10 Call Center Problems and How To Solve Them

Running a call center and dealing with many issues? Wondering how you can overcome them? Continue reading on as we discuss common call center problems and solutions.
Reading time: 8 minutes

As the primary point of contact with customers, call centers are a vital part of many companies. Businesses use call centers to resolve customer problems, sell products, and conduct market research. 

However, call centers have a poor reputation. Long response times, annoying wait music, or unhelpful agents — all these reasons (and more) add to the distaste people have for call centers. 

But that’s not to say you can’t do anything to address these problems. In this article, we’ll discuss 10 call center problems you should know about and what you can do to resolve them.


10 biggest call center problems and their solutions

1. Having an excessive number of tools

Having the right tools is crucial. New technologies offer new opportunities, but they can be overwhelming. Many call centers simply add trending solutions to existing systems, leaving agents to toggle back and forth between siloed platforms.

During customer interactions, call center agents need different information — customer details, billing, inventory, email, or social media communication. Reps won’t have a complete picture of the customer if these are in separate databases. They could end up placing the customer on hold multiple times or transferring the call just to dig through and find the information they need.

That contributes to low first-call resolution (FCR), high average handling times, and customer frustration. 

🔨 The fix: Integrate with the right tools and get rid of redundant ones. For starters, integrate with a good CRM software to streamline call center processes, allowing agents to deliver a strong customer service experience from one dashboard. 

2. High employee turnover

One of the biggest call center problems you will encounter is employee attrition. Call centers have staff turnover rates averaging 42%. Constantly hiring and training agents will cost you money and time, and compromise service quality.

Many call centers are spending between $750 and $2,500 to hire and train call center agents.
Many call centers are spending between $750 and $2,500 to hire and train call center agents.

This chart shows that many call centers spend between $750 and $2,500 to hire and train call center agents.

Various factors lead to agent attrition, but it boils down to long hours, unstimulating environments, handling frustrated callers, low pay and benefits, and limited growth prospects. You won’t be able to eliminate agent attrition, but you can certainly reduce it.

🔨 The fix: Firstly, develop an ideal employee profile. This ensures you hire candidates that fit the company culture and job description right from the start. It also promotes consistent hiring so your employees are of the same standard and have sufficient experience. 

Secondly, empower employees with the right tools and training, and appreciate them through recognition and rewards. 

Then, conduct employee exit interviews to gather valuable feedback about what’s great and what can be improved. 

3. Low first-call resolution rates

The FCR rate refers to a call center agent’s ability to resolve a customer complaint the first time.

One of the culprits of a low FCR is a lack of access to customer information. When agents can’t access customers’ histories, they are unlikely to solve the problem on the first attempt. 

Another factor is the lack of authority to resolve certain customer queries. Calls get escalated because reps don’t know how to address the problem or aren’t authorized to solve the said problems. For example, company policy or practice may prohibit agents from processing refunds. These calls have to be escalated to a manager, negatively impacting FCR. 

Sometimes escalation is unavoidable. Calls requiring technical assistance are not likely to be resolved on first contact. 

🔨 The fix: Investing in an efficient interactive voice response (IVR) or lead routing system can reduce instances of escalation by directing callers to the most qualified agent who is capable of answering their questions.

Depending on the software you use, you can set pre-determined rules such as department, language, and country. 

4. Customer dissatisfaction

Of all the call center problems, low customer satisfaction is arguably the most important. Dissatisfied customers not only affect the call center, but its entire business. 

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that your company’s success can depend on call center teams providing a consistently positive customer experience

Here are some of the reasons for a bad customer service experience:

Long hold and wait times are one of the top reasons for a bad customer service experience.
Long hold and wait times are one of the top reasons for a bad customer service experience.

🔨 The fix: One way to control customer dissatisfaction is with customer feedback. Use the feedback to address the customer’s frustrations and meet their expectations.

Management software solutions for call centers can also help you build an accountable, efficient, and productive call center. Your agents will then be able to handle customer complaints, pain points, and other issues more efficiently.

Sending out customer surveys like the Net Promoter Score is a good starting point to measure customer satisfaction. But also, look through reviews on your website, Google, and comments on your social media pages.

You can’t avoid negative feedback, but how you handle unhappy customers can be an opportunity to build trust.

5. Balancing competing priorities

Different businesses use call centers differently. Some call centers only serve to solve customer issues, while others handle sales and customer support. 

While there’s no specific use of a call center as it depends on your business, unclear goals can create conflicting priorities for call center reps. This can result in low staff morale and inconsistent service.

When agents try to meet conflicting targets, their work suffers. One day they are praised for their inbound conversion rates and reprimanded for their average handling time the next day. It confuses agents and leaves them in a position where they are unable to do their job effectively.  

🔨 The fix: Clarify and communicate the business goals of your call center to all reps. Small businesses may need call centers to function as sales channels as well. In this case, divide your team into smaller units. One group handles outbound sales calls, and the other deals with inbound customer calls.

6. High levels of stress

Call centers are high-stress environments. Agents not only perform technical labor, but they also perform emotional labor. Emotional labor is the suppression of feelings and expressions as a job requirement. 

Call center employees must regulate their emotions during challenging customer interactions.

Call center stressors include:

  • Trying to achieve unrealistic or conflicting targets
  • Using outdated software or juggling multiple tools
  • Dealing with a challenging work environment
  • Facing angry or abusive customers

We’ve already discussed some of these. Dealing with an abusive or angry customer requires some elaboration.

🔨 The fix: Angry callers are unavoidable, but you can empower your representatives to handle the situation efficiently and effectively. Consider implementing a ‘hang up’ policy where agents can end a call with an abusive customer. 

Even with the best training and innovative solutions, dealing with frustrated customers takes a toll on call center agents. Consider adding wellness breaks, where agents take time to calm down from an abusive call. Prioritizing your team’s mental and emotional well-being can make the difference between excelling in the work and quitting.

7. Lack of employee engagement

Employee engagement is the degree to which employees invest in your business goals. Poorly engaged employees only care as far as their paychecks are concerned. Highly engaged employees are committed to the company’s goals, values, and overall success.

🔨 The fix: One way to increase employee engagement is to create a work culture around your values.

For example, if your company values innovative solutions, create a work environment that fosters innovation.

You can also improve employee engagement by rewarding good performance. It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to take for granted. Acknowledging good performers can be as simple as a gift card to their favorite restaurant or as significant as career advancement. Clear career prospects keep employees invested in your company and increase performance levels. 

Promotion opportunities are a leading factor in employee satisfaction.
Promotion opportunities are a leading factor in employee satisfaction.

A McKinsey employee engagement survey found that promotion opportunities were a leading factor in employee satisfaction and engagement. But it’s not the only factor, as you can see above.

8. Dependence on call scripts

Call scripts are written prompts that guide call center teams through various customer interactions. Call centers use them for mass emails, chat, social media, and phone calls.

There are many benefits of using a script, such as brand consistency, agent productivity, and improved call conversions. 

However, one disadvantage, and a common one at that, is that many reps tend to over-rely on these scripts. This can result in your reps sounding robotic, monotonous, and insincere. 

🔨 The fix: Empower your teams to go off-script when necessary. Train them on the best questions to ask to get to the root of a problem, the phrases customers use to describe problems, and listening techniques. 

There are different styles of listening that a good call center agent should learn. These include:

  • Active listening requires full attention to the customer’s words, intending to understand the issue. The listener tracks customer statements with words like ‘I see’ and correctly rephrases the problem in simple terms, avoiding buzzwords and jargon.
  • Passive listening doesn’t react to customer statements. It’s a one-way communication where the speaker doesn’t know if the listener has understood what they said. Avoid this because it makes customers feel unvalued.

Call center scripts aren’t bad in themselves. In fact, cold calling scripts are helpful for new employees. It is the overreliance on them that is the problem. Once agents have acquired a certain level of experience, scripts should be a starting point for genuine and personalized customer interactions. 

9. Tracking the wrong KPIs

Key performance indicators (KPIs) help call center managers track how well their teams meet performance and productivity goals. Tracking every metric isn’t helpful or advisable — you waste resources tracking the wrong ones. Therefore, track metrics that are relevant to your business goals. 

🔨 The fix: Sales-focused call centers should track sales-related metrics as well as call center metrics such as call abandonment rates or time in queue. 

Customer support call centers should focus on customer service and call center metrics. Remember to also set SMART targets. You will create more call center problems if your goals are unachievable.

Other metrics you should keep an eye on concern employees. Satisfied employees generally perform better than unsatisfied ones. Tracking absenteeism, turnover, and employee net promoter scores will give insight into how happy and engaged your employees are. 

10. Lack of self-service options for customers

Not every customer issue requires the attention of a call center agent. Some customers even prefer to solve their problems on their own, but they aren’t provided with the resources to do so. 

This results in your agents having to deal with multiple calls that can be easily solved by simply doing a quick search. This can reduce the morale and productivity of your reps.

🔨 The fix: Implementing self-service options could help you alleviate some of your call center problems. Having customer service available when customers need it is essential, but it can be expensive if the only channel for customer service is the call center. The solution is to have a knowledge base that houses FAQs, how-to guides, and troubleshooting instructions.  

Self-service is a win for customers who can quickly find answers to their queries and call center agents who can spend more time on customers with complex issues.

What’s next?

Call centers are critical customer points of contact. The success or failure of call centers has repercussions for your entire company. Every business will encounter some (or even all) of the problems mentioned in this article. 

To get ahead of the problem, we shared the 10 common call center problems you should be aware of. These problems affect customers and employees in a traditional call center environment and a work-from-home arrangement. 

The solutions for many of these issues lie in investing in suitable technology, setting clear goals, tracking useful metrics, providing continuous training, and soliciting feedback. There are more solutions beyond the ones in this article. So, treat this as a starting point for you to build on. 

For more such tips and advice, check out more resources! 👇👇👇

Picture of David Campbell
David Campbell

David is a business development professional with hands-on experience in sales, email marketing, content management, user acquisition and channel marketing.

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