How much abuse do your agents have to suffer?


“Then he shouted, ‘you f***ing P**i b***h!” I was shocked and said ‘pardon?’ Then he shouted it again. I said, ‘I could report you for that sort of language’ but he carried on yelling and screaming so I ended the call.”

This shocking torrent of foul-mouthed, racist, misogynistic abuse was highlighted by USDAW (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers), as just one example of what call centre agents have to put up with in the name of customer service.

In recent years the problem has grown, as people just aren’t bound by the same social norms over the phone as when they are communicating face-to-face. As a result, agents often have to contend with endless swearing, racial slurs, threats of violence and even sexually explicit comments.

You have a legal and moral obligation to act.

If anyone is of a mind to shrug it off with the attitude that ‘it’s just part of the job’, then you are on very dangerous ground.

All employers have a duty under the law to protect workers from work-related violence. The Health and Safety Executive has made it clear that violence includes verbal abuse and threats as well as physical attacks. Furthermore, verbal abuse (and the fear of abuse) is proven to lead to distress and anxiety, and longer-term ill health.

So, call centres have both a legal and moral obligation to manage the risk, whether it be: prank or nuisance calls, calls from customers who are upset with their goods or services, threats against the organisation or personal abuse directed at the agent.

What you can do to prevent abuse and limit the damage.

1. Be prepared

2. Minimise risks.

3. In the case of serious or persistent cases of abuse.

Quality Monitoring and Coaching is the foundation for dealing with abuse.

All the advice above is all well and good, but of little use if you aren’t monitoring calls or offering professional coaching to agents on how to deal with abuse.

You need a Quality Monitoring & Coaching solution that provides real-time, comprehensive support and evaluates interactions across every channel. A solution capable of flagging callers who have a history of harassing staff, and a clear policy of zero tolerance for future abusive behaviour.

Furthermore, by delivering coaching in real-time you are better placed to train agents on how to handle angry or abusive customers. It also enables you to provide an immediate way of escalating calls to a manager, if agents feel ill-equipped to handle a customer, or if the conversation has become abusive.

The fact is that abuse is not only harmful to agents, it also damages the brand, so it is essential that you have in place the processes that enable you to deal with every situation, quickly and professionally.

It’s time to put a stop to caller abuse.

Like other businesses in the service or retail industry, call centres often operate with the mantra that ‘the customer is always right’. But If the customer is harassing and degrading an agent, the customer simply cannot be right.

Customers may well be frustrated or upset and they have a right to be angry, but their right stops there. Under no circumstances should any agent have to endure abusive treatment from a customer.

If anyone is still in doubt about the need for decisive action, then just imagine if it were your son or daughter, brother or sister on the end of the abusive call.

Now see how acceptable you think it is.

By Tom Palmer
Tom is EvaluAgent’s Head of Digital and takes the lead on developing and implementing our digital and content management strategies which results in creating a compelling, digital-first customer marketing experience.

Related Articles