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Customer Experience

New Research: Customer Service Agents Share Thoughts from the Front Lines of the Economic Downturn

Sixty percent of customer service agents said customers became more rude and aggressive during the pandemic, and one in five (20%) think about quitting every week, according to new research from Qualtrics.

Despite this, 85% of contact center agents said they intend to stay with their company for at least 1-2 years, citing good benefits, fair pay, and a love for their team.

Current market dynamics have forced organizations to intensely focus on what’s most important – knowing what matters most to customers and employees so they can develop long-term customer loyalty and engaged employees. Customer service plays an increasingly important role in the success of companies, especially in these uncertain economic times. Service reps are the face of the brand and the last line of defense when something goes wrong. During economic downturns, customers will look to trim costs, often leading to subscription cancellations. The quality of service an agent delivers can make or break the customer perception and a positive interaction can mean the difference between a cancellation and an opportunity to improve customer lifetime value.

However, many organizations are not investing in their contact center teams. Qualtrics research found that 80% of agents indicated they are struggling to keep up with the cost of living. While a majority (62%) of customer service agents said they believe their company pays fairly compared to competitors, only half of those surveyed (52%) said they have received a raise in the last six months as inflation has skyrocketed. When asked to rank the top three factors that would improve their current job, service agents ranked better pay first, followed by more flexibility and better technology and tools.

With contact centers at the forefront of this current economic reality, the new research provides insight into what investments customer service agents would like their companies to make in 2022.

Contact center service agents want more flexibility but many aren’t getting it

When it comes to flexibility, just over half (55%) of contact center agents said they were afforded the ability to work remotely during the pandemic, much lower than the percentage (76%) reported by contact center managers. Today, 50% of contact center agents work mostly or full time in the office. Qualtrics research shows only 13% of office workers want to return to the office full time.

Contact center agents want more investment from leadership in tools and training

Nearly half (46%) of contact center agents do not believe their leadership invests in their team or function and over a quarter (27%) do not think they are provided with the tools or training needed to be successful. In turn, 38% of customer service agents believe they are not set up for success in their role. What kind of investments would they like to see?

  • 34% said they’d want technology that provided a 360-degree-view of customer interactions across channels
  • 29% said additional on-demand training
  • 17% said they’d like more live chat or messaging options with customers
  • 14% said technology that automated agent notes/call summary process

These kinds of tools and training are essential to improving both the agent and customer experience. The research found that 33% of customer service agents felt their performance was not fairly evaluated and only 41% said they were incentivized to offer personalized, empathetic experiences to customers – two key drivers of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Customer service can be a difficult, thankless field of work that is only getting more challenging. Implementing even small changes to how you coach your contact center employees can make a big impact on agent performance – and your business outcomes. Learn more about how to design a compelling agent experience with Qualtrics’ call center agent experience guide.


This study was fielded between May 10 through May 20, 2022. Respondents were selected from a randomized panel and considered eligible if they live in the United States, are at least 18 years of age, and self-identified as a call center manager or call center agent that worked at a company with over 500 employees. The total number of respondents was 319 call center agents and 143 call center managers.

Learn how to design a compelling agent experience with Qualtrics’ call center agent experience guide


Qualtrics // Experience Management

Qualtrics is the technology platform that organizations use to collect, manage, and act on experience data, also called X-data™. The Qualtrics XM Platform™ is a system of action, used by teams, departments, and entire organizations to manage the four core experiences of business—customer, product, employee, and brand—on one platform.

Over 12,000 enterprises worldwide, including more than 75 percent of the Fortune 100 and 99 of the top 100 U.S. business schools, rely on Qualtrics to consistently build products that people love, create more loyal customers, develop a phenomenal employee culture, and build iconic brands.

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