Off Center
While I usually cover contact center best practices and innovation in this blog, today, in keeping with Halloween, I’ve decided to highlight what scares the pants off of most customer care professionals (and what scares the pants back on those who work from home).

Forget about witches, ghosts and goblins – here are some things that are really scary if you manage a contact center:

Rampant agent turnover. It’s positively frightening to think that the average contact center has an annual turnover rate of nearly 40%, and that, according to the human capital management firm CallMe! (that really is their name), the average turnover cost per agent is upwards of $4,000. This means that in a typical 100-seat contact center, agent turnover costs roughly $160,000 – every year. Evidently many organizations are so paralyzed by fear of such exorbitant figures, they are physically unable to create the kind of positive culture that would cause said figures to plummet.

Disengaged agents interacting with your customers. Even scarier than agents leaving are agents who stick around – but who couldn’t care less about your company or its customers. Just because agents show up and sit at their workstations everyday doesn’t mean they are truly present, and THAT can cost you even more than actual turnover. When agents aren’t engaged, empowered and focused on the job, the unnecessary callbacks, long caller rants and customer defection could end up forcing your center to implement a 100% work-at-home initiative – because your company soon won’t be able to make rent.   

Managing Millennials. Millennials tend to be highly creative and tech-savvy multi-taskers who enjoy working in a collaborative manner. Nothing actually scary about that – unless you are a contact center manager or supervisor who only knows how to lead and develop people whose learning styles and communication preferences are just like yours. If that’s the case, your attempts to engage the typical Millennial will be a horror show featuring a lot of carnage – or at least a lot of burnout and attrition.

Social customer service. Just when you thought you had a handle on all the channels and that it was safe to go back into the contact center, social customer service entered the scene – bringing with it a new kind of terror. Now your center has to respond not only to customers who contact you directly (via phone, email and chat), but also to those who express their issue and mention your company name via Twitter or Facebook. And if you don’t respond to the latter customers – or if you respond in an unsatisfactory manner, everybody and their mother gets to see as the PR nightmare plays out. 

Big data. The vast amount of customer information today’s contact center is able to capture is amazing – and scary as all get-out if the center doesn’t have a way of structuring, analyzing and strategically acting on the data. If you thought finding time to monitor each agent a few times a month was hard, try finding time to make sense of the millions of pieces of customer intelligence flying around the contact center stratosphere. Fortunately, there have been real advances in interaction analytics and data-mining to help centers slay the big bad data monster, but many customer care organizations have yet to invest in or tap the full power of said technologies, and thus must continuously face the fear of being swallowed up whole.    

The power of the home agent model. This one may seem a bit out of place, but the power of the home agent model is scary. What else do you know of that, once implemented, has the power to vastly improve such critical things as: agent engagement and retention; agent performance and attendance; contact center staffing/scheduling flexibility; facility expenses; disaster recovery; and the environment? It’s natural to be in awe of such power, even a little frightened. But what’s REALLY scary is the fact that not every customer care organization has embraced the home agent model despite all the huge proven benefits. I guess they are deathly afraid of success – or of happy agents.

What scares YOU about customer care and working in a contact center? Share what makes you shudder and shiver in the ‘Comments’ box below.


JR Hardenburgh
10/30/2013 09:58:04 pm

What scares me the most is the marketing department that creates promotions in a vacuum that the call center has the answer for....without advanced notice!

10/30/2013 10:07:21 pm

Good one, JR! (Or bad one, depending on your perspective.) Nothing like having a sudden 50% spike in contact volume with no additional staff on hand. I just got goosebumps from the fear.

Thanks for playing!


George Adams
10/31/2013 03:16:20 am

Sick calls cause everyone got the bug from each other! I suggested to my boss last year about this time to buy some disinfecting wipes and place them around the office. Nope, no deal. So a month or so later the sniffles, sneezing was rampant and within a week many people were out sick. Talk about unanswered callers...! Magically hand sanitizer and wipes appeared...but too late!

10/31/2013 03:19:13 am

That is one gruesome tale of contact center terror, George. Thanks for sharing (though sorry you had to experience it).

Enjoy the rest of your Halloween!


10/31/2013 08:10:11 am

I agree! Attrition rate kills profits! Disengage employees increases attrition. Poor company culture results to disengage employees. And it all this results to poor customers service which causes you to eventually loose customers. It's always an issue with contact centers.

Andrew Pohlmann
10/31/2013 12:22:39 pm

The creepiest thing I've seen in contact center is a headset and microphone that hasn't been cleaned in months. They almost look like they could crawl away. Scaaaary.

10/31/2013 12:56:45 pm

AP! Haven't heard from you in years! Glad to have you chiming in on something related to contact centers even though you left all the headsets behind long ago. I'll chalk it up to me being your customer care muse.

And yes, what you described is indeed creepy. Let's never speak of it again.

Warm regards,



Leave a Reply.