July 20, 2012

Games Agents Play, Tips From Our CEO, Bruce Belfiore

Ah, agents. We love them. We nurture them. We mentor them...and there are times we would like to strangle one or two! In particular, when they learn to game the system in one way or another, it makes us want to give them the boot.

By gaming the system I mean finding ways to shirk their responsibilities or provide sub-optimal service to customers. Let's review a few of the most common challenges and discuss ways to deal with them.

Excuses. This is fertile ground for issues that drive us nuts. There are excuses for being late or absent for work, excuses for not adhering to schedule and excuses for shoddy performance. Please send me your favorite “silliest excuse of all” and I may feature it on a future posting.

Aux-Out. This goes by different names, but it is when agents place themselves into Aux and then back into Available. The act of switching into Aux, even if for a brief period, takes them out of queue. Then when they go back into Available mode, they are put at the back of the line and will be the last to be sent an incoming call by the system. Agents who have low average number of calls handled per hour or per shift may be playing this game.

Transfers. Agents who don't want to handle difficult calls are often tempted to simply toss the call up the line, rather than become competent to answer a difficult question themselves. Keep any eye out for excessive calls transferred.

Hold Time. I still remember the first time I went to a center that indicated "zero" after-call work time. I thought I would find a wonderfully trained workforce using a wonderfully functional knowledge management system. Instead I plugged in for my side-by-sides and heard "may I put you on hold for a second" and saw the agent filling in the caller’s CRM record while pretending to be looking up the answer. After-call work time had "migrated" to hold time! It turned out that the agents did this because their system allowed them only a few seconds between calls, so they created their own ACWT during the call itself by putting the caller on hold. I have seen variations on this numerous times since.

So what is a manager to do?

First, try to have "game-proof" technology insofar as possible. Second, build a culture of honest dealing right from the interview and training stage. Talking openly about these issues lets agents know you are on to games and that you expect them to be honest in their work. Third, have sanctions for people who disobey. Make the consequences of gaming the system clear to all, then enforce them when violators are discovered.

Always try to foster an open and positive environment. Agents are less likely to shirk their work if they enjoy performing it and respect you as their manager.

Do you have other stories of games your agents play? Please send them in and we may utilize them in a future posting. Thank you!

Bruce Belfiore

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