STRESS IN CALL CENTERS
Stress exists in every call center. Call centers are stressful work environments. The demands of serving the customer in real-time helps to lay the foundation. Add to this factor things such as job repetition, potential job dissatisfaction, poor ergonomics or low pay and the stress level climbs higher.
If stress in the workplace (i.e. the call center) is not on the agenda the results of stress are revealed through higher absenteeism than other parts of the company, higher Worker’s Compensation claims and ultimately in reduced customer satisfaction.
This Operations Topic focuses on various approaches to managing stress. Raising the pay isn’t necessarily the solution. There are many other creative means of managing stress in your call center.
Factors that Create a Stressful Call Center
· Stress in the Call Center will affect the agent, manager, director, or anyone in the call center when they let stress gain control. When this happens, they lose self control and have the feeling of being overwhelmed. The first step in gaining control is and identifying what the stressors are and understanding the causes and effects. Stress is caused by many things. Time pressures, high expectations, lack of communication, high call volume, inexperience, ill-prepared, to name a few. The effects are decreased productivity, anxiety, low morale, poor customer service levels, and (yikes!) increased turnover. When faced with these stressors, training is the tool to resolve the issues. You must go to your training programs and processes and ask yourself if the training you are providing the call center employees delivers the tools required for them to accomplish their goals without the negative stress. Approach dealing with the stress in the Call Center with assertiveness and confidence to conquer! One of the most effective things I have done, in my own call center experience, as well as seen in other call centers, is to have a specific workshop covering stress. Let the employees voice their specific stressors and develop actions to overcome them and resolve what is inhibiting their performance. Their minds are then clear and mentally prepared. They will then be motivated for training to make them a more confident and capable call center employee.
· Lack of communication
is a call center disease that some call centers just gravitate to simply because everyone is too busy with their job duties and with doing someone else’s jobs that we simply forget to communicate. Sounds harmless but if you don’t address it, it could slowly but surely drag down your center’s morale, employees’ self esteems, work life balance, job security, employees’ productivities, etc …. (you just fill in the rest!!)
· HIGH VOLUME
This one is a little tougher because the causes could be variety of different issues. The more common symptom of high volume is poor workforce mgmt. Simply put, your workforce team needs to be very proactive in correctly forecasting your volume two weeks in advance (within 98% of the actual volume) and be ready with a staffing analysis of how efficient the CSR schedules are by day for you. If you can get this every week from your workforce team, you will be well aware of your holes every day for the next two weeks and you can make staffing decisions before the day happens. If your workforce team is good, then you will better prepare to handle spikes/lull in your volume.
Another symptom of high volume is poor attendance/retention – if you consistently don’t have the reps that you planned for, then you might as well stay home too. Issues like these are harder to address because the root causes are never the same. You have to go the employees and find out why they are not coming to work or why they are leaving you. Once you have an idea of the root causes, then you and your team can creatively find solutions or create new policies to address them.
High volume is a self feeding animal – if you don’t get control of it, it will surely brings down your operation. Your frontline supervisors will have to help out on the phones all the time and they can’t work with their CSRs. Employees are constantly going from one call to the next without much breaks in between. Your boss is constantly on you for high ASAs and Abandon %s, blah – the story goes on and on and the picture doesn’t look pretty.
- Common causes include understaffing, impossible service levels, inappropriate or oppressive management style, mis-match between agent skills and job requirements, mis-match between the stated aims of the job and the actual work being done (e.g. a sales centre that is swamped with technical service complaints), jobs that require no thought on the part of the operator and that could/should be automated (directory enquiries, bank balance requests etc).
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