Managing Contact Centre Stress and Preventing Agent Burnout

Anwesha Roy

A guide to managing the most high-pressure, high-turnover sector in the world

Strategy
Managing Contact Centre Stress and Preventing Agent Burnout

Contact centres are among the most high-pressure, high-turnover sectors in the world. It is estimated that nearly 30-40% of contact centre employees leave their jobs every year and 74% are at risk of burning out. Not only is this bad for individual agent health, but it also negatively impacts your profitability and business continuity. Further, in a customer-centric world, it is essential to make contact centre stress management a top priority if you are to provide delightful services at a steady pace.  

To achieve this, one must first understand the root causes of contact centre stress.  

Common Sources of Agent Stress in a Contact Centre 

The no.1 cause of stress is problematic callers. Frustrated or angry callers (sometimes, even abusive ones) create a high-pressure scenario where agents must stay calm and not retaliate. This becomes an even bigger problem if agents aren’t sufficiently trained in psychological resilience, which results in severe emotional impacts. During peak periods, handling a series of problematic customers can drive up stress levels inordinately.  

Next, the iterative nature of the work coupled with non-negotiable targets can create stress. Agents are essentially addressing the same set of queries, again and again, inevitably bringing down their interest level in the work. On top of that, there are multiple KPIs and performance metrics to remember and achieve.  

In large contact centres, the workplace culture and environment also contribute to agent stress. Physical equipment like chairs, headsets, internet connectivity, etc. determines if the conditions are conducive to happy working. In large teams, agent efforts can go unnoticed, and the lack of support and recognition compounds existing stress from the previous two factors.  

Warning Signs to Watch For 

Contact centre managers must keep a watch on daily operations and agent performance, to flag excessive stress before it can lead to burnout.  

  • An agent has started taking unannounced leaves. While planned absence is helpful for work-life balance, frequent unplanned absenteeism indicates that the agent needs time off that they are otherwise not getting
  • There’s a refusal to participate in group activities. Stress and disengagement often go hand in hand, and if agents decline to participate in group activities like gamified projects, offsite meetings, non-work lunches, etc., it should be flagged immediately
  • There is a clear dip in energy levels. Exhaustion and physical fatigue are some of the most tell-tale signs of stress. Staying unusually quiet during meetings or low energy during calls should therefore be considered as red flags
  • Agents struggle to adhere to schedules. Lack of schedule adherence is both a cause and symptom of agent stress. You might need to revisit your processes and task allocations to find better alignment

How Can You Help? 

In a WFH environment, virtual meetings (particularly when not related to work), can do wonders for remote agent stress. Remember to schedule these sessions within work hours to prevent overtime. Training for contact centre managers, access to mental health resources, flexibility through self-serve schedules, and competitive compensation without over-complex targets are also necessary elements in your stress management strategies.  

 

 


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