It is common knowledge that many call centre executives burnout, some even get critical. But why is it such a menacingly common problem in call centers? What are the issues that lead to burnout, and what changes can you introduce to prevent it and control it?
We will answer all these questions, but before we dive headfirst into the nitty-gritty of it all, let’s first paint a picture of what it looks like.
What Exactly Is Call Center Burnout?
Normally, it’s not easy to explain burnout. It’s different for everyone, and the effects and symptoms can vary. That said, there’s still something we all know.
When the term ‘burnout’ was first coined, it was relevant only to the nursing and caregiving jobs, but not long since, it has penetrated and spread across industries. More than that, in 2019, the WHO officially recognized burnout, defining it as “a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.
There can be various reasons for burnout, including both environmental factors and psychological conditions, and it is usually characterized by the following:
- Consistently diminishing productivity at work
- Lack of interest and energy
- Cynicism and negative thoughts, along with a distanced feeling from one’s job
- Spiked irritability
- Tendency to make careless mistakes
All this can have serious repercussions in any organization, more so at a workplace like a call center where the work is monotonous and mostly repetitive. According to a survey, 95% of Human Resource personnel believe that burnout is the single biggest obstacle in retaining the workforce. More than that, on a global scale, burnout is the reason behind $125 to $190 billion in medical expenditure.
Call Center Burnout Rate
Call centers have the highest turnover rates in the United States, and it ranges somewhere between 30-45%. While this rate is more than double of most other businesses, according to some statistics, the average lifespan of these call centers hovers around 3 years, and that’s scary.
It’s obvious that the reasons behind such high turnovers, and yet low retention rates are the unrealistic expectations that are laid upon call center agents. The scene inside a call center is that of a crisis, and under these highly stressful conditions, the agents are expected to maintain composure and patiently respond to all customer queries.
These are really difficult traits to master when you have unrealistic targets, little support and rude customers yelling at you. No wonder why so many contact centers across the globe are struggling to keep their head out of the water.
Take COVID-19 Call Centers, for instance. We keep hearing how these institutions are facing spiked call volumes and are unable to cater to more callers. While it’s obviously upsetting for the public, the situation in these contact centers is no less than a war room with phones ringing every minute.
Moreover, managing average time on call and resolving issues in the first interaction is an added stress. So, that said, you might be blindsided by the sheer number of your agents who have reached their breaking point. Let’s dive a bit deeper and understand what causes call center burnout.
What Causes Call Center Burnout?
When we are committed to a job for a long time, certain aspects of it can become part of the company culture and it becomes really difficult to pinpoint exactly what is wrong. Here are a few negative aspects of the call center routine that can lead to employee burnout.
# Stress, Stress, Stress
Without argument, generally speaking, call centers have always been stressful workplaces. But the time we live in will go down in history as the era when the agents really reached their breaking points under stress.
All day, every day, agents are responsible for listening to and resolving queries from annoyed, impatient customers while being constantly watched and supervised. Everything gets recorded and their performance is constantly monitored. With them walking on tight ropes on their job every day, for how long can you expect them to sustain it?
To prevent burnout from stress, you need to focus on ways to improve employee wellness and train them to focus on the end result rather than daily ups and downs. Breathing and mindfulness exercises are known to help.
# Rude Customers
No one wants to deal with rude people, and having that as your job description is one of the biggest challenges call center agents face daily. Customers often get furious and use abusive language, letting it all out on your agents. Before long, it will start showing adverse effects on their well-being.
# Rapid Workload Increase
Increasing work overload is perhaps one of the main reasons why call center agents are drained of their energy. Asking them to take on a higher volume of calls, deal with customers of erratic temperaments, and pressurizing them to meet their weekly and monthly targets creates an unhealthy work environment. While it’s part of the job profile, it’s important to manage expectations and keep the workload consistently manageable over the long term.
# Not Enough Feedback From Managers
You have done a great job training your agents to be self-sufficient and preparing them for different situations. Nonetheless, not receiving enough direct reassuring or positive feedback can leave them scrambling for support, feeling overworked and will eventually lead to them burning out.
On the same note, feedbacks are more important whenever agents are struggling to meet their targets or if their performance is consistently degrading. In that case, something is wrong and needs addressing.
5 Ways to Prevent Call Center Burnout
The steps taken to tackle call center burnout are practically tried and tested techniques that either directly or otherwise assist in managing chronic workplace stress. Here’s what we know:
# Empower Them With Right Technology
As mentioned above, a rapid increase in workload can lead to quick burnout in call center agents. And older, outdated technology can be a huge hurdle for customer service reps doing their job.
Hence, it’s advisable to leverage the right tech stack to facilitate their daily schedule or to automate redundant processes. For instance, collaborative software for call centers can empower employees to access relevant information without being hindered.
Another key tech is the live chat software which can lend your contact center a more omnichannel outlook. More than that, a smart live chat software can reduce your staff workload by substantially increasing single contact resolutions. As for customers, it can reduce their waiting time, and make suggestions to resolve their queries. Studies back this claim too. 73% of customers who use live chat say they are satisfied with the experience they get. Most of them believe it’s better than most of the other support channels.
There’s a common correlation between agent and customer satisfaction, and hence it’s imperative to leverage and invest in the right technology and tools like IVR, cloud-based call centre software, and live chat that allow agents to handle the task at hand in the best way they know.
# Encourage Your Call Center Agents
Front-line customer service is not everyone’s dream job, and to sustain it for a longer period, the contact center agents need to be motivated since it’s too easy to miss deadlines and lose expectations. Whether your agents are full-timers, recent college grads, or college students working online, keeping them happy and motivated is crucial to their success.
That being said, there are various ways you can go about that, including offering incentives and rewards, growth opportunities, and team-building activities. It will help improve employees’ work-life balance and doesn't have to be expensive.
# Offer Challenging, Not Overwhelming Responsibilities
Oftentimes managers don’t discriminate in the tasks assigned to agents, and this is a mistake. Job responsibilities should be given based on the interests and skills of the agents. You must assess the right agents for a given opportunity, and stay clear from overwhelming them. Doing that will make the task both interesting and challenging to attempt and accomplish. It will also mean agents don’t have to do the same monotonous work day after day — a major cause of burnout.
For a change, ask the agents handling customers on social media to take on voice calls and so on.
# Provide Better Feedback
Your agents are hungry for constructive feedback and you must provide it given how significantly it impacts their productivity at work. Any agent struggling to meet his deadlines and targets needs that extra boost that only his superior or manager can provide. Hence, you must train them with call best practices and give them tips to improve customer satisfaction. Soon enough, their quality of work and work-life balance will improve.
But of course, your work doesn’t end with a namesake pep talk. You must monitor the change in agent behavior and performance and track their progress intermittently.
# Empower Them With A Customer-Centric Mission And Vision
Oftentimes agents come to work just because it’s a job, not because they believe in your company. It isn’t too hard to imagine how every day feels purposeless for these agents — another critical reason for burnout. With this in mind, you need your people to believe in the company’s mission statement — the cause you believe in. With a customer-centric vision, every time an agent picks up the phone, they’ll know it’s for a bigger purpose and that their role matters.
Having established all the pain points and possible resolutions, we can now ascertain that improving agent experience is key to improving customer experience. Following and implementing the points listed above, preventing call center burnout will be possible, and before long, on auto-pilot.
Savan Kharod is a Digital Marketing Professional at Acquire. He loves to share his knowledge and experience in digital marketing, social media marketing, customer service, and growth marketing. In his free time, Savan likes to backpack and explore new places. You can reach out to him on LinkedIn or Twitter.