, it’s easier to appropriately adjust and monitor the contact center’s daily functions. When day-to-day functions are made more efficient, productivity can increase. Here are six benefits of real-time analytics monitoring

1. The quantity and quality of calls can be tracked.

Real-time monitoring allows the contact center to know exactly how many calls are being handled by agents, plus how many calls are currently in queue. The supervisor can see how many calls are being worked on and resolved by specific agents, and conversations can be listened in on to find out how they’re being handled. At any point, the contact center can track a call in real-time and then step in if the agent seems to be struggling. By closely monitoring calls, you can determine where a specific agent or a group of agents need more work.

2. Assess the changing value of a customer.

Customers will change their value to a company as they continue to purchase items or as they become dissatisfied with the products or level of service they receive. When a customer changes how frequently they purchase, real-time analytics can immediately update the customer’s status. The next time the customer contacts an agent, the agent will know how valuable the customer is. If the customer has been purchasing more frequently, they can be moved to VIP status. If they haven’t been purchasing as frequently as in the past, they may need an incentive in order to trust the company more.

3. Analyze waiting and idle time.

The amount of time a customer has to wait to have their problem resolved is a huge part of the customer experience. The longer the wait time, the more upset the customer may get, getting the customer-agent conversation off to a bad start. While an agent may need extra time to resolve a problem, the customer only cares about how long the process is taking. With real-time analytics, the wait and idle time for each agent can be assessed.

4. Quickly manage long queues.

At times, the contact center will be understaffed or inundated with calls, live chat requests, and emails. During these times, real-time monitoring can show you which agents are idle, allowing you to redirect calls that are currently in queue to those agents. Team members can quickly be reallocated in order to meet a surge in demand.

5. Find out how long it takes for agents to handle queries.

Contact center agents are tasked with resolving issues in the quickest way possible without lowering service quality. With real-time analytics, you can see how long agents are spending on each customer. You can then work with the agents who regularly take a long time with customers in order to lower their average resolution time.

6. Take advantage of cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

When a customer has recently bought a product or service, the contact center agent has an opportunity to cross-sell or up-sell. Real-time data can track what the customer has recently purchased and then automatically populate other products or services that they may be interested in. The system may also prompt the agent to offer the customer a better version of the product they’re ready to purchase at a higher price point.

6 Benefits of a Cloud Contact Center

The premise-based contact center requires hardware and software that have to be purchased, setup, updated and maintained. Equipment and maintenance can be costly, and an HR or IT department is usually required to manage the system. When the hardware or software becomes outdated, it will have to be replaced, which is another large investment.

Cloud-based contact centers, however, are subscription-based. The hardware, software and maintenance is controlled by a third party provider. You won’t have to spend money on special routers, servers, hardware, software or in-house staff. The cloud-based system can be accessed online from anywhere. Here are six benefits of switching to the cloud:

  1. Accessibility Everywhere

Cloud-based CRM can be accessed no matter where you are in the world. The CRM industry is fast-paced and it’s necessary to keep data up-to-date by the minute. Data that hasn’t been updated even within the past hour can already be irrelevant. Not only are cloud-based CRM systems accessible from wherever you are via a number of Internet-connected devices, but the system will also update in real time.

  1. Simple Setup

Software-based CRM systems require a lot of time and expertise to get up and running. Installing software on hundreds or thousands of machines can be time-consuming. With cloud software, employees can signup, login through their browser and immediately get to work. Plus, the purpose of cloud CRM systems is to have every agent be able to use it. While quick training may be helpful, there’s no reason to spend hours training agents on how to use the system. Modern cloud systems are intuitive and user-friendly.

  1. Less Overhead

Cloud contact centers avoid the large, upfront payment that’s the norm with premise-based software. The monthly subscription will remain the same, covering everything from storage and access to maintenance and support services. Plus, since cloud CRM systems don’t require the same type of IT attention that software does, you won’t have to pay high maintenance costs.

  1. Hassle-Free Upgrades

Traditional software requires routine upgrades, which can cause problems with other software that’s not compatible. With the cloud, upgrades never result in compatibility issues because the program doesn’t actually live on your device. If you want to scale your business, the cloud-based system will scale with you, often without no added cost. You can add more agents and buy more phone lines without paying anything extra. As your business changes because of something unexpected or simply due to seasonal fluctuations, your cloud system can change along with it.

  1. Automatic Backup Protection

The cloud automatically backs up your data in order to keep it safe. If a disaster or emergency happens, your contact center information won’t be vulnerable. Even if one cloud server goes down, another cloud server will immediately take its place, making it possible for you to continue working.

  1. Remote Workers

Cloud-based CRM systems allow you to employ remote contact center agents. This is especially helpful if you need agents to provide service to customers in different time zones. So long as the agent can access the Internet, calls can be routed to them from the contact center’s network. Telecommuting has its perks: employees are happier, overhead is lower and the hiring pool is larger because you’re not required to hire people who live in a certain location.

Cloud-based CRM software can streamline business practices, improve the customer experience, give you a better pool of candidates to hire from and increase your bottom line.

3 Contact Center Metrics Worth Tracking

Analytics reporting systems churn out a ton of data for contact centers to work with. Having all of that information at your disposal can sometimes be a hindrance, though, particularly if you don’t know what to look for. Relevant data should never go under-utilized because less important analytics are in the way.

What is the Real Potential of Contact Center Data?

The data with the most potential will help the contact center take the pulse of their own performance and compare it to that of their competitors. It will help create new performance goals to work toward. It will also identify any gaps that need to be filled and weaknesses that need to be fixed.

Which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Should We Track?

Contact centers have the ability to track upwards of 25 metrics at a time. Without being diligent about which metrics will genuinely make a difference, quantity can easily trump quality. Here are three KPIs that matter for practically every contact center:

  1. Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction is an excellent barometer for determining how well a contact center is doing. A Customer Satisfaction survey can find out why a customer may be dissatisfied, giving the contact center the opportunity to fix any recurring problems. Customer Satisfaction analytics are also affected by several other metrics, including Call Quality and Handle Time.

  1. First Contact Resolution (FCR)

FCR is another big influencer on Customer Satisfaction. Often, when Customer Satisfaction scores are too low, improving FCR could solve a large part of the problem. Offering incentives to agents, improving training programs and developing helpful knowledge bases may all improve FCR.

  1. Agent Satisfaction

When agents’ needs are being met, there is less absenteeism and turnover, plus higher rates of FCR. This also positively affects customer satisfaction. Aim to measure Agent Satisfaction twice a year and to mentor and train employees whenever the data deems it necessary.

Putting it All Together

Knowing which data is important will help you answer the most important question: how well is your contact center performing? The Aggregate Service Desk Performance metric grades a contact center’s overall performance. By combining data from the other KPIs, a combined score is determined. While each important KPI should be monitored separately, the aggregate score is a good all-inclusive metric for learning if the contact center’s performance is rising or dropping over time.

4 Voice of the Customer Tools for Collecting Feedback

Analytics often track what a customer does, but voice of the customer tools figure out why someone performs an action. Several voice of the customer tools can be used to collect feedback. The feedback tool you choose depends on your goal.

  1. Community Forums

Customers can discuss their experiences with one another in forums. These are great places to find out what customers need and which needs aren’t being met. They’re hubs for suggestions and ideas that a brand can use to guide everything from product development to customer support practices.

  1. Visual Feedback

Brands that have recently launched a new website or mobile app can benefit from visual feedback tools. Elements on a page will have the option to provide feedback. The customer can make a note about what they think about a specific element and then a screenshot will be sent to the appropriate department or agent. The customer uses his or her own words to describe a problem, which helps brands figure out which parts of a page or app are faulty or unclear.

  1. E-shop Reviews

E-shop surveys are auto-emailed to customers after they purchase or receive a product. A short assessment survey asks the customer to rate their experience or the product on a scale of one to five. There’s also a section where customers can write in an account of their experience. The benefits of this type of feedback are twofold. First, the brand learns about the customer’s experience and can opt to reach out to the customer if they submit low scores or describe a problem. Second, if the star ratings are published on a review site, other shoppers will be influenced by them, and a brand with high ratings will attract more customers.

  1. Speech Analytics

Speech analytics delve deep into a recording to uncover intelligence from customer-agent conversations. Advanced software digs through dialogue to isolate specific phrases and words. Results can be organized and then compared to reason codes (why customers contacted support) as well as trends to determine recurring problems.

Voice of the customer feedback tools help contact centers to determine what people do and do not like about a brand. By pinpointing why someone may choose, stay with or leave a brand, the entire customer journey can be updated and adapted to meet specific customer needs.


How to Make the Most of Your Contact Center’s Speech Analytics

Speech analytics work best when the correct processes are in place. Without the right objectives, you won’t know what to specifically measure. Without involving the rest of your team, you won’t be able to leverage the data you collect. Keep the following tips in mind to maximize your speech analytics efforts.

  1. Get Clear About Your Objectives

Speech analytics can be used in a variety of ways. Do you want to improve the customer experience? Do you want to enhance the skills of the sales team? Are you worried about quality assurance? Knowing which objectives you need to focus on will guide you when it comes to analyzing the data.

  1. Get Your Team on Board

When you’re giving your speech analytics regime an overhaul, everyone from management to your customer service agents need to be in-the-know. Whoever is going to be affected by the technology, particularly those who will benefit from it, should be involved. The best speech analytics programs don’t just involve technology, but also cooperation from various departments.

  1. Create a Training Program

If you’re setting up a new speech analytics program, your employees may benefit from some education and training. There are likely to be big changes when it comes to goal-setting, workflow, and how teams interact with one another. The speech analytics team and the contact center agents should have communication from the beginning. Agents will need to know how the new speech analytics plan will benefit them and the contact center as a whole.

  1. Prepare for Even More Change Than Expected

There’s often a domino effect that occurs when making a big change to a contact center. When one process changes, it could cause another to change unexpectedly. Speech analytics may streamline many of your business processes, but it could also uproot others, a shift you probably didn’t prepare for. Change management requires agility. If you can’t respond and adapt to the new issues that pop up, you’ll become paralyzed.

  1. Create a Plan for Reporting Data

Collecting data is one thing, but all of that information needs to be disseminated and analyzed. Relevant departments should receive reports that they can then act on. Keeping everyone in the loop will help your speech analytics program to be more impactful and it will also garner the support of all involved.

3 Tips for Implementing Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) benefits the contact center as well as the customer. Behind the scenes, RPA can replace manual processes while increasing efficiency, make the most out of software, and eliminate the need for outsourcing. For the customer, RPA improves their experience and gets them answers as quickly and accurately as possible. However, RPA is only as good as your business process strategy. Here’s how to implement RPA so that it works as well as possible for the contact center as well as the customer.

  1. Pinpoint Which Processes Can and Should be Automated

Certain business processes will adapt better to RPA than others. Transactional processes are often a better fit for RPA than processes that require a judgement call. For example, a bank may automate the closing of fraudulent accounts so that there’s no time delay between when a fraudulent account is detected and when it’s closed. On the other hand, some aspects of social media customer service can come off as disingenuous when automated, making it a better option to have a team of agents who are responsible for responding to unhappy customers on social media.

  1. Stack Sub-Processes to Create a New Automation Model

Using RPA for one main goal may require several sub-processes that work together. The benefit of RPA is that it can be customized to the individual contact center’s business processes and needs. If you’re not reaping enough value from a current formula, consider splitting it up into sub-processes that build on one other. By tweaking the sub-processes to make them more effective, the overall result may improve.

  1. Test the RPA Plan Before Deploying It

No matter how sure you are that the new RPA plan is ready to be implemented, try it out during a pilot phase first. Involve the people who will be part of the program once it’s officially rolled out. You’ll have time to see how effective the plan is in real-time before replacing your current processes. The results of the pilot program will show you where improvements need to be made, if any.

RPA has a host of benefits, including reducing average handling time, improving agent productivity and limiting the time needed to train new agents. Only when RPA is setup correctly, though, can it help the contact center in these – and even more – ways.

Warning Signs That You Need to Improve Your Omnichannel Strategy

Consumers want – and expect – a precise, efficient and personalized customer service experience every time they interact with a brand. They need to be able to shop, get information or troubleshoot from anywhere whenever they want. When brands don’t meet these expectations, they can lose their customer base as well as their reputation. By creating and employing an omnichannel strategy, you can provide customers with a reliable, consistent journey across every channel.

Omnichannel seamlessly integrates all avenues of support, including live chat, phone, email, mobile and social media, so that consumers can switch their contact channel midway through an issue and still pick up right where they left off. However, even companies that think they have an omnichannel strategy in place are still making big mistakes.

There are a lot of “blind” channels out there. Omnichannel is all about contact channels communicating with each other, not just two or three channels being able to sync. Having your live chat, email and phone teams able to provide seamless support isn’t good enough if mobile and social media are still on a multichannel strategy. This could mean that a customer could get far along in an issue using two channels, but then lose ground when switching to a third channel, requiring them to explain the issue from the beginning. If you’re going to adopt an omnichannel strategy, it has to be implemented across the board without any blindspots.

Another mistake companies make is not maximizing mobile channels as part of their omnichannel strategy. Today’s customers use mobile devices to do things like read emails or brand newsletters and window shop for items they want to buy later on, possibly from another device, like their computer. An omnichannel strategy should capture customer information when they’re on mobile and then use it to personalize their experience elsewhere.

For example, when a customer clicks an item in a shop’s mobile app, that same item can pop up the next time the customer visits the website from their laptop (where they’re more likely to make the purchase). The customer can get an offer for something like special pricing or free shipping in order to encourage them to make the purchase. In this way, the customer can begin the shopping experience on one channel and then pick it up on another channel at some point in the future.

Voice of the Customer: Beyond Feedback Surveys

Voice of the Customer (VOC) is important for contact centers that want to improve the customer experience. Many contact centers associate VOC with feedback surveys, but there’s a lot more to it than that. VOC has many facets that help brands learn about customers and not every type of data collection has to be announced. Here’s how VOC strategies can help you learn what customers want and need, plus how you should be giving it to them.

Conduct Interviews and Focus Groups

Interviews and focus groups, especially those that are in person, are excellent ways to test new products and services. This type of direct feedback is also a good way to understand the current perception of a brand. If interviews and focus groups can’t be conducted in person, virtual meetings are a useful alternative.

Ask for Input from Contact Center Agents

Nobody communicates as frequently with customers as your agents. A contact center’s own employees can provide a great window into customer expectations. Real-life scenarios, especially those that seem to occur frequently, can help you pinpoint areas of success as well as areas of failure.

Talk to the Marketing Team

There’s a lot of customer insight that can be gleaned from marketing and advertising analytics. The marketing team will be tracking the nitty gritty of their campaigns. You’ll be able to find out things like which colors are most appealing to customers, which images social media users are reacting to and the wording that has worked to get people engaged.

Listen to Social Media

Even brands that don’t have social media accounts may still have an influential presence online. Consumers often talk about products or customer service experiences by writing reviews on Yelp or posting on social media. Brands should be monitoring the internet for mentions of their company, products or services, and responding publicly to negative feedback.

VOC is an integral part of your customer experience strategy. Feedback surveys can be helpful, but they’re not the only worthwhile pursuit. It’s not always possible to get honest feedback by asking for it. Think of how many times you’ve been unsatisfied with the food or service in a restaurant but still smile and say, “Great!” when the server asks how everything is. When it comes to virtual brands, observing how people engage with products or services can provide a lot of insight.

Is Your Company Making One of these 5 Tragic Customer Service Mistakes?

 Guest Blogger – Dana Brownlee

If you’re like me, you’ve had more than your share of horrible customer service experiences leaving you scratching your head in frustration at the fact that companies seem to make the most glaring customer service mistakes (that could be so easily remedied)!!!! I’ve certainly wondered….

  • Why does the automated phone system ask me to punch in my account number a zillion times if the representative’s first question will be “Account number please?”
  • Why is it so hard to find an actual customer service phone number for many companies these days?
  • Why can’t you just apologize up front if you made a mistake and act like you care while you’re at it?
  • Why can’t you listen to what I’m actually saying????
  • Why can’t I get a number to call you back if needed – YOU, the agent I’ve neem talking to for the last 30 minutes, not the main 800 # where I’ll have to start all over!
  • If you know you have times when you can expect “higher than normal call volume”, why can’t you staff up for those and not leave me on hold for 15 minutes?
  • Why does it seem like I’m talking to someone who’s hired just to read a script instead of someone who is really knowledgeable and equipped to solve my problem?Having analyzed real customer feedback from the 2016 Professionalism Matters “What Customers Really Want Survey” (see full report here), I’ve identified 5 TRAGIC Customer Service Mistakes too many companies are making!
  1. Most customer service efforts are focused on “fixing” the problem instead of eliminating it. What’s the difference? Eliminating the problem is about identifying the root cause to ensure that problem never occurs again while “fixing” it is about addressing that specific customer’s complaint and moving on to the next call. When I ordered a tie for Father’s Day with my infant son’s picture on it and realized that the company put the wrong baby’s picture on my tie, I immediately called customer service. Although the CSR (in a very matter of fact tone), immediately offered to refund my money, I was more disconcerted to see that she had ZERO interest in figuring out why this happened and what steps she should take to ensure this problem didn’t happen to anyone else. In contrast, I read that in an effort to truly find/fix root cause problems one company had decided to eliminate traditional “customer service” and instead have their developers/engineers take all customer service calls. This approach not only ensures customers can talk directly to the person who can fix the root cause problem, but it also encourages a broader set of employees have direct customer interaction.


  1. Most companies have a “customer dissatisfaction infrastructure” where CSRs are low skilled, poorly compensated, or not highly valued.

Within a company organizational structure, Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) oftentimes have the MOST regular, direct customer interaction – in many ways they are the face of the company and have a HUGE impact on not just customer service levels but ultimate customer loyalty as well. Customers may try a product or service based on the specifications of the specific product/service, but they often stay with/leave a company based on the service they receive over time. Given the fact that CSRs have SO much influence on customer impressions, you’d think that they would be highly regarded, trained, and compensated….WRONG!!! It’s exactly the opposite in too many cases. CSRs are typically among the lowest paid staff with a 2015 median annual salary (according to Bureau of Labor Statistics) of just $31,720. They’re often entry level positions requiring little education/training. The low pay most likely negatively impacts employee morale, turnover, candidate quality and other factors that can have a dramatic downstream impact on customer service levels.  Companies must not just make changes in how they recruit, train, and reward CSR staff but also shift the corporate culture to acknowledge the importance of the CSR role.

  1. Increased automation and outsourcing has resulted in decreased customer satisfaction.  

Customers HATE IVRs, phone trees, and phone automation systems but for some reason, companies seem to insist on using them. To make matters worse, customers are insulted by being asked to input account information (sometimes multiple times) only to have to repeat it again once the agent takes the call.  It just makes the “automated” system seem useless in addition to being frustrating.  Even if it’s not practical to ditch IVRs completely (particularly for large call centers), companies should seriously consider streamlining them to require a response to no more than one automated question. Another option could be providing email or IM customer service as an option for customers who prefer that to minimize the volume of live calls (and thereby minimize the need for automated support).


Outsourcing call centers overseas may save money short term but it also creates significant customer frustration and decreases customer loyalty.  82% of survey respondents indicated that they have difficulty understanding their service representative due to dialect.  While there are likely cost savings associated with outsourcing call centers, it’s questionable whether the savings outweigh the long term cost associated with reduced customer satisfaction/customer loyalty.  Also, the purported “cost savings” may not actually be as significant as they appear if customers are having to make multiple calls (instead of one) in order to reach a representative with whom they can effectively communicate.

  1. CSR scripts encourage a robotic, insincere experience for customers.

Many respondents commented on the “lack of empathy” they feel from CSRs during customer service interactions.  Having extensive “If they say this, you say that” scripts are the perfect recipe for robotic, sterile interactions.  Even the most well intentioned CSR is likely discouraged from actual unique, personalized connection with the customer when a word for word script is stuffed in their face and they’re told to follow it….or else! Furthermore, scripts seem to discourage active listening possibly because the agents may be anticipating what the customer is going to say (based on the options in their script) instead of actually listening to their specific scenario. Indeed, when asked how often they felt CSRs truly heard/understood their concern/issue during customer service calls, only 35% responded “Often” or “Always” (view full survey results here). Anecdotally, they frequently cited this refusal to listen as a key point of frustration.

Companies should definitely ditch the scripts and instead encourage CSRs to actively listen and pursue true, authentic customer interaction.  More specifically, CSRs should strive to achieve true “customer connection” within the first two minutes of the call.  This connection typically includes a sincere apology if the company dropped the ball in any way, reiteration of the customer’s issue (to ensure they know they were heard) and/or a statement of empathy for any inconvenience.

  1. Companies are increasingly removing or minimizing live agent customer service options even though customers clearly prefer addressing customer service issues by phone.

In today’s era of social media, chat/IM, and email, companies seem to be trending away from providing live customer service representatives.  Interestingly enough, our survey revealed that respondents overwhelmingly (49%) preferred addressing customer service issues by phone.  Text/IM came in a distant second at only 19%. Respondents were also frustrated by the increasing prevalence of companies “hiding” their phone contact information deep within the website – ostensibly to make it so difficult to find that customers will give up and opt for other less costly customer service options like email, chat, or social media.  In short, customers feel that trying to reach customer service should not feel like an episode of CSI!

As advancing technology reduces barriers to entry and industries become more and more competitive, companies must do more to keep the customers they have and gain new ones. I for one have been underwhelmed by most companies’ attempts at customer service and feel a rebranding is in order. What about “Customer Enthusiasm”? In today’s social media obsessed world where a really bad review from the wrong dissatisfied customer on the right social media site can make a marked difference in your bottom line, shouldn’t the new goal be “customer enthusiasm” – how do we excite customers and make them not just stay with us but rave about us publicly? Indeed, it seems that the proverbial “cheese has been moved” in the customer service arena and what “worked” yesterday may not be sufficient tomorrow.

Dana Brownlee is an acclaimed keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and team development consultant. She is President of Professionalism Matters, Inc. a boutique professional development corporate training firm based in Atlanta, GA. She can be reached at Connect with her on Linked In @ and Twitter @DanaBrownlee.