Even though psychologist Herbert Freudenberger first coined the term “occupational burnout” in a 1974 medical journal, the complex psychological syndrome probably has existed since the Stone Age. Defined by physical, emotional or mental exhaustion, combined with feelings of insecurity about work competence and value, burnout can happen in any occupation or industry. Yet, it’s a particularly common workplace hazard for call centre agents and contact centre employees.
Tasked with creating rapport, trust, and empathy with callers while continuously striving to meet quotas on call volumes and sales, agents experience chronic stress, fatigue, and anxiety. It’s no surprise that burnout is a leading cause of call centre agent turnover. And this common problem can have a devastating effect on sales, brand reputation, customer satisfaction, and profits. The first step in preventing contact centre employee burnout is knowing the reasons behind it.
Poor Hiring Decisions – Call centre work isn’t for everyone. Individuals who aren’t cut out for the role are far more likely to have difficulty on the job and suffer burnout. It takes effort and skill to effectively hire, based on an application and an interview. Assessments and competency tests can help identify the candidates with the specific skills and abilities to succeed in this role.
Insufficient Training – With a lack of training, agents likely will be overwhelmed by the workload and make errors that impact customers. Whether you’re hiring entry-level employees or highly skilled specialists within your call centre, proper training on products, processes, and technology is essential to their success. Think beyond the one and done. Training should be considered an ongoing process guided by the goal of improving performance outcomes and reducing turnover.
Repetition Overload – Albert Einstein once said, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” However, in a call centre, the monotony of tasks over time only stimulates agent burnout and turnover. Performing the same task day after day—with few challenges or opportunities for autonomy or creativity—mentally and emotionally exhausts agents. By giving agents the ability to work in different capacities or within a variety of communication channels, they can learn new skills while getting a sufficient variety of tasks to stay engaged.
Outdated Technology – Working with software and tools that are complicated and poorly integrated impacts agent productivity on every interaction. Frustration can quickly build when time is spent on tedious tasks like toggling between different systems and screens to obtain a customer’s profile and history. These activities also pull the focus away from the customer and into processes, which increases agent stress and reduces service quality. All tools that agents use should support their process. If outdated technology is hindering agents, it might be the time to consider moving to a customer experience platform that enables you to orchestrate engagement across all touchpoints, channels, and resources.
Lack of Recognition – Contact centre work is challenging under the best of circumstances. Without verbal and written praise, perks, rewards, and celebrations, it can feel like a thankless task. Taking the time to recognize and reward agents is a simple, yet highly effective way to minimize employee burnout and attrition.
Cameron is the Global Senior Director of Product Management responsible for Workforce Engagement Management with over 17 years of experience across operational and consultancy roles. He is responsible for the delivery of solutions to the market including Strategy and Commercial Readiness. Since beginning with Genesys in 2008, Cameron has been providing organizations globally with transformational thinking and delivery focused on Employee Engagement and Customer experience.
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