How Contact Center Agent Burnout Decreases Productivity (And What You Can Do About It)
Agent burnout directly harms the quality of customer service your business provides and significantly hurts your company’s bottom line. It’s hard to ignore the fact that contact centers are plagued with high agent burnout and turnover rates. According to industry studies, average annual turnover ranges between 30-45 percent – with some centers experiencing turnover into the triple digits.
Fortunately, your staff succumbing to burnout is not inevitable. There are things you can do to prevent this negative cycle. Consider this. Some contact centers experience almost no turnover at all.
So what can you do to move the needle toward agent productivity and longevity and away from burnout?
Become a Workplace of Choice
Best-in-class contact centers are able to engage employees and create a supportive, motivating culture. It starts with a foundation made up of the right technologies and best practices. With these building blocks in place, you’re more likely to break the cycle of burnout and transform your contact center into a workplace of choice.
We’ll guide you on the journey to becoming a workplace of choice by helping you understand:
- the root causes of call center agent burnout
- the benefits of overcoming burnout
- the right steps and strategies to improve agent performance
You’ll then be poised to reverse the conditions that generate burnout and become a workplace of choice with an engaged workforce that enjoys longevity in their jobs.
What Causes Agent Burnout?
Agents are subjected to massive amounts of stress as they handle a high volume of interactions and resolve a variety of customer issues — all while being required to remain pleasant and empathetic. All too often these pressures cause agents to succumb to emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion – otherwise known as burnout.
It’s no secret that these pressures have intensified during the pandemic, as the increased stress people experience in their daily lives impacts their dealings with contact center agents. Most concerning, once burnout sets in with agents, it’s difficult to reverse.
When we consider the high costs of burnout, we can see that tolerating its spread is not an option. Prevention is key. While managers can proactively look for the warning signs – such as irritability and impatience – without preventative measures, it’s difficult to reverse burnout once it begins.
The Consequences of Agent Burnout
Agents suffering from burnout are generally irritable and lethargic. They find themselves less able to work efficiently and are hard-pressed to muster the empathy and problem-solving skills customers expect.
If you think you may have high burnout in your contact center, these signs indicate it’s likely.
- Diminished agent productivity over time
- Patterns of careless mistakes
- Lack of interest and energy
- Increased irritability
- Extensive use of sick time
Once burnout sets in, contact center agents struggle to be productive and eventually check out, either mentally or physically.
The reasons for high turnover in contact centers are the subject of debate, especially in the era of the Great Resignation.
While it’s true that low pay is often a contributing factor, it’s far from the only one. Other factors agents cite for burnout are:
- Lack of training
- Lack of a career path
- Frustrating technology tools
According to HBR researcher Keith Ferazzi, the total organizational costs of employee turnover range from 100 and 300 percent of the employee’s salary, when recruiting and onboarding are factored in.
It also becomes harder to meet service levels and customer experience goals measured by metrics such as first contact resolution, customer satisfaction, and customer effort score.
Related Article: The Great Resignation – How to Retain Your Contact Center Agents
Preventing Agent Burnout
There are a number of steps you can take to prevent burnout. Most fundamentally you need to promote a culture of agent empowerment. This requires the right people, processes, and technologies.
In short, you need a solid employee engagement program. When you hire and onboard agents and managers with intention and care, you increase your chances of creating a positive and empowering culture. But to seal the deal you need to implement the right processes enabled by technologies, such as quality monitoring, training, and gamification. This is an excellent way to scale improvements and gauge progress.
By implementing agent feedback and training mechanisms agents can take a break from channels they may find exhausting, and get trained to handle new types of customer challenges using new channels.
Related Article: How to Drive Engagement with Gamification in Your Contact Center
Implement A Full Quality Monitoring Program
A high-performing contact center with empowered agents is far less likely to experience burnout among employees. The quickest way to transform a low-performing organization is to implement a quality monitoring program. But the best results come from programs that go beyond standard QA tools.
Traditional QA tools are great, but by the time an issue is found the customer experience already has suffered. To counteract this shortcoming, we recommend you implement a 360-degree quality monitoring program that goes beyond problem identification to problem prevention. You do this by implementing a full quality management program that ties together QA, coaching, and motivation. After identifying performance gaps with QA tools, you’re able to deliver coaching to agents based upon evaluation results.
Deliver Targeted Training
Once you’ve identified an agent’s skill level in any given area you can then deliver appropriate training courses to allow agents to continuously uplevel their capabilities. Industry studies consistently show employees experience higher levels of satisfaction and improved performance when they feel they are learning and growing in their jobs.
Motivate Agents To Higher Performance
All too often it’s the high-performing agents that suffer most from burnout. This is because they take on the more difficult customer problems and are also looking to grow and advance their careers. Once agents have the skills to perform well, you want to increase motivation on a continuous basis using the right tools. You can do this with gamification to reward and recognize agents for delivering superior experiences.
The Burnout Antidote
Agent burnout and related productivity drains are endemic in contact centers. It’s also true that many contact centers find themselves relatively immune to this malady. The good news is that there are a good number of things you can do to prevent burnout. Solid employee engagement programs allow you to identify past deficiencies, then quickly take care of potential issues to create a continuous improvement loop that elevates employees while recognizing top performers.