Agent burnout is often correlated to the culture of the call center and to the culture of the people working in the call center. Sweatshop centers and “crisis call” centers have particularly high levels of burnout. A statistical proxy for burnout is agent turnover, which exceeds 100% per year in some cases.

Helpful tips to identify early warning signals of agent burnout include:

  1. Agent Adherence to Schedule – When burnout occurs, agents lose their appetite and interest for work and become less responsive to occupancy levels and service levels.
  2. Quality Scores – as attitude slips, so does the quality and accurateness of work. This is reflected through the tone and pace of the agent- -and can be perceived by customers as well.
  3. Apathy – Agents lose interest in the activities of the center, or in interacting with others.

Low Agent Motivation a Drag on Your Center? Here's How to Turn it Around!Agent burnout is also characterized by the following types of behaviors:

  1. Wrong Person: This is identified as a “bad fit” between the agent and the call center. During the hiring process managers should make sure candidates have the right attitude that matches the culture of the center.
  2. Pong Person: This person feels as though they are being constantly bounced around by the high demands of the job (and perhaps workloads).
  3. Long Person: These are people that have worked in the center for a long time; their performance has become routine and lacks in sincerity and commitment to quality.
  4. Gone Person: The person who openly makes it known that they are dissatisfied in their work and are considering leaving.

And finally, here are some tips to help reduce the occurrence of agent burnout at your center:

  1. Training and Tools: Give your people the training and technology needed to provide excellent service in a low-stress way. This includes training in handling difficult callers.
  2. Connecting: Keep people connected and engaged through team-building activities and fun. Make sure supervisors support agent morale, not drag it down.
  3. Contributing: Encourage agents to contribute to the center (new ideas, knowledge base material, innovation, etc.). Rotations and periodic “non-phone” tasks can also help.
  4. Skills: Be realistic in the number of skills you expect agents to learn and perform.

Addressing the causes of burnout can have major benefits in terms of service quality, costs of turnover, and workplace satisfaction. Listen to your agents and you will learn a lot! If you would like to discuss agent burnout / agent satisfaction surveys, or training in handling irate callers, please contact us at

Tip of the Week: Conduct a detailed agent survey to understand how agents feel about their work. The best way to avoid burnout is to understand its causes.

This CallTalk Caramel was compiled and edited by Bruce Belfiore and Kamál Webb. It was drawn from a CallTalk episode with Dru Phelps, entitled “Agent Burnout: What’s a Manager To Do? Tips and Tales.” To listen to the archived episode, click play below:


calltalk-caramels-2.pngCallTalk is a monthly internet radio program featuring the most innovative managers and thought leaders in the customer contact field, interviewed by BenchmarkPortal CEO, Bruce Belfiore.  “Caramels” distills key moments from these interviews into practical, bite-sized nuggets to inform and assist you as a contact center professional.

Topics: Agent Burnout, Agent Turnover, CallTalk Caramels, Contact Center Articles