It is a fact that call center agents are extremely susceptible to stress within the workplace. Since they must meet the rising expectations of their customers and follow company policies and procedures, all while aiming to hit performance metrics, this can add up.
While your call center employees are striving to meet the strict requirements of management, they can feel inadequate and pressured. As a result, working in a call center is consistently ranked as one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Then it is no wonder that call center anxiety is a serious issue.
If a range of steps isn’t taken to help with the stressors within the call center, your call center agents are likely to find that their productivity, job satisfaction, and health decline as burnout sets in. However, in order to effectively reduce call center agent stress and burnout, your managers must first have a comprehensive understanding of burnout as well as some of the common causes of burnout within the call center.
Call center anxiety is an individual experience that is specific to the call center agent. Each call center agent may deal with the anxiety differently. Their response to certain stressors could be different, as we are all different people. This is because anxiety is influenced by interwoven interpersonal, organizational, and personality factors. The experience of your agents will be different for each employee.
What is call center anxiety?
If you’re not sure how to define call center anxiety, you’re not alone.
The anxiety related to a job position comes from other psychological conditions or arises from environmental factors. At first, business anxiety applied only to caregiving jobs like nursing. However, now it’s used across industries.
According to the International Classification of Diseases employee burnout and anxiety is a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” As such, the position anxiety will be followed by these symptoms:
- Feelings of dread at the start of the workday.
- Feelings of negativity or cynicism related to the workplace, or a feeling of increased mental distance from one’s job.
- Reduced efficiency in the workplace.
When employees feel disconnected and disengaged, or when they dread their workday, it leads to declining performance. This will risk your company’s reputation and a negative impact on customer satisfaction.
Customer support positions are one of the most at risk for anxiety and burnout, especially during a crisis. For example, according to one study, 74% of call center agents are at risk for burnout. The anxiety and pressure related to the position is also why call centers have some of the highest turnover rates in the country. They range between 30-45%, more than double the average for all other occupations.
This is why so many call centers around the world were struggling in 2020. For example, Ohio’s coronavirus call center experienced a very high call volume. These call centers experienced a lack of staff, disorganization, and contradicting messages. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
For call center agents, there’s also increased stress at this time that goes along with hitting KPIs. These KPIs are average time on call and first call resolution. They add additional pressure to your employees, which can also add to the call center anxiety rate. The reality is that many of your agents could be just one angry phone call or customer chat away from reaching their breaking point.
How to deal with call center anxiety?
It might happen that your call center employees will tell you that during peak times, calls come infrequent, overwhelming bursts. Even if there may be an occasional decline in the volume of incoming calls, this does not automatically imply a break for operators. When this happens it might be that staffing is decreased proportionately to match the lessened volume during these periods.
However, this does not change the nature of the calls themselves. Your call center employees are often bombarded with difficult callers, and as a result, employee turnovers are prevalent in this industry.
The life of a call center agent can be stressful and isolated. Even if a paced, high-energy environment can be quite rewarding, differently people cope differently. As with any position, there might be days when you feel like ripping your hair out. As a successful call center manager, there are a few ideas you can use to help your employees cope with the anxiety and stress.
Stress Reduction must be a priority
Call center anxiety is less common in a company with set break times. Sadly, many call centers have a different culture that prevents agents from hopping on to another call when they should be eating lunch or opening a chat when they should be getting ready to pack up and go home.
Even this enthusiasm for the job is appreciated in the begging, it can quickly lead to stress and anxiety. It is important to remind your employees the job is a marathon and not a sprint. For example, you can invest an office wellness program that includes perks like healthy snacks in the breakroom.
Try breaking up shifts to keep agents empathetic and effective. Offer remote work opportunities for employee health, and cleaning breaks to keep phones and work stations sanitary. Having a relaxing moment between chats or calls will greatly reduce the anxiety in your call center.
Your support is important
Your call center agents handle client interactions on their own. Remember that even experienced representatives need access to a support network. This is important if your call center has removed to remote work during the crisis. Even from home, management needs to be available.
Call center employees who feel supported by their managers are overwhelmingly less likely (around 70%) to experience burnout or anxiety. That’s because good managers offer an opportunity to discuss difficult situations, provide support during rough times, and work collaboratively to reduce stress.
Your team managers should always be available to provide assistance with a particularly challenging call or provide a listening ear for longer-term issues. It is important that your team leaders emphasize what agents have done well and where their strengths are, instead of just noticing their faults.
Your team managers should provide their call center team with everything agents need to handle crisis-related concerns, questions, and escalations.
Don’t forget the encouragement!
For a prosperous and productive call center, you have to start from the top down. Don’t forget that you cannot create positive customer experiences or a positive culture without highly qualified agents. Your call center is only as good as your team.
Encouraging your agents who demonstrate customer service soft skills such as adaptability, initiative, teamwork, empathy, integrity, problem-solving, communication skills, and emotional intelligence is something you should focus on. These skills are the best indicators of success and happiness in the call center.
As you encourage your call center agents and offer them job security, they will feel appreciated. It is important to regularly communicate thankfulness for their work, and recognize agents who go above and beyond. This will boost your staff performance and overall happiness.
Protect your employees
Call center anxiety and the burnout that follows it affects the most talented members of the team more often. This is because they’re frequently given the most difficult tasks. While it is great to have your successful agents coach your new recruits, you have to take care to protect those agents from an untenable situation. Don’t overwork them and don’t push too many responsibilities on them.
If you need a senior member to perform training, do so with a realistic assessment of how much time that’s going to take. Try reducing their regular duties and integrate the changes into their quality assurance assessments. Your senior employees will need breathing room in case the coaching proves more difficult. Even if they don’t need that time, you should offer it as a reward.
In regards to that, don’t forget to nudge your underperforming agents to improve and give them the training and support. By boosting the performance of your underperforming agents, you will relieve some of the weight of your best-performing agents.
Make your training less serious
74% of workers believe a lack of training is their biggest hurdle to reaching their full work potential. Along with that, 94% of employees admit that they would stay at a company longer if they invested in helping them learn. As a good team leader, you should always have support and training available to your employees.
You have to know that your call center agents want training in order to do their jobs better and handle any situation that’s thrown at them. This will lead to better employee engagement, improved employee retention, and more employee satisfaction. In turn, it will lead to lessening the call center anxiety.
Try building creativity into your call center training in a way that fosters engagement, teamwork, and encourages learning. Call center training games are great for this as they will improve communication and teamwork. Just make sure that the names you use and the call center training ideas you implement are based on reality.
When dealing with call center anxiety, it is important to take a holistic approach. Many actions can be made right from the start of an agent’s employment.
You should make sure that you are providing your agents with appropriate technology, training, and support. Face-to-face training can be great for things that are urgent or time-sensitive. Online learning can be offered additionally, which agents can carry out in their own time.
Another thing you can do is incentivize the work. For example, reaching targets or providing outstanding customer care should lead to bonuses. Use positive reinforcement to inspire your employees. Don’t give your employees feedback only when they have done something wrong. This will add purpose and meaning to their daily tasks, and they’ll be happier as a result