Off Center
The next time your contact center is in need of a consultant, look no further than your phone floor.

The best centers I have worked with in my 20 years in the industry don’t view their agents as merely ‘the folks on the phones’ but rather as highly insightful internal consultants – individuals who know better than anyone what processes, practices and improvements are needed to provide optimal customer experiences and increase operational efficiency.

Such contact centers get better and better – and retain agents and customers longer and longer – by empowering staff to serve as…   

Recruiting & Hiring consultants. Nobody knows what it takes to succeed on the contact center firing line better than the people who man it everyday. Smart centers solicit agent input to enhance recruiting and the applicant selection process. This may entail having them help develop ‘ideal agent’ profiles, provide suggestions for behavioral-based interview questions, interact with and evaluate candidates, and/or create job preview descriptions or videos (that give applicants a clear view into what the agent position is really like). It may also involve having agents sneak into neighboring contact centers to kidnap top talent.

Training & Development consultants. Agents know what skills and knowledge they need to create the kind of customer experience one usually only reads about in corporate mission statements or sees in dreams. Creating a training & development task force and including on it a few experienced agents – as well as a couple of not so experienced ones – is a great way to continuously close knowledge gaps and shorten learning curves. Agents will gladly tell you what’s wrong with and missing from new-hire training, ongoing training, one-on-one coaching and the center’s career path (assuming one even exists). Only by actively involving frontline staff in the training & development process can a contact center become a truly dynamic learning organization.

Quality Monitoring consultants. One of the best ways to keep agents from being afraid of or resistant to your quality monitoring program is to actively involve them in it. Agents will hate monitoring and you a lot less if you…
  • ask them to help develop/improve the center’s monitoring form and rating system
  • let them self-evaluate their performance prior to having a supervisor provide feedback/coaching
  • allow them to take part in a peer monitoring & coaching initiative
  • collaborate with them when creating development plans during coaching sessions
  • give them a chance to “coach the coach” by asking them to evaluate how effective their supervisor is at rating calls and providing feedback. 
Technology consultants. While you probably don’t want to have your agents designing the actual systems and software your center uses, you definitely do want to have your agents sharing their ideas and suggestions regarding what tools they need to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the service provided to customers. Agents’ two cents on desktop applications, knowledge bases, scripts and workflows can be invaluable for decreasing handle times and increasing first-contact resolution rates. In addition, agents often know what’s wrong with the center’s IVR system and web/mobile self-service applications (because customers constantly tell them), thus they can provide input that leads to a reduction in the number of unnecessary calls, emails, chats and death threats agents must contend with.

Rewards & Recognition consultants. Empowering agents to enhance the rewards and recognition they receive may be akin to letting your partner pick out her/his engagement ring, but hey, it’s all about making people happy and keeping them from running into the arms of another. I know of a lot of contact centers that ask agents for input on incentives and contests, individual and team awards, and how they’d like to be recognized. Many centers have even implemented peer recognition programs where agents themselves get to decide who is most deserving of special accolades and attention. Managers and supervisors still need to show plenty of their own initiative with regard to rewards and recognition, but collaborating with agents in this area goes a long way toward elevating engagement and performance.

Do you treat YOUR agents like consultants? Feel free to share some of your experiences and suggestions in the Comments section below.

(A slightly different version of this piece originally appeared as a guest post on the ‘Productivity Plus’ blog

put out by the very good people at Intradiem.)

JR Hardenburgh
9/5/2013 11:36:52 pm

Your blog reveals why any consultant worth their fee conducts lengthy side-by-sides and agent focus groups to uncover recommendations for agent life cycle and technology improvements. It is both surprising and accurate what agents are willing to tell outside consultants to improve their life in the call center.

9/6/2013 12:00:55 am

You are absolutely right, JR -- the best consultants ALWAYS ask to speak candidly with agents to help identify ways to enhance the customer experience, the agent experience and internal processes.

I just think these consultants should pay those agents a percentage of their consulting fee. ;)

Thanks for your input!


9/6/2013 03:26:59 am

It doesn't always need to be a consultant. Hire the right management team and you'll get the same result.

9/6/2013 04:04:15 am

Agreed, Steven, but the point of all this is how important -- and valuable -- it is to tap the deep knowledge and insight of the people who interact directly with customers on a daily basis.

9/6/2013 04:15:13 am

Steven's point is well taken - a good management team should already be talking deeply with their teams. If they aren't, perhaps a new management team is in order.

9/6/2013 03:40:17 am

9/12/2013 01:05:50 am

So true. The front line is always the greatest source for customer service innovation. Unfortunately alot of management focuses more on telling them what to do than tapping them for their knowledge!
Teresa Allen
Author: Common Sense Service: Close Encounters on the Front Lines

9/19/2015 05:43:33 am

I completely agree with you that contact centers consultant play significant role in any business operation growth. I go through this post and learn many things about contact centers consultant

5/5/2017 05:04:01 am

Thanks for sharing the information.


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