Off Center
Your organization won’t be able to consistently deliver on its customer experience mission until you rid your contact center of all its agents. Agents are human beings, and human beings are by nature imperfect. How can you expect customers to rate their experience with your company a 5 (out of 5) if they are forced to interact with humans, who are inherently 2s and 3s?

The contact center front line is simply no place for a real person. So, if you haven’t already done so, you need to fire all your agents made of flesh and bone and replace them as soon as possible with advanced IVR applications and speech- and text-enabled virtual bots. The future of your company and your Net Promoter Score depend on it.

For those of you who need a little more convincing before fully automating the contact center and the customer experience, I urge you to consider the following major drawbacks of human agents:

Human agents have hearts. Hearts are easily broken – either by a bad break-up, a favorite sitcom being cancelled, or a request to work from home being denied. Studies show that agents with broken hearts are 73% more likely to sob during customer interactions. And while many customers are sadistic and like it when agents cry, most find it off-putting and awkward.  
Human agents have dreams. Dreams can too easily be dashed – either by a career path being too short (or non-existent), or by a supervisor telling an agent the truth about his or her IQ and potential. Studies have shown that agents with dashed dreams are 82% more likely to inhale lethal doses of helium from motivational balloons in the contact center. Studies have also shown that, after inhaling a lethal dose of helium, an agent’s ability to achieve first-call resolution drops from 68% to 3%.

Human agents have friends. Friends can be a tremendous detriment to agent productivity and focus. Agents’ friends – with no consideration for your contact center or customers – frequently invite agents to parties, dinners, weddings, etc., thus compelling agents to request specific schedules and days off that don’t always gel with the contact center’s needs. An automated IVR attendant or virtual bot, on the other hand, rarely gets invited to any social functions – except for when a caller is fooled by its advanced speech features and asks it out for a drink.

Human agents have bodies. Human agents have always been cursed with having muscles, tendons and bones that bruise easily during long stints of sitting in cramped cubicles and when slammed against monitors. Carpal Tunnel syndrome, back spasms, eye strain and concussions not only cost the company bundles of money in medical expenses, these problems greatly impair agents’ ability to pretend they enjoy their job. IVR attendants and virtual bots, in contrast, have no bodies and thus can handle thousands of customer contacts daily without any complaints about not being able to feel their fingers, toes or soul.

Human agents have tempers. There are only three absolute truths in contact centers: 1) customer contacts are constant; 2) customers complain a lot; and 3) constant customer complaints make agents want to hurt themselves and others. By fully automating your contact center, you greatly reduce the risk of the center being burnt to the ground and/or of you being beaten to a pulp whenever you leave your office during peak periods.

Down with People

Ridding your contact center of human agents means no more turnover and no more complaints about low pay, unfair metrics and bad schedules. It also means big savings on office space and parking, and on the amount of food that needs to be ordered for company picnics and holiday parties.

Sure, your customers will likely be outraged initially over not being able to reach a live agent, but if you take this article and use it as a script in your IVR and as an FAQ answer on your website, customers will soon understand that they are much better off interacting solely with machines. 

NOTE: Greg accidentally overdosed on his satire pills this week, which explains the nature of this post. The doctors say that Greg should be back to his normal, healthy level of irony and parody by the time his next post rolls around.

JR Hardenburgh
12/5/2013 09:11:52 pm

Before considering mass genocide to eliminate human agents from the center, try something companies with high Net Promoter Scores do - lower caller's expectations. Insert an IVR prompt before each call that announces "we really suck at service sometimes but will try our best to answer your question this time around." Once the bar is set that low, most interactions will score a 4 or 5, unless the rating scale is 1-10!

12/5/2013 09:32:49 pm

I love it when you drink in the morning, JR.

You've provided an intriguing suggestion -- I'm a big fan of lowering the bar. My wife certainly did when she agreed to marry me.

Just for the record, I'm not suggesting mass genocide in this piece. Just mass firings. Less clean-up.

Thanks for your creative input, and for 'getting' that this is all satire.



JR Hardenburgh
12/5/2013 09:41:23 pm

It's drinking that special kool-aid before 9 am that makes it happen.

12/5/2013 09:50:12 pm

The only downside I have found with my robot agents is that when they spill thier drink - the oil not only ruins the hardware, the clean up is messier. Maybe if I put Drinking helmets on them it would be better.

Keep up the good work!

12/5/2013 10:37:19 pm

Christian, you must have the old-school type of agent robot (like the one featured in the photo above). You should seriously consider upgrading to a virtual bot -- no hardware, no rusting, no clanking noises that customers can hear. And many of them are sexy.

Still, I like the drinking helmet idea.

Grateful for your comment!


Tammy McDannell
12/5/2013 10:29:40 pm

In my experience most robots tend to develop feelings over time. There tends to be no difference in agent turnover because we have to take those robots "out back" before they decide that they are going to kill the entire human population. Then there is also the problem with the manufacturer not allowing the robots to update their OS and to stay current we are required to purchase new robots every 2 years at a discounted rate of course!

12/5/2013 10:41:20 pm

Tammy, it's true that robots develop feelings over time, unless they work in the billing department or IT.

I wish I had a work-around for you, but unfortunately I, myself, am due for an OS update and thus am not as sharp as I could be.

Thanks for playing!


Kevin Carly
12/5/2013 11:11:14 pm


As you know, I just finished my MBA. In my final class, we had one written discussion focusing on improving the customer experience. One student made a priceless error and wrote, "One way of handling things is eliminating the people who are more dissatisfied." To date, I'm unclear if that error was putting in black and white what we're all thinking. The Italian in me is conflicted.

Anyway, isn't this a far less expensive means to improving morale, NPS, and other measures? I mean, robots are pricey, especially when compared with applying Kevin's Modified Socratic Method and just giving our customers a little hemlock.

I just want to be clear on something. I do not endorse the unnecessary taking of human life...unless it's to improve NPS.


12/5/2013 11:23:14 pm

Wow, it appears I have unlocked the dark recesses of several readers' minds with this piece. Kevin, you're the 3rd person to bring up killing existing staff in their comment. All I was suggesting is killing the payroll.

Now that I've cleared myself as a knowing accomplice to any heinous violent crimes that may take place, I'll address your comment:

It was funny as h@ll!

There, I've addressed it.

Congrats on completing your MBA. Now, in the words of my father, GET A JOB!

Always great to hear from you, Sir Carly.



karen wenborn
12/5/2013 11:43:59 pm

Or has Greg been replaced by a bot?

12/5/2013 11:53:06 pm

Danger. Danger. The one who calls herself Karen has broken the code. Abort mission.

Amy Stevens
12/6/2013 02:24:56 am

Greg, you make me laugh so often but this week's blog is especially funny.Thank you.

12/6/2013 02:49:26 am

Very grateful for the kind words, Amy. So glad to know I was able to deliver a little extra comic relief during the holidays!



12/6/2013 04:12:03 am

Greg: Humans also have a habit of doing the unexpected (like when a manager actually speaks with an agent or when my kids actually acknowledge that I do know a little more than they to). That is how Admiral Adama, Apollo, and Starbuck beat the Cylons. How do you keep the autobot from reaching critical mass when the caller wants something unexpected?

12/6/2013 06:33:27 am

I appreciate your creative comment, Michael, but I don't do sci-fi so it's as if you are speaking in cursive.

Plus it's Friday late afternoon and I may have gotten an early jump on happy hour -- or as I like to call it, happy afternoon/evening/night.

I'm sure I'll better understand the brilliance of your words come Monday.

Enjoy the weekend!

12/6/2013 06:26:06 am

As all Dr Who fans know the Cybermen were originally humans. What we know is that they worked in call centres.

12/6/2013 06:40:54 am

That is a fascinating fact Martin, although I feel compelled to point out that you misspelled 'call center' -- again. You made the same typo throughout your otherwise excellent new book. ; ) It's like you Brits think it's okay to just make up words.

(In all seriousness though, everyone, I highly recommend you check out Martin's new book, which he co-authored with Carolyn Blunt. It's called Delivering Effective Social Customer Service and can be found on Amazon at I had the honor of previewing it before it was published, and it's excellent.)

12/6/2013 06:45:12 am

Very generous to go so off topic Greg. I agree about the 'Old Country' spelling. So let's settle on how Social Silicon Valley would presumably spell it - call.centr

12/10/2013 01:26:27 am

Greg, I'm not sure you've thought this through.
One word. Skynet.

We've all seen the Terminator movies, which everyone knows are based on fact. These are documentaries. What they cut out, was that Cyberdyne Systems was actually the leading vendor in workforce management solutions. It was a quick jump from EMEA to global domination.

Think on.

Worried of London.

12/10/2013 01:42:05 am

Ah, Fran -- I forgot you still trolled around in the contact center space. (Thought you escaped years ago!)

I've never been a big fan of thinking things through. Never really saw the point, as evidenced by the photo I opted to use on my site banner.

By the way, you are mistaken; Cybyerdyne Systems wasn't a WFM vendor -- it was a speech analytics provider. Still, you make a good point.

(un)Thoughtfully yours,


12/15/2013 07:40:33 pm

Very good article Greg

I wish you could come to Montreal to exchange with Triad Benchmark members about the profile of the millennial agent and how to prepare management

Pierre Marc

12/15/2013 09:41:44 pm

Glad you enjoyed the piece, Pierre.

I LOVE Montreal (I used to live about 4 hours away in Northampton, Massachusetts). Shoot me an email ( if you'd like to discuss me coming to your fine city to ramble on about engaging and retaining Millennials.

In the meantime, here's a link to a great blog post about the topic -- written by the great people at TELUS:

Thanks for your comment -- take care!



Love this post! Really made me crack up! But think of all those poor, call center employees....


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