Working in a call center is not an easy job. As all positions, the position of a call center agent comes with a fair share of challenges. Stress and depression are just a few of them. Behind a happy demeanor of your agents, there might be a dark shadow. Call center depression is a real issue that requires monitoring in order to form a good working environment.
The training to become a call center agent in itself can be overwhelming. Especially for those that are taking up this position for the first time. An overload of information can lead to a confusing and intimidating start. And no one wants to be scared their first day of work! Then, it is no wonder that there is such a high churn level among call center agents.
Even if it is a secure and stable job for an agent that enjoys doing it, attrition is also high in a call center. People who have not worked in this industry would not be able to understand the shadow that slowly creeps into the minds of employees.
This is something of s a combination of a lot of things. For example, stress, an access to a more sophisticated lifestyle, the night shifts and pressure. Over the time, everything will add up and it will lead to a declining mental health in your call center. Some of your agents are strong enough to deal with it, but some may not be.
Depression of any kind does not arrive out of nowhere like a cold or a flu. It usually starts out small. Your employees might make up excuses for it. Their mood might change only slightly, their absences a bit longer. Then it will eventually lead to a decrease in performance and eventually to churn.
Common Signs of Call Center Depression
In your call center, your employees undergo stress in their day-to-day lives. This happens repeatedly and it can have long-term effects on their health. According to the studies, the prevalence of stress, anxiety, and depression among call handlers is 46.7%, 57.1%, and 62.9% respectively.
This is due to the abnormal sleep quality, prolonged travel time, and lack of relaxation facilities at the office. They are all predictors of stress and depression. The presence of physical ailments, the absence of hobbies, temporary/part-time employment, and traveling long-distance to office are also significant predictors of anxiety among call handlers.
It is important to know that call center employees can face a high burden of stress, anxiety, and depression. For a good management of a call center, it is important to monitor both physical and mental health of your employees.
Here are a few things to watch out for.
If your employees are stressed and burned out they will be less productive.
At the times when you’re feeling stressed and overworked, there is not much room left in your mind to think about other things. You won’t be able to think n your feet and act quickly. Staying focused will become an issue.
If you notice that your employees are losing focus and becoming less productive, then you will need to talk with them and work out a way to improve this situation. Less productive workers also lead to a less productive business.
Increase In Errors
If an employee is unable to focus on their job, then their error volume will increase. Capturing customer data is one of the key parts of a customer service position. This might be in the form of editing customer information, setting up accounts, making tweaks to orders, and so on.
Sometimes, a small error can lead to big problems, so it is important for your agents to be fulyl focused at all times. For example, getting one digit wrong in a customer’s name can result in countless miscommunications in the future. Your customers want to feel valued by the company and nothing makes a customer feel less valued than not even getting their name right.
This is how a small error in an address can lead to orders getting sent to the wrong location, which will result in very unhappy customers and even more calls to the customer service team. An agent that is experiencing burnout is not working with the same mental capacity as agents who are happy and fulfilled in their roles.
Your employees that are struggling with their mental health and depression are more likely to make errors. They are also less likely to spot errors they have made when proofreading.
High Frustration Levels
If your employees are burned out they are more likely to be frustrated and take this frustration out on customers. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that every agent who experiences burnout will suddenly start being rude and aggressive to customers, it does mean that this frustration can come out in different ways.
For example, your employees may feel unmotivated to help a customer who is being difficult or impolite. Due to this, they may try to limit the communication to just the bare minimum. Your agents can even be passive-aggressive. This is not a good way to improve your customer experience.
Lack of Enthusiasm
If you have stressed employees that have become unenthusiastic about their work, this is because their work is the source of their stress.
It is normal to have a lack of enthusiasm in such a case. This could harm their work, but it will also harm the employees around them. Enthusiasm is contagions. It has a way of spreading from person to person and increasing morale.
Negative emotions can also spread to your other employees, which will result in a negative working environment.
There is an Australian study that found that on average employees take an estimated 7.4 sick days per year. However, for call center employees, this was roughly 8.2 days.
It is not possible to complete determine why is this a thing. In order to investigate absenteeisn in call centers would rely on getting reliable and honest data from agents. However, sometimes agents in workplaces feel they need to take more time off. They are less likely to feel comfortable telling the company why.
The reason for absenteeism might be high stress, harassment, or childcare issues. This is due to the call center employees having traditionally a very strict shift pattern and working hours. This can make it difficult for employees to handle unexpected events in their personal life like childcare issues or personal appointments.
How to Properly Deal with Call Center Depression and Burnout
It is important to reflect on the training methods that are set up in your call center. Training isn’t just for new employees. It is for everyone, including your team leaders.
In a healthy call center, training should be an ongoing process where employees are continually coached. This is how they are able to get core skills and are given new skills as more information becomes available. The effectiveness of your call center will improve and your call center depression rates will drop off if training on handling difficult situations is provided.
Invest in New Customer Service Technology
Currently on the market, there are many great options available that make the employee’s job easier. This may result in more success for the business. For example, try investing in a software that will improve workplace efficiency and productivity, by using one software for everything. Or by using software that is user-friendly.
There are softwares that reduce the likelihood of errors. When there is no repetitive handling of data that and the data is captured only once, then the option of small errors going through unnoticed is reduced.
You can also try investing in alternative customer service solutions like chatbots that could take the pressure off the call center operation and allow your agents to multitask more easily.
Give Agents More Control
It is important to trust your agents to take control of interactions. They need to have freedom to solve problems creatively. It is not always the best to stick to a rigid scrip. This can lead to boredom and a lack of fulfillment for employees.
Even when your employees successfully help a customer, they can be left feeling that it wasn’t really them who achieved this. It is not excellent to always rely on the script. Try allowing your agents to go off-script and bring their own personality to the role.
If it is possible, don’t monitor and micromanage your employees all the time.
Motivate Your Employees
A good working environment will have a positive atmosphere. This is important in any customer service operation. Motivating your employees through positive reinforcement can help reduce your call center depression. You can motive your employees by doing the following:
- Reward your employees who demonstrate the skills you want to encourage.
- Provide feedback on things they did, but always focus on the positives as well as the negatives.
- Hold team meetings regularly so the team can bond with each other and with the manager.
- Train your managers on how to use positive reinforcement.
Be Flexible Where Possible
Everyone appreciates having a more flexible work schedule. It is important for maintaining a better work-life balance.
Even if your company has set working hours, you can try allowing a range of shift patterns. Also allow agents greater freedom to choose which shift they want. Letting them have this flexibility is better than not letting them leave the shift they picked the first time you asked them.
Also, if possible, it is good to allow your employees to be themselves and feel comfortable in the workplace. This might mean allowing your employees to dress more casually, listen to music where appropriate, and organize social events for the team.
Offer Performance Incentives and Bonuses
It is always a good idea to reward those that are doing an excellent job. Customer service agents that are contributing to the success of your company so they should be rewarded for this
Try offering performance-based incentives that are realistic to motivate employees. They can be package rewards, or financial rewards, or just outings that would help with team building.