Agent Wellbeing: 5 ways to ease contact centre stress

Author: Chris Robinson | Date: 17/03/2021

It has been a long-established and well-researched fact that contact centre agents are already at a higher risk of suffering from mental health issues than workers in other industries. The continuous pressure to deliver quick and accurate information to callers while retaining in-depth process knowledge and dealing with complex, sometimes emotionally charged calls all contribute to driving up agent stress levels. When agents begin to struggle in their work, often the burden falls to HR teams to investigate and navigate the complexities around why a conduct or capability issue has arisen and how this can then be resolved to both support the agent and maintain business success.

In this article, we’ll be drawing on our extensive experience to uncover the factors that we believe will lead to an increase in contact centre agent stress and wellbeing issues. We’ll also list out the 5 ways that HR teams can support contact centre managers to ease agent stress and support positive wellbeing.

Which factors could lead to call centre stress and wellbeing issues?

With many contact centres considering permanent moves to remote or hybrid working, we’ve seen a rise in proactive HR teams reaching out to us to see how our Awaken platform can support their people agenda. But why is this now emerging as a critical area for HR teams to start focusing on and planning for? Well, even though a role as a contact centre agent can already be difficult, these potential moves to remote working will no doubt intensify the pressures agents experience if the right strategies and platforms aren’t in place to support them. This need to be proactive with wellbeing strategies is why many HR teams are now seeing this as a priority area and investigating how they can support contact centre managers through this change. Using our in-depth knowledge of contact centres, we foresee that the main factors that could lead to agent stress and wellbeing issues are:

  1. Isolation from team members when working remotely and losing the comradery of colleagues by getting together to discuss pain points and solutions.
  2. An anticipated surge in activity and call levels once Covid-19 eases meaning agents will be prone to burnout and increased stress levels.
  3. Agents feeling pressure to be perfect on every single call with process and compliance adherence along with a fast first call resolution.
  4. Technology being difficult to navigate and working remotely meaning that no-one is close by to direct questions towards to.
  5. New agents experiencing difficulties with onboarding and then retaining information in the absence of in-person support.

The 5 ways HR teams can support contact centre managers to ease agent stress and support positive wellbeing

1. Have technology that works with your agents, not against them

Many contact centres are prone to higher employee turnover rates and absenteeism figures because of technology. Agents feel stressed when their productivity and call handling times are impacted because of having to navigate multiple systems. By having a platform like Awaken that works with agents and not against them, positive shifts can be seen in turnover rates and absenteeism levels. In fact, some of our clients have seen a positive change in their employee retention rates by over 25%.

2. Have a contact centre focused employee engagement strategy

With agents at the frontline of the service operation, they can provide a wealth of valuable information on solutions for positive process change. Remote based improvement sessions can be led by combining data from Awaken Insights to highlight where bottlenecks take place with employee suggestions on change. It is well-known that opportunities to be involved in change-making positively impact the engagement index for employees. Our clients tell us that the valuable insights they gain from the Awaken platform has not only provided customer journey benefits but also greatly improved their employee satisfaction index.

3. Create opportunities to create a connection

It’s important to acknowledge that although agents can struggle with the pressures of working in a contact centre, it’s also difficult for line managers who have to contend with ever-changing priorities, the achievement of targets and the coaching of their team. This can lead to agents feeling neglected and isolated, something that will be intensified with remote working. When you have a platform in place that removes the need for manual checking and analysing, managers’ time is freed up to focus on their people which will in turn increase the employee satisfaction index.

4. Build a culture of continuous learning with software that supports and guides the agents

Most contact centre agents need to be knowledgeable in a vast amount of processes, including steps, timescales and hand-off requirements. This can result in expensive training costs per employee and the cost per hire increasing while you seek to employ specific agents with skills in certain areas. With software that can drive the customer conversation, agents are able to focus on one topic at a time, instantly becoming an expert on every single customer. As a result, agents need less training time (of up to 70%) so that they can provide optimal service, without the pressure to retain 100% knowledge.

5. Act quickly to prevent wellbeing causes escalating

The biggest challenge for many employers is the delay in identifying where issues are arising for their employees’ mental health and wellbeing. This delay is also reflected in the absenteeism and turnover rates of contact centre agents who will often leave their role rather than wait to receive the support they need. With our Awaken Platform, every call is automatically analysed to uncover agent emotion and sentiment so that managers can intervene quickly to support agents who may be struggling, resulting in a reduction in absenteeism and turnover.

How will your contact centre be impacted by the predicted rise in mental health issues?

The Centre for Mental Health has released a startling statistic predicting that up to 10 million people will need new or additional support with their mental health as a direct result of the pandemic. In fact, the Office for National Statistics reports that in the UK from July 2019-March 2020 10% of UK adults reported symptoms of depression, which increased to 19% in June 2020. Imagine the impact this would have on your contact centre if this 9% increase was replicated across your teams. It’s imperative that HR teams implement strategies to proactively support contact centres and alleviate this worrying predicted trend.

If you would like to see a demo showing how the Awaken platform could support your wellbeing strategy, please fill out the form below and one of the team will be in touch to arrange a meeting with you.