How can contact centres avoid employee burnout?
Brian Atkinson, General Manager, and Vice President EMEA at Five9 discusses
The UK contact centre industry employs over one million people. Throughout the pandemic, this essential workforce was thrust into the frontline of customer communications. Customer service agents became the only point of contact for brands, with in-store assistance limited as the country navigated lockdowns. This increased workload inevitably placed more pressure on employees, with over four in five (83%) experiencing burnout – an increasingly widespread and serious mental health issue linked to work. Employers have a vital responsibility to monitor and support employees who are on the verge of burning out.
Rising workloads, increased complexity, and a huge cultural shift to working from home have affected industries across the board. For the contact centre industry, the pandemic, according to research from Harvard Business Review, has more than doubled the number of arduous calls that agents receive. This has caused higher levels of attrition than usual, with the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) finding that the average turnover rate for contact centre agents has increased to 58%.
A similar story of attrition rings true across many industries. In what has been recognised as the ‘Great Resignation’, vital industries, from contact centres, to hospitality, to healthcare, have seen a mass exodus of employees who have decided to reevaluate their work lives since the pandemic began. The experience of the contact centre agent provides a unique but applicable view into how employees react to these issues, and the opportunity for employers to better support them.
Intelligent support for the workforce
Data is critical to solving problems. You need evidence of what is really going on to address it. Therefore, access to performance data and two-way feedback is crucial for both agents and supervisors. Now, technology, such as workforce optimisation (WFO) platforms, makes access to real-time and historical data easy and digestible, providing visibility for supervisors and managers into individual agent performance. Supervisors can quickly pinpoint who might need support and coaching, or where recognition is deserved.
Our recent research with Metrigy found that globally, more than a third (35%) of organisations use WFO suites, while another 29% plan to use them in 2022. This growth in adoption comes as no surprise, given how much the data can help managers drill down into problem areas, uncover rewards and recognition opportunities, and establish genuine, personal connections with employees. Managers can detect emerging issues early, while data-based decision making ensures actions are focused where they have the most impact.
Similarly, agents can be motivated by positive incentives driven by data. For example, tools and technology in the workforce engagement management (WEM) space enables gamification strategies that provide sustainable, dynamic ways to incentivise employees with rewards they want. Gamification can create a sense of healthy competition and interaction among agents and keep them motivated wherever they are located. Agents can compete in a variety of ways to win both virtual and real-life prizes, and supervisors can reward continued learning and positive behaviour.
Such data-driven, tech-enabled strategies can help create a positive work environment that engenders camaraderie and loyalty to the business. This can also impact positively on wider business goals – our research found that when agent turnover rates are less than 15% per year, customer satisfaction increases by more than a quarter (26%).
Boredom: the motivation killer
According to ICMI’s research, lacking the necessary tools to perform effectively, along with carrying out repetitive, monotonous tasks, have the most significant negative impact on agent performance. Further studies show that over 40% of employees spend at least a quarter of their time handling manual and repetitive tasks. While not all such tasks can be eliminated, they can be curtailed.
Technology such as machine learning, AI, and workflow automation is increasingly eliminating such repetitive, unfulfilling tasks. This enables employees to focus on more fulfilling work, improving job satisfaction and productivity.
Further, giving employees the space and time to focus on more complex tasks gives them the chance to shine. Findings by ICMI also reveal that one third of contact centre attrition is attributed to a lack of growth and advancement opportunities. For example, automating basic, routine interactions such as appointment booking with intelligent virtual agents in the contact centre enables live agents to focus more energy on the higher-value interactions, where they can apply their critical thinking skills and human touch. This can help create career growth opportunities and mitigate a top cause of attrition.
Automating repetitive and mundane tasks provides for a better employee experience and ultimately leads to better, faster, more accurate customer service experiences.
A well-informed workforce
Communication is the foundation of positive employee experiences. It’s not rocket science that engagement improves when employees feel in the loop, assured they are essential and valued to the organisation. Managers and supervisors can create transparency through communication, even where employees work remotely. Technology is making timely and personalised employee communication, even at a distance, a high-quality employee experience.
For example, smart employee dashboards offer two-way communication tools that can provide insight into employee satisfaction and help managers find opportunities to reach out to employees consistently, which makes them feel noticed and heard. The more employees feel they’re included in important conversations, and that their voices are heard, the more likely they’ll remain loyal. Providing easy, instant and personal ways to communicate, wherever employees might be working, can make the difference between engaged employees and those left feeling they have to go it alone.
Striking the balance between transformational leadership and digitisation
The COVID-19 pandemic hastened digital transformation across all industries. Organisations who have been paying close attention to how technology improves the employee experience are able to implement these tools more effectively, and will subsequently be able to reap the benefits of a loyal, engaged workforce. In turn, this can only positively impact customer experience.
However, technology is not the sole solution. The fruit of employee experience starts at the top, with leaders planting the seed of effective leadership. Leaders play a crucial role in laying down the groundwork before rolling out technologies, which can support a culture of engagement and employee experience-focused strategies. No technology can negate the effects of a toxic work environment, where employees are treated as numbers instead of human beings. In contact centres, as in other industries, equipping employees with the necessary tools, resources, and knowledge is the key to an empowered workforce. The use of technology, in tandem with a positive workplace culture, can improve the employee experience tenfold compared with what can be achieved by culture or technology alone.
Five9 is an industry-leading provider of cloud contact centre solutions, bringing the power of cloud innovation to more than 2,000 customers worldwide and facilitating billions of call minutes annually. The Five9 Intelligent Cloud Contact Centre provides digital engagement, analytics, workflow automation, workforce optimization, and practical AI to create more human customer experiences, to engage and empower agents, and deliver tangible business results. Designed to be reliable, secure, compliant, and scalable, the Five9 platform helps contact centres increase productivity, be agile, boost revenue, and create customer trust and loyalty.
For additional information on Five9 view their Company Profile