How to evaluate call center agent performance: A short call isn’t everything

Matt Dixon, Ted McKenna

Have you ever wondered what separates a great call center agent from a great one? Spoiler: It’s not what you might think. In our Harvard Business Review article Kick-Ass Customer Service, we broke down the traits of top-performing agents in service centers, based on some of the research we’ve done around how to evaluate call center agent performance. Check that article out if you’re interested in learning more about the behaviors themselves. 

Today, we’re going to get a little more granular and discuss how to identify one of those behaviors in your own agents using the Tethr Effort Index (TEI)—our next-gen system of effort measurement that makes it easy to separate those high performers from the rest. 

Let’s dive in!

What separates a top call center agent from the rest? 

When we dig deeper into the differences between below-average agents and the conversational sequences they have within their customer interactions and those that higher-performing agents have, the difference is clear. The data showed that these conversations have distinct signatures. High-performer conversations follow a distinct pattern that is quite different from low-performing agents—so let’s examine that. 

High performers draw out objections

For example, when a customer calls and is having a frustrating experience, high-performing agents tend to use language techniques that initially make the customer more anxious by probing further and allowing the customer to “air it out” a bit. They draw out the customer’s frustration rather than try to avoid it. Only once the customer has said everything they need to say, does the high performer apply techniques such as advocacy or proactive guidance to help resolve the issue. Ultimately, this results in a lower overall effort experience. (Fun fact: This is true in sales too!)

High-performing agents received 27% higher TEI scores than their low-performing counterparts, despite an average 5% longer call duration.

Low performers rush resolution 

By contrast, lower-performing agents, fearing longer handle times and having been taught to reduce any sign of upset customers, tend to defer at the beginning of the conversation by acknowledging the issue and apologizing. In a rush to resolve (versus listen), more often than not they end up confusing the customer and then when pressed for detail, deflect by hiding behind policy, putting the customer on hold, or transferring them, all creating a higher effort experience.

TEI helps identify top performers 

Given the same relative number of frustrated customer calls, the data showed that high-performing agents used a framework of multiple language skills. They also received 27% higher TEI scores than their low-performing counterparts when dealing with difficult situations. In fact, the high-performer actually had a 5% longer call duration than the lower performer, reflecting these agents’ ability to potentially forward-resolve future issues and the customer’s desire to stay engaged with the more talented agents.

Easily evaluate call center agent performance with these key metrics

This is just the beginning of what’s possible with the Tethr Effort Index. We believe it’s important to make it easy to see the metrics that do (and don’t!) matter to your bottom line—so we built a platform that does just that.
To learn more about TEI and how you can use it to reduce customer effort, gain visibility into the inner workings of the call center, and more, check out our complete guide to the Tethr Effort Index.

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