5 Reasons it Sucks to Work in a Call Center and What You Can Do About It.

Nobody grows up saying, “I want to work in a call center.” Being a cowboy or ballerina are first career choices. Working in a call center is something you fall into, like falling into retail or working at some fast-food joint. You don’t plan for it to happen, it just does.

Lets face the truth; working in a call center sucks.

Most call center agents view their job as being temporary… at best a paycheque to pay the bills. The call center industry needs to do a much better… actually it needs to start… job of promoting working in a call center as possibly being a rewarding long-term career. Until that happens as a call center manager you can begin to take action against the reasons your agents do not see themselves wearing their headset for long.

Low Wages: Call Centers have a well earned reputation for paying low wages, which for most career seekers is a turnoff. Can your agents live on what you are paying them? I am not advocating you simply increase your agent’s hourly wage; there is no guarantee of a ROI by doing so. Those who read my blog on a regular basis know I believe in paying for results. Know what your call center is trying to achieve, measure it, set goals (benchmarks) and then pay for achieving.

Nothing demoralizes employees faster than being compensated equally, since productivity and results are never equal. Create an incentive program where top producers can earn some serious money and watch how the quality of candidates attracted to working for your call center increases. Top producers know they are top producers and therefore naturally gravitate to where they are valued. Money is how value is measured.

Stressful: For some reason most call centre managers enjoy running a stressful call center; as if stress increases morale, productivity and retention. Great call center managers manage their call centers to be as stress free as possible.

Give your agents all the tools they need to do their job. Remove any obstacles preventing them from doing their job. Most important, believe your agents want to do a good job.

Unless your call center is a crises help line of some kind or 911, there is no reason your call center should be a high stress environment. A small amount of stress can be good, however keep in mind the numerous negative results from stress (anxiety, high blood pressure, absenteeism) outweighs any benefits you may “think” you gain.

The biggest impact you can have to reducing stress in your call center is to have fun. There’s always something to celebrate so why do so (celebrate successes)? If your agents see you having fun then they in turn will feel free to also have fun. Yes, you can have fun and still get results.    

Repetitive: It does not take long, after initial training, for a call center agent’s job to become repetitive. The same questions get asked countless times. The same keystrokes are done again and again.

From time to time give your agents side projects; something that will challenge them or better yet helps them develop a new skill. If you are not doing so already conduct remedial training on a regular basis; away from their desk.

With a little creative thinking on your part you can minimize the repetitive nature inherent in your agent’s job. Have them job shadow for a day in another department within your organization, be part of interviewing new hires, be part of training new hires, sit on committees; research new directions for your business. Even, if possible, having your agents answer a different set of calls (i.e. have your inbound sales agents work the help desk for a few weeks) will give your agents a needed mental break.

Hours: Every one of us would like to work 9:00AM to 5:00PM, Mondays to Fridays. Other than being independently wealthy and not having to work at all, these are the days / hours we prefer to work, so ask yourself; why are your call center’s hours what they are?

There are probably some legitimate business reasons for being open until 9:00PM, or 24 / 7, or on weekends, or having an early morning shift starting at 6:00AM, but when was the last time you questioned your hours of operations?

Chances are you will not be able to achieve the nirvana days and hours I mentioned, however, with today’s technology does it still make sense to open outside normal business hours? How much of your callers can be instructed to visit your website after hours, or to leave a detailed voice message that will be returned the following business day? Does your company, as many do, have a call center in another time zone that could handle calls after hours for you?

I realize not business model has the luxury of setting 9:00AM to 5:00PM hours. How and when your customer want to be served must be given top priority, not to mention the hours your competition is open. However, if you can narrow your hours of operations somewhat you will be that much more appealing as an employer.

Analyze your call patterns and then ask yourself if being open on Saturday afternoons worth the cost?

Lack of advancement: The manager who takes a genuine interest in their employee’s career is rare. Be one of those rare managers and keep in mind that career advancement for your agents can take place outside your organization and not just within, which is a tough one for managers to wrap their head around.

As much as possible offer opportunities for your agents to add to their skill set. Have them mentor with senior agents. Provide your senior agents with opportunities to show their leadership skills, by having them run their team when their respective manager is away. Send your agents on courses. Have a tuition reimbursement program and constantly advertise it. Post openings internally before posting externally.

Have a career succession-plan in place along with clear expectations for advancement consideration, this is a must-have.

Think why would anyone want to work in your call center? Why would anyone not want to work in your call center? To create a call center where your agents can see themselves working for your organization in the long-term enhance the former and work on  eliminating the latter.


7 thoughts on “5 Reasons it Sucks to Work in a Call Center and What You Can Do About It.

  1. Obviously the only position worth having in a callcenter these days is Supervisor or Manager. If you see these jobs posted, apply for them and forget applying for agent jobs as agent jobs suck. Even if you have to fib a bit on your resume and application about previous supervisory or leadership experience, do it. It is better than being stuck in an underpaid and dead end agent job for years while you are suffering and waiting for a promotion that will probably never come.

  2. Wow awesome read and I could not have said it any better. Your outlook resembles mine and it is nice to see another person sees things the same as I do. The one thing that kills me with call centres is that they will typically tell a person there is room for advancement and yet there really isn’t because the person in charge is hiring someone from the outside.

    I would like to talk further with you. Feel free to email me anytime.

  3. I would not recommend lying on a resume just to get a supervisor or management position as eventually it will come back and haunt you. I seen it happened and well this person was not able to last long since he was not able to do what he said he could do and once an indepth check was done well he was let go.

    Best advice I can say is; if you have interview with a call centre, research them before the interview and learn more about them. If you can get into a good call centre then you might get a great Manager that would see your hard work and eventually bring you up to a Team Lead level. I personally have taken reps under my wing and they became Team Leads and there was no regret from me. And these people are now having a great career with Rogers and also with Bell.

    I even brought a person up to a level in a call centre with the training she gained she is now having a successful career with a chartered bank.

    So the key is to do your homework on a call centre so you know what you will be getting into and do not be afraid to ask questions. I am sure Nick here would agree.

    ******Nick I sent you a request through Linkedin***

  4. I read this last night. Well said! Sadly so many company head honchos do not implement things like this if somebody did that with their call centre they would be the unique one amoung many that pay lousy, get people to leave their shift early because they do not meet target (even when it is not their fault), etc. I last a long time working with call centres I am currently working at one during the day as I look for more work during the evening in Toronto. Thank you for writing this blog, Nick! I will check it out some more!

  5. Hi…I also think that every call centre should have a gym on-site or a gym membership at a greatly reduced rate (company supplemented) as part of their benefit program. Call centre jobs obviously include a lot of sitting! It’s necessary to move around regularly.

  6. How about actually hiring enough employees to do the job. It can be hell trying to schedule time off a a call center, even if you are entitled to it. Also, if the call cener was properly staffed, employees wouldn’t be constantly barraged with back-to-back calls and customers would immediately be able to speak to a representative. These aren’t tiny grassroots organizations which have these problems. You would be surprised how many major corporations skimp on call center hiring and make existing employees work like dogs. If you want happy and productive call center reps, you really owe it to them to give them at least 30 seconds between calls to catch their breath, take a drink, clear their throat, etc. If you can’t afford to treat your employees humanely, then you don’t deserve to be in business.

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