How to Improve Your Call Center Agent Productivity

March 20, 2024 8 min read

Dominic Kent

Dominic Kent


Noticing a decrease in performance? Lack of enthusiasm?

You need to do something to improve agent productivity. Your first step is identifying the factors causing this dip, which can include lack of training, motivation, or technology.

In this blog post, we’re going to dig into a few different reasons your agent productivity can drop and introduce five key tactics to remedy this problem.

Why Does Agent Productivity Drop?

Every call center and every agent have different circumstances. What’s on their mind, what their weekly task list requires them to do, and what tools they have at their disposal all play a part in productivity.

Here are the major contributing factors to low agent productivity.

1. Individual factors

Lack of knowledge or skills

When any of us tries to complete a task without prior experience or training, it’s like working in the dark. The first few times, we need to watch a tutorial, follow the instruction manual, or receive real-time feedback.

It’s no different for call center agents. If they lack appropriate training or understanding of company policies, products, or procedures, they’re going to struggle through customer interactions.

The situation is annoying for individual agents, and it also leads to longer call handling times, poor customer experience, and a potential drop in customer retention.

Motivation and engagement

When agents turn up to work each day, they want to feel valued and recognized for doing a good job.

If the opposite is true, repeating the cycle becomes demoralizing. The impact of motivation on productivity can’t be understated. 

This boils down to both workplace culture and working environment. Seventy-six percent of employees agree that workplace culture affects their productivity, citing factors including toxic team members, noisy offices, and poor management as reasons for their personal drop in motivation:

Five critical elements of workplace culture

Peers and supervisors must be a support team to help agents rather than a jury to judge them.

Personal issues and stress

If you’re having a bad day, you’re having a bad day. Very few internal factors can impact a personal problem that exists outside the call center. However, most external issues will have a detrimental impact on agent productivity inside the call center. 

2. Process and workflow issues

Inefficient processes

Just because a process worked in the past, it doesn’t mean it will work today. If you created a manual process when you first started handling customer calls, it’s important to keep that process fresh so it doesn’t impact more modern requirements. Complex procedures, unclear communication of expectations, and a lack of automation can slow down support agents.

Inadequate technology

The use of outdated or unreliable technology can lead to technical difficulties and waste agents’ time. 

How many times do you spot agents waiting for something to load or getting help when a program has crashed?

Outdated or unreliable technology becomes even more of a contributing factor to poor productivity when agents know there’s a superior option. The smartphones in their pockets or purses are a prime example. If you’re still using technology and processes from 2010, your agents could be more productive on their personal devices.

Poor call routing

If you don’t optimize your call routing, you can’t expect agents to handle calls productively.

Different types of call routing

Improper routing of calls means customers connect to agents who lack the necessary expertise for specific customer queries. There’s a correlation between untreated call routing and long resolution times. The better your routing, the better the customer experience and the more productive the agent.

3. Work environment factors

High call volume

Some people thrive when working on a deadline. But no one enjoys being bombarded with unrelenting calls, especially if they’re about complaints and customer issues.

If agents don’t have adequate breaks and are constantly subjected to calls, this leads to burnout, fatigue, and decreased accuracy.


Noisy offices don’t tend to be productive work environments. Likewise, constant interruptions (work-related or otherwise) from colleagues can hinder focus and concentration.

This is also true in a home-based or hybrid contact center. Even though agents aren’t physically surrounded by colleagues, there’s a virtual challenge for agents to please everybody who’s competing for their attention.

10 challenges to running a hybrid workforce

Instant messages, emails, and updates play a huge part in the interruption of what should be focused deep work.

4. External factors

Customer behavior

When was the last time someone phoned your call center to thank you or say how great your product is?

You must remember that working in a call center on the front line is a tough gig. If agents are besieged by calls from difficult customers, it will have an impact on motivation, job satisfaction, and productivity.

System outages or technical difficulties

Sometimes, things happen that are outside of your control, and you just have to grin and bear it.

Unfortunately, while your internet provider or electric company remedies your system outages or technical difficulties, there’s often little you can do. 

That doesn’t mean customers stop calling, though. Agent productivity takes a hit, even though the situation’s out of your hands.

How to Improve Agent Productivity

Improving agent productivity isn’t an overnight exercise. 

The following five recommendations are best used together, but you can make a start by implementing the ones that resonate the most with your call center.

Give them the best tools available

It should go without saying that the best tool set improves agent productivity. But there have been some barriers to adoption in the past.

The good news is that, thanks to cloud computing, call center technology is easy to implement and easy to use. And it doesn’t break the bank.

Nextiva call center technology

You can route calls to the most suitable agent, track agent performance through artificial intelligence-backed analytics, and dip into omnichannel routing, which allows customers to choose their preferred channel for contacting you, lessening the burden on call volumes.

Introducing self-service options including interactive voice response (IVR) systems and off-loading basic queries to digital channels means agents will have more time to spend on quality interactions. For example, you can combine the use of IVR and knowledge base software to give your customers easy access to information, freeing up agents. 

The next time someone calls to check on opening times, your IVR can read them out.

The next time someone calls to raise a support ticket, you can suggest they go to your portal or chatbots instead of waiting in a call queue.

Or they might take advantage of your web chat or email offering. 

When queries aren’t urgent, ease the pressure on agents by introducing non-real-time channels of communication.

All this functionality remains in a single interface for agents. So, there’s no need for constant app switching, and there’s very little to learn.

Optimize processes and workflows

When you have the right technology in place, it’s easier to streamline your processes and workflows. Start by developing standardized operating procedures to guide agents through common scenarios and ensure consistent service delivery.

The goal is to have a template for each type of interaction. So, other agents and supervisors can help out when something goes wrong, and everyone knows the expected outcome.

You can introduce customer service scripts as a framework for efficient communication. If everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, they create a unified company voice.

💡Pro Tip: Always allow room for customization. No customer wants to feel like they’re talking to a robot. Check out these customer service phrases to get started.

Using your IVR to gatekeep your agents is a great way to protect their productivity while providing your customers with what they need without having to wait for an agent to become available.

Invest in training and development

When agents know your products and procedures, they’ll be more productive. But every time you make a change to a process or introduce a new product, you must provide the appropriate training. Otherwise, you’re back to square one.

Start with onboarding programs to equip new agents with the necessary knowledge and skills. 

Then, take it a step further. Offer ongoing training on product updates, service protocols, and effective communication techniques.

Achieve this through both peer-to-peer learning and formal customer support training programs.

Build a positive work environment

When you make work an enjoyable place to be, agent productivity will soar.

“Companies like Google have invested more in employee support and employee satisfaction has risen as a result. For Google, it rose by 37%.”

~Dr Daniel Sgroi, Department of Economics at the University of Warwick.

Think about introducing recognition schemes and incentives to reward outstanding performance. Judge whether gamification is right for your call center agents based on the personality types you have in your business.

10 reasons to try gamification in your contact center

Whenever it’s technically possible, offer flexible work arrangements to promote work-life balance. The simple act of starting a shift an hour later means working parents don’t have to rush the school run, for example.

A major contributing factor to poor agent productivity is their need to be constantly on the phone and at their desk. Where productivity is concerned, the opposite is true. 

If agents skip breaks, they:

  • Lose focus throughout the day
  • Lack psychological detachment from work
  • Suffer from fatigue, which impacts important decisions
  • Develop bad habits related to food, drink, and physical activity

Encourage breaks and provide a comfortable workspace to prevent burnout. 

It’s also important to qualify what a good break looks like. It’s not scrolling through social media while sitting at a desk. It’s not heading to the vending machine and rushing back.

A good break includes:

  • Going outdoors
  • Having face-to-face conversations
  • Having a healthy snack
  • Switching off from work (with music, meditation, a journal, etc.)

Measure and analyze performance

Getting a genuine measure of agent productivity can’t be a finger-in-the-air exercise.

Instead, embrace available technology and track KPIs and performance metrics like:

If an analysis of the changes you make shows that agents are now pleasing customers in a more efficient manner, you can consider that a major win for your productivity initiatives.

For real-time performance, you can analyze call recordings as part of your quality assurance process.

Call center quality assurance criteria

By either listening to calls manually or enabling sentiment analysis to automatically rank and flag rogue calls, you can find out where calls are going wrong and nip problematic calls in the bud.

When you have a batch of scored calls, you can create a benchmark and review poor calls with agents. Finding out what went wrong (and why) helps you understand gaps in training and external issues.

The most important aspect is to regularly review and refine processes and training based on data-driven insights. Without scores, reports, and analytics, you’re flying blind.

Use the contact center reporting tools at your disposal to get real-time and historical views of what’s really happening with your agents and customers.

Master Your Productivity With Call Center Software

The key to agent productivity lies in four main areas:

When one or more of these four areas aren’t optimized, there’s a break in the chain. It’s vital for agent productivity that you’re constantly refining processes, conducting necessary training, and tracking how well agents are performing.

But none of these comes together if your call center toolset doesn’t stack up. Best-in-class call center software empowers agents to do their best work and always remain productive while allowing you a holistic view of day-to-day behavior and interactions. 

Ready to improve your agents’ productivity?

See what Nextiva’s contact center solution can do for your agents’ productivity .

Dominic Kent


Dominic Kent

Dominic Kent is a content marketer specializing in unified communications and contact centers. After 10 years of managing installations, he founded UC Marketing to bridge the gap between service providers and customers. He spends half of his time building content marketing programs and the rest writing on the beach with his dogs.

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