Call center stress can be described as a little more stress as compared to other careers. This is a widely shared opinion amongst customer service agents the world over that it’s almost being accepted as a characteristic of the job. In many customer service agent interviews, it will be mentioned that the job will present itself as stress-inducing and the hopeful agent will be asked to describe how they will cope when they find themselves in such a situation. Absolutely in need of a job, they will fabricate a solution so as to be considered. When the particular job is acquired, the agent realizes that the pressure is more than they could have imagined and it dawns on them that more needs to be done but that they can’t ask because they clearly stated that they could handle it.
It is definite that a call center job will most likely have higher expectations of an agent than any other career would have on its employees and this is because, at every moment, the agent is either trying to convince a person to make a purchase, a subscription or trying to solve a need that is crucial to the person on the other side of the line. These activities are in no way simple and demand a lot of understanding, patience, empathy, and people skills. Naturally, it is known that this wouldn’t cause stress if it was a from time to time ask, but the expectation on an agent is to be at their best every single day, at all times of the day, with no downtime. This is definitely a big ask to any human being. As a manager, you are aware that realistically, you can’t completely eradicate call center stress.
This article seeks to unearth the stress-inducing factors within a call center setting and afterward suggest plausible solutions that can be implemented by call center managers as they purpose to help their agents handle stress and make it a thing of the past.
Leading Stress Factors in a Call Center
There might be many stress-inducing factors in your call center, but here I’ll outline the 5 leading ones that you may need to nip in the bud to create a less stressed-up call center.
Broad and undefined Job Expectations
Contrary to popular beliefs, call centers are not just receiving and making calls. It is work that needs some level of expertise and as much as it is viewed as an entry-level job, not everyone can satisfactorily handle customers seamlessly. The ability to handle customers well is driven by the sheer fact that the agents that can do it, know exactly what is expected from them and it has been clearly spelt out by their supervisors.
Are agents aware of the metrics that are used to evaluate them? Is it the number of calls made whether they went through or not or is it the number of successful calls made? A sense of awareness that allows one to know where they’re at with regards to their performance and the set targets greatly reduces the level of stress experienced and allows agents to focus on what needs to be done to excel.
Infringing Quality Control Mechanisms
During training, all agents are made aware that call monitoring will be performed to ascertain that all calls are in line with the set guidelines and all parameters set are being observed. This is a crucial element for any call center and it must be done. How the exercise is being conducted is our bone of contention here? Is it being conducted in a manner that preserves the dignity of an agent and allows them to know that if they’re ever caught on the wrong side that they will be corrected in a humane way?
Setting unrealistic goals for agents and holding them to unattainable goals is a sure way to create a stress-filled environment. The thing about work stress is that it spills over to after-work activities. Even when at home the agent stays thinking about work instead of relaxing and getting powered up to start a new day refreshed.
Stringent Policies and Procedures
Policies and procedures are essential for defining standards within a workplace as well as establishing employee behavior but too many of them may result in rigidity and lack of freedom at the workplace. When agents start to feel like they’re walking on eggshells because they’re afraid of breaking a rule then stress starts to pile up. This is not to say have a laxed environment, but considerable and flexible policies that allow some level of autonomy and expression.
Unfitting Work Environment
The right tools of trade are essential in ensuring that an agent feels empowered in effectively completing their tasks without feeling overwhelmed. Do your agents have the right machines and furniture to support them in their work? Is the environment that you have established one that they look forward to coming to or is it one that they cannot wait to escape from?
8 Verified Ways to Handle Call Center Stress
Having seen the leading stress factors, let’s delve into the measures that can be undertaken to reduce the stress and essentially get you a boost in the performance level and reduced employee churn rate in your call center.
Invest in Time Management Tools
Almost every aspect of call center activity is measured by the time taken. Average handling time, service level agreement time attained, average speed to answer, knowing that your agents are aware that all these times are measured and that they could potentially get stressed from this, should give you confidence in identifying where you should invest first.
Investing in a tool like Time Doctor that allows you to track agents’ historical time and set reasonable deadlines based on the derived data means that agents will be less stressed and will be at ease knowing that the benchmark that has been set is actually attainable.
The benefits of the tool are that it allows you to have access to detailed productivity reports, gives you the capability to create analytic attendance reports, tap into tracking agent inactivity using idle time tracker as well as manage agent distraction using the idle pop-up feature in addition to scheduling work shifts for agents and finally, it empowers you to pay your agents effortlessly with payrolling features.
Automation and Integration
Perhaps the most talked-about investment that a call center manager can make and with good reason. Automation exponentially simplifies everything. An agent always seems to be parallel tasking, receiving a call while entering customer details or searching for previous information to share with a customer, all these tasks are seemingly daunting when you think about it when technology is not a part of the question.
Enter automation and there’s no thinking, just clicking and scrolling and the agent is able to do multiple tasks without breaking a sweat. Here think about, predictive dialer, a knowledge base center, automatic caller identification amongst many more things.
Integration on the other hand seeks to centralize everything that the agent needs on one system and eliminates the need to open multiple tabs to try and search for any customer-related information.
Provision of Continuous Progressive Training
Being that a call center is a heavily automated environment it is essential that agents get refresher training every now and then to upskill them in this regard. In addition to this, agents are always dealing with customers who have varied needs and different temperaments, it should not be expected that the initial training that was conducted after onboarding will be sufficient to assist them effectively dealing with new demands.
A well-crafted training plan should be formulated with regards to the needs identified during call monitoring that will cover product knowledge training, voice, and accent training as well as sales training. These three significant areas of training when effectively covered will boost the confidence of the agent who will feel well prepared to tackle any demand that will be thrown at them and the resulting factor is that you will have less stressed agents.
After automation, adequate training, and time management tools have been implemented, the next natural thing to do will definitely be to allow agents freedom to make choices and feel less stifled. Is it possible to work out a hybrid sort of schedule that incorporates both working from home and working from the office? Implement it. As long as all the available shifts are well manned, allow the agents to choose which time slots work for them. Provided that any overlapping of shifts is identified well beforehand and resolved, this little bit of freedom given to agents goes a long way in reducing stress levels.
In addition to this, autonomy in letting an agent come up with creative ways in dealing with customers instead of enforcing strict adherence to the script enables them to allow their creative juices to flow and feel more like themselves at work. After all, agents have the most experience dealing one on one with the customers and more often than not would have the appropriate response to the query raised.
Recognition and Rewarding Scheme
Recognition of outstanding agents, both verbal and non-verbal would go a long way in cementing an agent’s self-belief and reassuring them that their hard work is seen and they are valued members of the organization. All humans require some form of validation and when you work really hard, your expectation is that your supervisor will notice. When this action does not happen, doubt starts to grow and feelings of unworthiness start to crop up. You don’t want your agents to not know that you see that they are doing a great job and that you appreciate all the efforts that they put in.
Whether the reward will be monetary or non-monetary, it is essential that you make a deliberate effort to execute it and create positive reinforcement within your workforce.
Be an Ally
As a call center manager, even though you do not partake in the actual work, you’re well aware of the struggles that your agents go through every day even if the top-level management is not. Choosing to be an understanding manager is such a boost to your agents. Knowing that they can approach you and let you know the issues that they are encountering and ask you for advice on both work-related and personal fronts makes agents want to actually succeed because they cannot imagine performing dismally under the guidance of such a wonderful manager.
Provide Key Performance Indicators
As described before in the case of leading stress factors, not knowing what is being used to assess your performance is straight up high blood pressure material. It is important that all agents after their onboarding are duly informed on what metrics will be used to check on their performance and used to decide on whether or not they are a suitable fit for the organization.
The metrics also allow the agent to decide on whether he/she wants to stay on in the organization as they may also decide that the task is just not their cup of tea and move on to other endeavors that they may deem suitable enough for them.
When an agent is aware of their responsibilities and feels that they are not adequately equipped to perform them, they are then able to ask for more guidance and help. When this has not been communicated to them, they are then left groping in the dark and surviving each day waiting for the worst to happen. An absolute stressor if you ask me.
Creating a Conducive Work Environment
A properly fitted call center has essentially eradicated 50% of potential stress that would have affected a call center agent. Proper machines, appropriate furniture, a fully stocked break room for time-outs after a bad call, that already feels like a home away from home.
Stress in a call center is inevitable but it can be managed to levels that do not cause your center attrition rate to be high. The factors addressed here allow you to assess your call center and determine whether you’re also suffering from similar symptoms. The recommendations shared here once implemented, free you from the shackles of being labeled one of the many stress-inducing call centers.