Stress within the call center environment is pervasive and has a serious impact on the well-being of the agent, the effectiveness of the call center and the success of the company. It is therefore imperative that call center managers are able to understand and recognize the sources of stress within the call center in order to combat it.
Below is a list of 27 sources of stress that call center agents experience.
1. Role conflict
Role conflict is defined as the simultaneous occurrence of two or more types of pressures such that compliance with one would make the compliance with the other more difficult.
The conflicting demands between pressure to improve operational efficiency (response time, waiting time, productivity and service level), maximize customer satisfaction and achieving excellent information gathering all create stress within the call center environment.
2. Inconsistencies between performance expectations and evaluations
Stress can result from inconsistencies between job performance expectations and performance evaluation criteria. Agents who are asked to increase customer satisfaction but are being evaluated based only on KPIs such as service level will feel torn between meeting expectations and improving how they will be evaluated.
3. Role ambiguity
Role ambiguity results when the call center agent is uncertain about job requirements, supervisory expectations or when or how their performance will be evaluated. This creates stress as they lack concrete and helpful guidance in order to perform their job adequately.
4. Lack of appropriate resources
Call center agents who are provided little training, feel that training was ineffective or have inadequate equipment experience more stress than those who feel more prepared to execute their job perfectly. This is likely because they feel their performance would be better and customers would be more satisfied if they had appropriate resources.
5. Excessive monitoring
When call monitoring practices are too frequent, too intrusive or feedback resulting from call monitoring is too harsh agents experience more stress . Some call center agents have reported that intensive control measures and rigid surveillance systems are oppressive and emotionally demanding. Additional research has suggested that high levels of monitoring and low levels of job control can be positively correlated with anxiety, depression, diminished job satisfaction and turnover rates .
6. Overwhelming job demands (aka overload)
Working in a fast-paced environment with ambitious answer rate goals can put a lot of pressure on a call center agent. When the demands placed on the agent exceed their capacity, this creates stress for the agent.
7. Lack of social support
Lack of social support from both supervisors and co-workers has an effect on burnout. Agents who perceive little social support within the workplace are more likely to experience stress.
8. Lack of control
Call center agents who are bound by strict rules to follow a script, tight performance measures, regimented break schedules and ambitious individual targets will feel more confined and less capable to adequately perform their job. This lack of perceived control increases stress in call center agents.
9. Monotonous work tasks
In an attempt to ensure a higher degree of consistency in service level and reduce costs, call centers have shifted to oversimplify tasks, encourage the adherence to strict scripts and standardize processes for their agents . These shifts reduce the amount of mental stimulation, creativity, autonomy and decision-making discretion that the agents are able to exercise. The result is a work environment that can be highly monotonous and unchallenging [4, 5]. This leads to frustration, disengagement, low sense of self-efficacy and stress.
10. Lack of appropriate awards
Call center agents who feel they are not sufficiently rewarded for their work experience more stress than those who feel that they are. Insufficient financial rewards (incentives), lack of social rewards (acknowledgement) or lack of intrinsic rewards (lacking pride in doing something important and doing it well) can all contribute to the experience of stress.
11. Feeling undervalued
Call center employees often feel undervalued in their role within the company. They feel their contribution to the company is not acknowledged or appreciated and that their work has no impact on the company. This can lead to frustration and stress.
12. Lack of status associated with position
Call center agents often state that society fails to appreciate or recognize the interpersonal, communication and relational skills required for their work. These perceptions demoralize call center agents and diminish their attachment to their job.
13. Lack of pride associated with position
One study suggests that for the majority of call center agents, their occupation was not part of their career strategy . Most of the call center agents surveyed stated they sought employment as a call center agent due to financial hardship, lack of available alternatives and lack of skills or qualification for other lines of work. As a result, there was little personal identification with call center work or attachment to the call center industry. This lack of pride associated with their position can lead to an experience of stress while on the job.
14. Inflexible or difficult working hours
The shifting trend to provide 24/7 phone support to customers has resulted in more rigid or difficult (e.g. graveyard shift) shift hours for call center employees. Call center agents are asked to work extended hours and are increasingly bound by inflexible shifts systems . These conditions are conducive to stress and burnout.
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Unfairness in the workplace such as unequal workload, lack of appropriate pay, cheating or when evaluations and promotions are handled inappropriately leads to stress within call center agents.
16. High consumer expectations
Customers are becoming more savvy consumers and as a result their expectations for customer service are increasing. This pressure is compounded by the pressure placed on the call center agents by increasingly high managerial expectations and performance targets. Agents feel compelled to meet the demands of the customer as well as their company and management expec