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The Causes of Poor Agent Performance (And How to Fix Them)

call center software


Noticed a slump in productivity?

Getting more customer complaints than usual?

Feeling like things are running slowly and inefficiently in the office?

A common cause for all of these situations: poor agent performance. That issue doesn’t just impact KPI targets and customer satisfaction; if agents feel like they’re not getting the support they need to do work they’re proud of, they might start to leave as well.

The best thing a contact center manager can do in this situation is to unearth what’s causing poor agent performance to determine the training and tools to fix it.

We’ll provide 4 different potential problems and their solutions below.

The Causes of Poor Agent Performance (And How to Fix Them)

One thing we never recommend to contact center managers is chastising or demanding answers from their agents after they first discover performance problems.

Instead, look at the root causes to understand its effects.

Then, find creative solutions.

The following list of causes and their fixes helps managers avoid too much frustration when looking for the reasons behind struggling agents.

Not Achieving First Call Resolution

First call resolution (FCR) is a critical call center KPI.

According to SQM, a leading call center software market research firm, 30% of customers have to call back because their issue was not resolved on the first call.

And FCR, in SQM’s words, “is widely considered the only key performance metric that provides a balanced view (quality and cost) of a call center’s overall performance.”

So it’s pretty important to get this one right.

Because if customers are remaining upset and angry with not getting their problems solved and questions answered as quickly as possible, they’re more likely to leave.

33% say they’ll consider switching companies after just a single instance of poor service, according to a study conducted by American Express.

So what can you do?


Well first, provide a top-notch interactive voice response (IVR) system. This allows customers to find answers on their own before interacting with a live agent.

It also allows customers to segment themselves and direct themselves to the correct department.

Next, combine that with an automated call distribution (ACD) system.

An ACD system works hand-in-hand with an IVR system to intelligently route calls to agents best suited to handle their needs. And if there’s a wait, an ACD system can even push high-value customers to the front of the line.

Gaps in Training Retention or Depth

Another reason call center software agents may be underperforming is because they’re not retaining what they’ve learned during training. In other cases, they haven’t been trained fully enough to address more complicated customer problems.

Both of these can cause a variety of issues:

  1. Agents aren’t able to resolve calls on their own, causing FCRs to plummet.
  2. Tier 1 Agents have to escalate calls more often, leading to additional labor costs and increased strain on higher level support tiers.
  3. Managers are overworked, having to jump in and help agents repeatedly.

So what can be done?


We recommend instituting continuous education and training.

The reality is, the information doesn’t always stick right away. Oftentimes, agents need repeated bouts of training for important lessons to remain in long-term memory.

Continuous training reinforces lessons learned while fixing bad habits at the same time.

This means agents should have access to short videos, articles, e-books, quizzes, audio lessons, and so on, allowing them to learn on-demand, preferably between calls or during slow periods.

Implementing quality workforce management software provides a host of powerful benefits; tools like these can record agent calls, identify calls that took longer than expected and analyze keywords, pauses, strong emotions and red flag words to discover situations where new training programs can be implemented.

Agent Burnout

Sometimes agents fall behind on their metrics because they’re overstaying their breaks and spending too much time in “aftercall work” – which increases handle time and decreases calls per day.

These are almost always a sign of a more significant underlying problem: burnout.

If these early warning signs are ignored, managers risk not only a slump in their call and customer satisfaction KPIs, they could risk climbing turnover rates.


First and foremost, it’s essential that call center managers to have fresh insight into how well their agents are performing so they can take fast action to correct schedule adherence and burnout before they escalate.

That’s where real-time, floor-wide monitoring tools come in.

Once managers know which agents are struggling to meet their performance goals and might be suffering from burnout, there are a few tactics they can use to help out:

  • Talk with them. Sometimes just offering agents a chance to voice their concerns and discussing small changes that can be made is enough to make agents feel valued – boosting their motivation and loyalty.
  • Try mixing up roles. If an agent has been answering the same types of calls for months, move them over to another flavor of call to provide some novelty and broaden their skills.
  • Share successful tactics. Identify top-performing agents who handle difficult calls well, discuss with them how they solved those customer challenges and share that information with agents who struggle.

Poor NPS Scores

A key component to agent performance and success is a sense of fulfillment in their role.

One of the ways agents get that is by knowing their contributing to the call center’s success through KPIs like NPS score.

If agents see this is consistently low, they can start to feel like that their work doesn’t matter – which makes it harder for them to perform their best.


Reviewing and revising mandatory script moments are an easy quick-win when it comes to NPS.

Including questions like “did I answer all your questions” or “is there anything else I can help you with” can go a long way in communicating to customers that their needs matter.

Even if their problem is solved, they’ll feel more valued just because they were asked.

Ensuring staffing levels are appropriate to call volume also helps; if there aren’t enough agents to handle the number of calls coming in, they’ll get little relief from back-to-back calls – which makes it harder for them to present an energized, optimistic attitude when talking with customers.

At the same time, customers will end up waiting longer in their cues, further impacting the call center’s KPIs.

By collecting historical business intelligence on call volumes, agent turnover, sick and vacation day volumes, and seasonal call volume fluctuations, managers can identify when they’ll likely need to augment their staffing numbers to ensure they have enough agents to satisfy everyone’s needs.

How to Bring Together Causes of Poor Agent Performance and Their Solutions Under One Central Hub

If managers want an easy way to see all of these metrics, to analyze their agents’ performance along with customer satisfaction, and see how that data relates to their overall call center productivity…

Then they need real-time analytics provided by Business Intelligence.

In this straightforward e-book we reveal how Business Intelligence:

  • Saves time
  • Helps with compliance
  • And helps to predict, evaluate, and identify problems and solutions.

Check out our free report on Business Intelligence today!

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