call center

Stress within the call center is multifaceted and complex. It results from contradictory tensions, conflicting role requirements, intensity of the work, ambitious performance targets, scrutinizing management, customer centered stress, working in a distracting environment and having lack of social support. All can negatively impact the agent, call center and company.

Stress in the call center environment can result in increased agent absenteeism, agent turnover and costs while decreasing customer service quality, team morale and effectiveness. If not properly addressed, workplace stress can result in a losing a significant amount customers, employees and revenue. It is therefore imperative that call center managers take appropriate and immediate action to combat stress in the workplace.

Below are 25 techniques to help combat stress within the call center environment.

1. Evaluate the stress levels within your call center agents.

The first step in combatting stress in the workplace, is identifying it. Continually assess the level of stress of your call center agents, within your call center and your company. This should include walking the call center floor, interviewing agents about stress and analyzing stress surveys.

2. Understand the causes of stress.

Once you have evaluated stress levels, identify the causes of stress. This will help you develop an action plan that most effectively addresses the most prevalent issues.

3. Develop a stress reduction action plan.

Make your stress fighting strategy concrete by forming a list or action plan with concrete steps and measurable goals.

4. Evaluate your stress reduction action plan.

Periodically measure the effectiveness of your stress reduction plan by analyzing relevant stress related data (from surveys, interviews and agent observation).

5. Clarify roles, goals and expectations.

Employees who feel that organizational goals and objectives, their role within the company and what is expected of them is clear will be more actively involved in their work and satisfied with their work than those who do not. This will decrease work-related tension and stress.

6. Eliminate inconsistencies between job performance expectations and performance evaluation criteria.

This will help reduce role stress experienced by employees. For example, don’t demand that your employees comprehensively resolve customer complaints using as much time as needed and also evaluate their performance strictly on the number of calls they have taken or made.

7. Make performance expectations, KPIs and evaluations more transparent.

Use call center software that will allow agents to view metrics on their own dashboard. Call center agents who can review their own performance can continually make adjustments and feel more in control of their performance statistics. This increased control will decrease stress for the call center agent.

Agent Metrics Dashboard

8. Empower your agents.

A rule of thumb for call center agents is: the greater the perceived empowerment, the less perceived stress. Allow agents to make decisions, personalize their interactions and customize their approach to be more effective. Engage them in collaborative decision making processes, policy changes and performance evaluations.

9. Increase agent competency.

Increase your team’s capability to perform the job well. Equip them with the right tools, train them effectively and provide them with comprehensive information about customers and the product. Call center agents that experience more competence within the workplace are more likely to assume an active role and experience lower levels of stress.

10. Increase agent authority.

Increase the opportunity for agents to initiate work behavior and processes as well as engage in management practices. Call center agents that feel they have the power and responsibility to progress and change the workplace will feel more satisfied with their work and as a result experience less stress.

11. Increase agent autonomy.

Autonomous agents are often more capable of effectively addressing customers’ needs by being flexible, responsive and personal [1]. This leads to higher customer satisfaction, resulting in increased agent satisfaction with work related tasks.

12. Reward competence.

Agents who are rewarded for excellent or effective call center interactions will feel more appreciated at their work and as a result, experience less stress. Rewards should include prizes, praise, recognition, monetary rewards and advancement.

13. Equip your agents well.

Providing your agents with call center software that displays the entire history of a customer by integrating CRM, helpdesk systems and social media can be invaluable. This will reduce the stress associated with having to learn multiple systems and continually opening and updating several systems while on the phone with the customer.

Call Center Software

14. Teach and encourage time management techniques.

Call center agents who maximize their use of time will be more effective and feel more capable. This results in decreased stress.

15. Create good relationships with call center agents.

When managers form good relationships with call center agents, there will be more mutual respect and agents will be less hesitant about addressing questions or concerns with managers. They will feel that the environment is more supportive and collaborative.

16. Encourage peer support and socialization.

Research in call centers has revealed that team bonding activities (e.g. social events and fun activities) result in improvements in employee morale and satisfaction, lower turnover rates, and higher quality customer service [2].

17. Encourage flexibility in break scheduling.

Agents should be allowed to take a break after a stressful interaction. This will empower them with a greater of a sense of control over their experience of stress.

18. Encourage healthy habits.

Discuss with your call center employees the importance of taking a walk, taking regular breaks, socializing, rehydrating, sleeping well and eating well. All will help to reduce the experience of stress.

19. Improve ergonomics.

Provide comfortable chairs that allow for good posture, desk space that is uncluttered and ensure agents get enough natural light within their workspace. Consider using standing workspace, balance balls in place of chairs and other ergonomically effective solutions to combat sitting in the same position all day.

20. Optimize office layout.

Create a low-noise, low-distraction environment. This could mean rearranging cubicles, making better use of office space and de-cluttering desks.

21. Encourage a positive attitude towards work.

A positive attitude towards one’s job facilitates performance [3]. Encourage a positive attitude by incorporating games, incentives and friendly competitions between departments or agents into the workplace.

22. Increase organizational commitment.

Communicate values of the company and ensure that practices and policy are in line with the vales. Encourage employees to strongly identify with the company by giving branded gifts (T-shirts, mugs, bags, etc.), hosting team-building activities and circulating monthly newsletters. Employees who are more committed to their organization will perform their job with the company’s best interest in mind.

23. Train well.

Effective training increases agent competency and effectiveness. Ensure that your agents feel competent before they take a live call. Continually enhance their skills using effective monitoring and immediate feedback. Provide access to continuing training opportunities in order for agents to develop new skills. This will reduce workplace stress.

24. Offer opportunities for advancement.

Agents who feel that they have opportunities for advancement will be more motivated and encouraged to engage in their work. Talk about these possibilities, but also make sure that their expectations for advancement are realistic.

25. Engage in effective call monitoring practices.

By engaging in systematic, standardized call monitoring practices, managers will ensure that their team is delivering consistently excellent service without “over monitoring” their performance. This will increase agent effectiveness and customer satisfaction which will result in a decreased level of stress experienced by the call center agent.

Live Calls List

Any call center manager looking to reduce workplace stress should consider employing the aforementioned techniques. If implemented properly and consistently, they will have a huge effect on the level of perceived stress of call center agents, their effectiveness and the professionalism of your workforce.

References:

[1] Oldham, Greg R., and Anne Cummings. “Employee creativity: Personal and contextual factors at work.” Academy of management journal 39.3 (1996): 607-634.
[2] Kinnie, Nick, Sue Hutchinson, and John Purcell. “‘Fun and surveillance’: the paradox of high commitment management in call centres.” International Journal of Human Resource Management 11.5 (2000): 967-985.
[3] Shahu, Rashmi, and S. V. Gole. “Effect of Job Stress and Job Satisfaction on Performance: An Empirical Study.” AIMS International Journal of Management 2.3 (2008): 237-246.