Call centres are at the heart of many large organisations. Its employees are under an increasing level of pressure to meet the rising demands of customers. How can customer service agents ensure they are looking after their mental health? What can organisations do to support them with this? In this article, we will explore the topic and provide some practical solutions for those in senior contact centre positions, and those working on the frontline.
Wellbeing in Call Centres
Those working in a call centre are at risk of workplace burnout and mental health challenges. 83% of call centre agents surveyed said their work has a negative impact on their mental health. The study also revealed that almost two thirds of the agents had high stress levels. Almost half of the employees experienced anxiety. The study also highlighted that mental health challenges related to work caused employees to be less productive.
There are four core reasons as to why contact centre staff face a risk in their mental health.
- Repetitive High-volume calls: Call centre staff spend the day sitting in the same place answering enquiries about the same types of services or products. This can start to feel monotonous, boring and uninspiring. Of course, this is the nature of the role, but it can still become a mental struggle if the days or weeks are not broken up with breaks, team meetings and opportunities for professional growth.
- Management style: According to Inform Communications, some managers within call centres apply pressure and micro manage their team members. This can cause high levels of stress as the employee may find themselves constantly trying to meet targets and management productivity expectations.
- Challenging customers: Call centres are the place a customer calls when they are upset or angry with their bank, insurance company, internet provider or healthcare practitioner. It’s up to a customer service agent to deal with these calls which can sometimes be extremely challenging. Problematic callers can be rude, aggressive and sometimes even abusive.
- Expectations and workload: Most call centres are dealing with a high number of calls, absent employees (due to sickness) and potentially newer agents who are still learning about their role. As a result, frontline agents receive a large number of customer enquiries and follow up work such as emails. According to Truelist, the average call centre deals with 200 calls a day and around 1,000 calls a week.
Four areas of change
Here are four areas which senior leaders can focus on to improve mental health within their contact centres:
In order for call centre agents to prioritise their mental health and wellbeing at work, there needs to be a certain type of culture in place. Senior leaders and managers should encourage their teams to look after their mental health and wellbeing.
Additionally, the stigma attached to mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression should be removed. This can be done by leaders discussing mental wellness in team meetings, talking to team members during private one on one conversations about any challenges they may have, and encouraging healthy behaviours such as taking breaks.
Barclays Bank employ over 87,000 people globally and have a large number of frontline workers operating in global contact centres. The bank have an initiative called ‘This is Me’ which encourages employees to tell their personal stories about mental health and disability challenges. The goal is to change perceptions and reduce stigma around these topics. This is a great example of a large employer of contact centre workers making efforts to improve its culture.
There should be policies in place which promote mental wellness at work. This can include absence and leave policies which give employees flexibility and enough time off to minimise the risk of burnout. Having policies in place such as dependence leave and carers leave allows parents and those with caring responsibilities to take time off to look after sick children or relatives without using their official annual leave.
Staff groups should be set up to support employees with different needs and those from different backgrounds. For example, having faith-based groups, groups for minority workers and for those with a disability can help employees feel supported at work. Additionally, a mental health group should be established who can help to promote mental wellness by putting on events, providing information and reviewing policies.
Resources should be made available to staff which promote health and wellness. This can include information pages on theinternal company intranet with mental health tips, courses for managers and mental health experts being appointed across different departments.
A fantastic example of this comes from Akamai who are a cybersecurity and cloud computing business. The organisation appointed a Wellness Program Manager who works on a variety of projects such as live events and delivering benefits with external partners. By having a dedicated person to help promote health and wellbeing, the company are demonstrating theircommitment to their employees.
AI and digital software can be used to reduce the workload of contact centre agents as the technology is able to tackle menial and mundane tasks. For example, chatbots can be used on a company’s website to answer simple questions. AI can also route a customer to the correct agent which can reduce wait times and improve the customer experience.
Contact centre employees are often the lifeblood of an organisation. They are busy every day on the frontline working hard to deliver great CX. The more you can invest in their mental wellness the more likely they are to perform better and stay on with your organisation.