Imagine: you set up a call center. Everything runs as smoothly as possible. But all of a sudden your employees start handling the work neglectfully — it can be a sign of upcoming burnout.
According to the study conducted by Toister Performance Solutions, 74% of call center agents are at risk of burnout. And every third is at risk of severe burnout. Even tough it might not look like a lot, these statistics are staggering to us at SupportYourApp.
What Is Burnout?
Burnout is a severe psychological syndrome that occurs as a result of constant exposure to mental, physical, emotional, and interpersonal stress at work.
It’s typical when agents get too many calls and it can easily lead to exhaustion. Sometimes it feels like pulling teeth to get a word out of the customer, and sometimes the customer cannot stop talking even though the consultant already understands the issue and the solution. This leads to irritation. It can happen from time to time.
But burnout is more complex.
Constant emotional and mental stress in the call center leads to agent’s burnout and can cause low productivity of the whole team. This will result in declining service quality and a diminishing level of customer satisfaction. This can lead to constant staff turnover which requires everlasting searching, hiring, and training of the new employees. And, as a result, you are on the verge of downswing of the company-customer relationship. That’s why it is crucial to detect burnout and find ways to reduce it.
What Are the Main Symptoms of Burnout?
To solve the problem of call center burnout, you need to be able to identify it. It is not as hard as it may seem, since all you need to learn are the main symptoms. But you must remember that only the combination of the following symptoms may signify a burnout. Separately they may mean anything from mild tiredness to simply improper attitude.
Has one of your support consultants started taking pain relievers more often than usual? Is the employee sleepy most of the time and often complains about feeling dizzy? They are experiencing weariness and exhaustion. And these are the first major symptoms of call center agent burnout.
Fatigue impacts both physical and mental health. Constant headaches lead to a decline in agent’s attention span. Did agents start handling cases neglectfully and carelessly? If that happens simultaneously with the signs of weariness, it’s a sure sign that they are on the verge of burning out.
All of the call center consultants come across an angry customer. Sometimes customers can act hysterically or rudely, which affects the support agent. And surely the agent will start complaining about such experience. But when you notice that the agent starts complaining about minor issues with the customers, especially in combination with two previous symptoms, it’s not a minor irritation, it’s a sign of burnout.
We all reconsider our job choices from time to time. And it is okay to wonder whether your profession suits you. But if you notice that one of the agents, who was showing impeccable results, starts complaining about their work and expresses their dissatisfaction with the colleagues, the office and the job, that may signify a burnout. Especially when it is combined with fatigue and irritation.
The agent seems less motivated, less interested in the job. We all experience it occasionally. Mostly it happens when we get overly tired with work. But if the agent complains about constant headaches, muscle pains and bad mood, loss of motivation comes as no surprise. And that is a sign of acute stress syndrome.
Lack of Patience
There are cases support consultants can handle themselves, and there are cases that can be escalated to managers of the higher level. But if you notice that a generally pedantic agent starts escalating cases that require just a bit more than average attention to others, it is a sure sign of upcoming burnout.
One of the most definite signs of burnout is a productivity decline. The number of cases handled by an agent decreasing day by day is a sure symptom of raging work pressure.
What Causes Call Center Burnout?
The very first step in preventing or minimizing call center burnout is figuring out its source. Let’s check out the possible reasons behind a support consultant‘s stress.
The first reason is the most obvious one — the customer. While call center consultants are trained not to take customers’ anger or rudeness personally, sometimes it is quite hard to do. Especially when you feel exhausted.
Rapid Workload Increase
A sudden increase in the amount of work is one of the main stressors. Especially, if an escalating number of calls and cases was preceded by a slow and mild workload.
Certain companies implement quite strict rules for the call center agents, where every move of the consultant is monitored. While some may consider it the best way of managing call center work, as a rule, it leads to agents being stressed.
Conflict With Teammates
The call center is based on teamwork, and support agents having conflict between each other will have a negative impact on the team. Having bad blood between teammates can easily lead to burnout.
Lack of Recognition
Last but not least, the lack of praise and recognition can also negatively affect the productivity of agents. Not receiving recognition or just mere gratitude from managers, while being constantly under pressure of the workflow, may lead to burnout.
Tips to Avoid Burnout in Call Center Employees
Knowing that a call center is the main link between businesses and customers, it is extremely important to maintain a healthy atmosphere that will allow consultants to execute their work properly. That will help your team reduce burnout syndromes. Here’s what works best for us at SupportYourApp (SUP).
The very first thing in avoiding possible call center burnout is to make sure that neither of your agents is overworking. Proper scheduling may solve this issue, but you as an employer need to pay some extra attention to this. Here at SUP, if the agent requests a schedule with several eight-hour gaps between the shift and supervisors notice a slow decline in their productivity, they discuss it with the agent individually, learn the reasons for such scheduling and figure out alternative options.
Enhance Trusting Relationships
Strict rules and constant monitoring leads to agents trying to hide the fact that they are exhausted. When agents and a manager have a trusting relationship, the agent is more likely to let you know that he or she is facing certain difficulties at work, so that you can figure the way out together. Our customer service managers avoid over-monitoring agents’ work, as the cooperation with agents is built upon trust.
Another crucial moment for successful workflow is a comfortable workplace. It mustn’t be comfortable only in terms of desk, chairs and proper tools, but should also provide a friendly atmosphere. When agents know that they can relax during their break and have a friendly chat with one another, the risk of burnout lowers significantly. That’s why one of our main goals is to enhance a good relationship between the agents.
Work that feels like nothing but routine easily decreases the level of motivation, which leads to apathy and fatigue. Our CSMs provide agents with challenging tasks and responsibilities. When our management notices the outstanding results of a certain agent, we offer a different project to the agent or supervising positions. When agents know that the work provides them with things to learn and possibilities to try something new, they are more invested in it.
You should never forget to recognize certain achievements of an agent, whether it is outstanding results with handling the cases or just the fact that he or she never got late for a shift. While financial rewards are always welcomed, you can always come up with some rewards that don’t involve money.
At SupportYourApp, we either increase an agent’s compensation or offer them a more interesting project to recognize their work. Sometimes, even an extra “thank you for your work” will enhance engagement and decrease the probability of burnout. We award agents with, for example, “no missed clock-in”-medals.
Allow Creative Approach
Most of the call centers have a set of rules or even scripts for handling the calls in a fast and efficient manner, but there are two problems with them. First of all, customers expect to talk with the live person, while scripts often give an agent a robotic feel. Secondly, scripted conversations are turning call center work into the routine.
That’s why we provide agents with the basic rules of handling calls and allow them to approach the conversation creatively. The workflow only benefits from it. Customers don’t feel like they are talking with the machines, and the agents are not at risk of burning out.
Work in call centers can also be physically exhausting, that’s why you need to provide agents with physical activities. For example, once a week members of our team are given the opportunity to train with the best trainers in Ukraine to improve their physique and overall mood just as their workday starts. We also partially reimburse annual membership to one of the local gyms. Aside from that, we encourage our employees to take part in annual events like Kyiv Half Marathon, WizzAir Kyiv Marathon, and Legion Run.
Company’s Spirit Matters
When it comes to call center employees’ burnout there is one more thing that you need to remember. What matters and allows reducing the possibility of the burnouts among employees is the spirit of the company.
This allows for a smooth workflow as well as establishes a healthy and friendly atmosphere in the office and within particular teams.