Gartner Says Few Customer Service Reps Are Engaged on the Job

Only one third of customer service reps are actually engaged at work; the remaining reps are neutral or disengaged, Gartner found in its 2021 Customer Service Rep Role and Experience Survey.

According to the research, 34 percent of agents are engaged, while 38 percent are disengaged and 28 percent are neutral.

Disengaged reps are 84 percent more likely to look for a new job than engaged reps, and even neutral reps are 43 percent more likely to engage in job-seeking behaviors. Left unchecked, this can lead to poor customer outcomes and economic cost, especially as disengaged and neutral workers make up two-thirds of the workforce.

"Disengaged reps engage in behaviors that drive a high-effort customer service experience three times as often as their engaged counterparts," said Brent Adamson, distinguished vice president in the Gartner Customer Service and Support Practice. "These behaviors include failing to provide first-contact resolution, making customers repeat information, and failing to reduce the number of steps customers must take to resolve their issues. Therefore, reps are much more likely to provide a poor customer service experience, negatively impacting loyalty and customer outcomes."

Gartner research shows these high levels of disengagement are not driven by current events, such as COVID-19 or the sudden move to work from home, by the difficulty of the work, or how well-suited the rep is to the work. Instead, disengagement is largely driven by unclear or conflicting goals, lack of clarity in how reps contribute to those goals, and a general lack of support for reps' well-being.

Gartner suggests that customer service and support leaders responsible for talent management should take the following action to mitigate rep disengagement:

  • Assess the current level of disengagement among service reps through rep surveys;
  • Align rep metrics with business objectives to help reps understand how to prioritize when dealing with conflicting goals;
  • Educate reps on their specific roles in achieving these business objectives to help them better understand what is in and out of scope for their roles; and
  • Support rep well-being, not just performance, by giving reps the opportunity to take a break from their work after emotionally draining situations.