As many as 36 per cent of call centre agents have been threatened with violence while 21 per cent of female call centre agents have been sexually harassed by customers, according to a study released on Friday.
Not only this, 81 per cent of the agents have experienced customer abuse, while 41 per cent of agents want AI to tackle complex calls and 40 per cent of agents fear AI will take away their jobs, according to ASAPP, the artificial intelligence (AI) research-driven company, which has published the report, CX: The Human Factor.
Three million Americans work as call centre agents and nearly one million in India. However, many face abuse daily from customers, so much that 1.2 million Americans leave the job each year, it said. As many as 51 per cent of agents, who received poor training, report being pessimistic about their careers which can lead to poor performance and burnout, it added.
The report reveals the core challenges facing three million US contact centre agents, an industry with one of the highest employee turnover rates; 40 per cent leave their roles within 12 months. Three key themes of training/coaching, technology and career opportunities emerged from interviews and a survey with agents that illustrate a focus on short-term savings that ultimately increase the long-term costs for customer experience.
While companies often look at ways to reduce the time it takes to train agents, the report results suggest reduced training lowers the confidence and competence of agents, which can lead to higher absenteeism. Thirty-eight per cent of agents stated that training and career growth opportunities would improve their jobs.
The impact of training at the start of a job, and throughout an agent’s career, directly impacts their happiness. Ongoing coaching and support for agents has been inconsistent in the shift to work from home with 37% of respondents indicating it had been difficult to receive feedback during the pandemic, it said.
“Seventy-four per cent of agents view themselves as company brand ambassadors and the voice of the brand they represent. When companies fail their agents with dysfunctional technology, training and coaching, they risk not only a frustrating employee experience, but a poor customer experience that will have consumers looking elsewhere,” said ASAPP chief experience officer Michael Lawder.
“Contact centre agents want to be empowered and do their best to help consumers. They operate in a difficult environment with a frankenstack of poorly designed legacy systems that are difficult to use; policies and processes that prioritize cost and liability, over resolution and customer satisfaction — with a lack of ongoing coaching and training that does not help accelerate their progress,” he said.
“Approximately 80 per cent of B2C enterprise CX budgets is spent on labour. The industry has a culture of continuous improvement and focus on metrics, yet how we measure customer service and agent performance must evolve to identify the behaviours that drive customer loyalty and value for employees and customers. The environment we create for employees is the environment that customers experience,” said Barbara Porter, managing director, Ernest and Young.
“Agents want to serve people, but current industry metrics measure only a fraction of an agent’s overall performance. Metrics, processes and technology investments must work in concert to serve both the employee and the company to achieve the significant business outcomes required to serve consumers,” she said.