3 ways to prevent employee burnout in the contact center

There is a strange dichotomy in customer service organizations. Customer service, at its core, should be joyful. It feels good to help customers solve problems, perhaps have a moment of delight, and feel better about their relationships with brands. But the truth is that those same customers, the ones we are happy to serve, are not always singing our praises or even using their “inside voices” when asking for that support.

Serving customers is hard work. Full stop.

When LL Bean conducted a company-wide wellness study in 2015, they discovered the largest concentration of employees at greatest risk for medical and emotional problems worked at their call centers. Those teams had a higher percentage of workers with higher blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and, perhaps most telling, more than 60% of them reported feeling emotional stress!

Burnout in your service centers is a real threat to not only your team, but also your customers.

If your service agents are perpetually battling burnout, their attitudes will start affecting their service. Your customers will feel it. And the well-being of your team members, your customers and perhaps the whole customer experience may be negatively impacted.

employee engagementAre you thinking seriously about preventing burnout in your service centers?

If not, it’s time to start now. To help you out, here are just a few ideas to help your best people serve your customers on their worst days.

1. Engage your employees in meaningful ways.

Employees who are more engaged are more likely to give their best to the task at hand. But what does it mean to actually engage them?

Meaningful engagement means creating a culture where employees feel empowered, heard and safe to be their best selves. Cultures that punish employees who come forward with ideas or issues suffer lower engagement than others.

The Harvard Business Review reports 42% of employees withhold information from managers out of FEAR. That’s right, fear! They fear what will happen to their role, status or employment simply by sharing information. The employees who feel this way? They won’t be sticking around long, and if they are disengaged negatively, they might begin to spread that negativity around the service center.

To determine what is meaningful to employees, ASK them. Some team members might feel heard simply by having a chance to speak up in a staff meeting. Others might want the safety of anonymous suggestions. Closing the loop with employees who offer ideas and insights is just as important as closing the communication loop with customers. If an employee offers an idea, it isn’t meaningful if the idea is put into action but that employee is never informed or recognized for it. Celebrate the contributions of engaged employees! Others will see that as an example of the culture.

2. Encourage wellness practices during the work day, not just in theory.

It’s one thing to say “get up from your station every hour” and it’s another to live it. With tools available like timers and automatic call routing, it’s imperative to not only encourage this, but make it easy and supported. Service agents should feel empowered to take those necessary breaks for their well-being and for the better outcome for the next customer they serve.

In many environments, contact center workers are excluded from company-supported programs like smoking cessation programs and weight-loss support. These programs could not only help prevent burnout, but also save lives!

At USAA call centers, they provide cardio exercise equipment right outside the door, and workers there are encouraged to take a 10-minute active break.

One client I visited recently would look for opportunities to hold plank contests for either small groups or the entire team. One manager who was particularly enthusiastic about wellness asked shift workers to take a minute each time they stood or sat back down to do a quick yoga pose and practice mindful breathing. It was her way of reminding workers they had control over their health and well-being. I observed how her shift would remain motivated and engaged. One long-time worker named Betty was very proud to show me her “Tree Pose.” She had to lean gently on the back of her chair for support, but she stood proudly for about 30 seconds, taking deep breaths as she did. She shared how she always just “felt better” doing that before taking her seat and donning her headset.

3. Connect the daily with the vision.

Burnout often presents itself in slow motion, with a previously engaged worker feeling a little disenchanted one day and then silently perusing job postings the next. That disenchantment is often because they have questions about how their role and daily duties connect at all to the vision of the organization.

Hold regular training sessions, whether online or in person, to help your service agents really understand how serving one customer and gaining their trust again can lead to higher retention, loyalty and revenue for the company. Better yet, if your vision is clearly connected to the customer experience, you can reinforce the positive behavior that lives up to that vision. But leaders have to do this on a regular basis to avoid burnout. And, to circle back to Tip 1, make sure the training sessions are interactive, engaging, and welcoming of honest feedback.

It’s time to take burnout seriously. Take care of your people so they can take care of your customers!

Join Me at Litmos LIVE
Dear followers of the Litmos blog, I wanted to personally encourage you to register for the Litmos LIVE virtual summit, November 7-8, 2018. I’ll be leading a session entitled “Optimizing Sales for an Outstanding Overall Customer Experience “ from 10:30 – 11:15 AM (PST) / 1:30 – 2:15 PM (EST) on November 7, which you’ll get direct access to as a registrant. I hope you’ll attend this and many of the other 30+ sessions offered at the event.

“See” you there!
~ Jeannie