Facing customers every day and solving their issues requires considerable emotional strength. Call center agents bear the brunt of complaints and outbursts, often about processes or glitches that they have no direct control over. Consequently, they experience burnout and many resign from their positions to cope.
Unsurprisingly, the customer service industry tends to have high attrition compared to many others. According to 2017 US Contact Center Decision Makers’ Guide from ContactBabel.com, the average attrition rate for agents is 30%, with an all-time high of 49% in the outsourcing sector.
One of the most common causes of exhaustion and the high attrition rate in contact centers is the stress created by difficult customer conversations, often those involving raised voices, negative remarks, and impractical requests. Additionally, inadequate training and onboarding procedures put pressure on agents and make them avoid calls out of fear of escalations. Furthermore, the repetitive work within a contact center may make agents feel like they’re not progressing professionally.
As the person responsible for keeping the customer support team engaged and motivated, you need to pay attention to the warning signs of a burnout. Once you recognize the causes and signs of exhaustion, you can implement environmental or structural changes to keep recurrences low. To boost agent satisfaction and retention, we have identified some management practices that you can incorporate into your contact center:
Create a knowledge base within your support team containing articles, how-to’s, and videos to help agents learn operating procedures. Ensure that they also receive regular updates from your product, marketing, and finance teams about new releases, bug fixes, or changed pricing plans promptly. This way, they’re not uninformed while attending to customer calls. Using call recordings, you can even highlight educational conversations and share them with agents for situational training. Pro tip: Adjust the Span of Control (ratio of supervisors to agents) within your contact center. Consider keeping the ratio as low as possible so that supervisors have the time to conduct agent training, in addition to their responsibilities of driving KPIs and managing escalations.
If, for example, an agent has to toggle between a phone system, an email inbox, a webform, and a chat system (each provided by a different software), they will spend considerable time tracking a single issue across channels. Additionally, new agents will struggle to gain context quickly, in case they need to have a conversation with an existing customer. One platform, with the different channels mapped to a central system, will serve the dual objectives of creating a consolidated customer profile and ensuring accurate cross-channel updates. Freshcaller, for example, is integrated with a helpdesk + ticketing solution and a CRM platform to provide a connected customer engagement platform. In addition to software, procure good-quality headsets for your agents. Given the volume of calls they handle, it’s important to minimize inconveniences and ensure that they’re comfortable.
While detailed scripts and SOPs can streamline operations in the call center, there will be situations that require agents to deviate from standard procedures. One the one hand, you would want your agents to reduce average handle time and increase the number of customers they attend to. Tried-and-tested scripts could help achieve that. On the other hand, agents need to spend adequate time on the call to maximize First Call Resolution (FCR) rates and customer satisfaction (CSAT). To achieve this, they may need to improvise based on the nature of the customer query. Create a range of options (discounts, free express shipping, add-on services etc.) that agents can provide customers without needing supervisor approval.
Engaging in redundant tasks with limited opportunities for originality and autonomy can drain even the most dedicated agents. Consider rotating agents across channels or support divisions so that they can learn new skills and be exposed to a variety of tasks. If rotation isn’t possible in your organization, institute a system of benefits, bonuses, and rewards to incentivize agents. For example, you could practice an “Agent of the Month” recognition system or feature an agent who overcame a particularly difficult scenario in your monthly internal newsletter. Acknowledging effort and rewarding top performers can remind agents that they’re valued within the organization and help them manage day-to-day stressors better.
By creating a supportive environment and tailoring customer support operations to the convenience of agents (and not just customers), you can reduce the amount of exhaustion that the team experiences. This way, fewer agents will burnout and leave your contact center. If you would like to understand any of the features mentioned in this article better and adjust them to restructure your support workflows, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.