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Contact Center Agent Burnout – Part 2, Causes and Remedies

In Part 1 of this two-part series on contact center burnout we covered some of the warning signs of agent overload. In this second chapter, we will discuss the causes behind the signs and what you can do to reduce and even eliminate them.

Why is this so important? Because burnout can lead to agent attrition – which can cost your business a tremendous amount each year. According to research by Contact Babel, medium sized contact centers have an average turnover rate of 37%. When you factor in that call centers typically spend $8800 on hiring and training new agent, attrition can cost a 100-agent contact center about $325,600 per year. In addition, you may be risking your reputation and impeding the quality of customer service, which can lead to plummeting customer satisfaction.

So, let’s dive into the top five causes of agent burnout and look into what you can do to combat them.

1. Overworking agents

Handling high volumes of calls, dealing with difficult customers, and working under constant pressure to meet high performance and revenue targets is an every-day experience in the life of a contact center agent. When companies require agents to work even more hours than originally scheduled, managers are just adding to the strain. Agents are human. Humans have limits. These limits take a toll on productivity.

Agents need time to completely disconnect from work. Vacations and days off help; split shifts and other flexible work schedules are other options. Improved working conditions and days off help agents replenish so that they can be more productive at work.

Asking agents to work overtime often occurs when a contact center is understaffed due to inaccurate scheduling. Workforce Management (WFM) systems automate the process which results in more accurate forecasting and scheduling. They also allow you to build greater flexibility into the schedule so that you can easily vary start times, break times and end times to satisfy agents while ensuring optimum service levels.

Icon | Agent Burnout | Noble Systems

2. Lack of proper agent training

All new agents need training. In fact, all agents need training on an ongoing basis to ensure that they have all the skills and knowledge necessary to handle calls effectively. In addition to training on the product they are servicing or the offer they are selling, they also need training on security, regulatory compliance, soft skills and proper use of the tools and technologies that they are required to use each day. Training bolsters agent confidence and keeps them engaged which increases job satisfaction. Proper training can also enhance bonding and collaboration which makes agents feel like they are vital to the team, and can increase the likelihood that they will stay with your company longer.

Incorporating Gamification into your new hire and perpetual training programs allows agents to develop and strengthen competencies at their own pace. Friendly competition engages agents and motivates them to continually improve.

3. Insufficient tools and resources

A lack of tools and outdated technology can negatively impact an agent’s ability to do their job well. The right tools and technology can actually enable agents to be far more productive with less effort. This makes for a better work environment. It also lets agents know that the company they work for cares about their well-being and not just their ability to meet targets. Agents will be happier, which translates to happier customers.

Here are some examples of tools and technologies that can help your contact center run more efficiently and relieve your agents from repetitive tasks so that they can stay focused on more complex calls.

  • IVR. The right IVR solution can provide better customer service as well as reduce the reliance on your agents. Touch-tone and voice commands route calls, provide personalized information to callers and offer faster self-service for transactions that do not require an agent.
  • WFM. Workforce Management solutions provide accurate forecasts and schedules taking into consideration agent preferences, vacations, seasonal trends, shrinkage, sickness, training, breaks, lunches and other factors to ensure optimal staffing. They also allow agents to easily see their schedule information and make requests for time off, bid on shifts or make swaps, giving them more ownership into their schedules.
  • Speech analytics. Advanced solutions offer post call and real-time speech analytics to provide feedback, assist agents with calls, identify areas for improvement and give kudos to top performers. Analytics solutions can be integrated with CRM and other systems to ensure that the right information is always available to agents when they need it.
  • Gamification. Gamification uses game mechanics to make training more fun. Continual feedback lets agents know how well they are performing against their own goals, as well as the rest of the team.
4. Infrequent feedback

Touching base with agents frequently to provide feedback is the best way to avoid mistakes turning into bad habits. Open communication also allows employees to ask other questions and provides a great opportunity for supervisors to ask for agent feedback.

For those contact centers that do not employ some form of automated feedback, trying to touch every agent can be an impossible task. Companies that use gamification can easily provide feedback on performance and goal attainment on a continual basis. Leaderboards throughout the facility can also provide feedback on how they are doing compared to others. According to findings of a survey conducted by Toister Performance Solutions, not incorporating display boards can have a negative impact on burnout. The survey revealed that agents at high risk for burnout were 63% less likely to have metric displays in their office.

In addition to displays that everyone can see, contact center solutions can provide personalized dashboards on each agent’s desktop. Of course, automated feedback is not meant to be a substitute for one-on-one feedback and coaching, but it does help to provide frequent feedback to complement these sessions. Tracking and rewards for agents and supervisors for participating in coaching sessions can also help encourage agents and managers to talk more often.

5. Lack of recognition and reward

Agents want to be recognized and rewarded for hard work and improved performance. When they are not recognized, they become demotivated and dissatisfied with their job. This can lead to burnout and can ultimately cause agents to leave the company.

It is important to celebrate agents regularly and give them the credit they are due. Afterall, contact center agents have a huge impact on customer experience, satisfaction and loyalty. Acknowledge the work that they do and recognize both teams and individuals. Recognizing and rewarding agents can go a long way in keeping them engaged and motivated, and can even reduce burnout.

Gamification is great at recognizing and rewarding milestones and progress toward performance metric attainment. Leaderboards also help. They allow agents to know when a peer has achieved a specific goal so that they can provide them with kudos and encouragement to keep going. This enhances motivation, builds morale and a sense of community.

Contact center technology can alleviate agent burnout

As we mentioned in Part 1 of this series, recognizing agent overload in your contact center is the first step in combatting it. Understanding the causes and devising a plan to address them is the second step. Contact center technologies can help.

Workforce Management produces more accurate forecasts and schedules, taking several factors into consideration that can reduce stress on agents. IVR solutions route calls to the agent best equipped to address a customer’s specific question or concern and can handle routine transactions, reducing the agent workload. Speech analytics can assist agents on calls and identifies areas for improvement so that they can be resolved quickly. Gamification makes work more fun, motivates agents and keeps them engaged, productive and happy.

What are you doing in your contact center to address agent burnout?