Ask the Contact Center "Expert"

Greg Levin

I haven’t always been an expert on contact center management and customer care. Some might even argue I’ve yet to start being one. That’s okay, though – I never react emotionally to critics or naysayers. Besides, most of them have been "quieted" by my "assistant" Tony.

Instead of telling people about my knowledge and experience in this profession, I prefer to show them. That’s why this week’s Off Center piece features my expert responses to various pertinent questions I’ve received over the past month from inquisitive contact center professionals just like yourself, only a little more fictional.

Q: I’m tired of hearing about home agents all the time these days. Our traditional call center is successful and our agents are happy with the way things are – why should I start messing around with our staffing model?

A: I don’t doubt that your center is successful and your agents are content; but I sense from your question that you are a bit of an annoying whiner, thus I can’t help but think how much happier and engaged your staff might be if they didn’t have to work anywhere near you. Now, I’m not judging you; after all, plenty of very successful professionals are annoying and whiney – poetry professors and the entire International Tennis Federation, for example.


I’m merely suggesting that you consider allowing at least some of your agents – the ones who make fun of you behind your back on Twitter and Facebook – to start handling customer contacts from the comfort of their own home. Not only will your center begin to enjoy the often-cited benefits of home agent programs (e.g., increased agent retention, more flexible staffing, reduced facility costs, etc.); you will be able to make it home to dinner on time most nights since your car tires are less likely to be slashed in the parking lot by agents who legitimately dislike you.

Q: What is the industry standard for service level?

A: The newest industry standard is to ignore people who ask about industry standards.

You are looking for an easy way out of having to make key decisions about a very critical metric – decisions that need to be based on your specific business, customers’ expectations, and budget. Meanwhile, I’m looking for an easy way out of having to answer the same aggravating question for the 1,000th time in my career.

Bottom line. An "industry standard" for service level (and most other metrics) simply does not exist – like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or a contact center that effectively handles customer contacts via social media.

Q: Our contact center continually struggles to engage and retain agents. What quick steps can we take to help reduce turnover?

A: One of the best and easiest ways to cut agent attrition dramatically is to hire a "reverse bouncer" for your contact center. Where traditional bouncers specialize in not letting people into establishments, a reverse bouncer specializes in not letting people leave. Disgruntled agents who plan on quitting to pursue a career outside your contact center will think twice once they are confronted by a 6’10" tall ex-UFC fighter named Bruno during their exit interview.

It’s also a good idea to make agents go through a comprehensive application process whenever they want to quit. After all, there is a formal application process to start working in a contact center, so why shouldn’t there should be a similar process to stop working in one? Be sure to explain to agents who apply for dismissal that applications take about five years to process. Then, when the five years is up and it’s time to make a decision, just tell applicants that you decided they don’t have quite what it takes to survive outside the contact center.

To be fair, let applicants know that they have the right to appeal the decision, and that the appeals process is handled by Bruno.

Read Greg's advice on taking the 'ail out of email.