The impact of the past couple of years has been wide-reaching and traumatic, with people everywhere experiencing more stress than ever before. In the latest survey from the American Psychological Association, two years out from the onset of the pandemic, many respondents reported worse mental health, lower physical activity, disturbed sleep and increased reliance on unhealthy habits.
This level of stress not only impacts individuals personally, but it can also be a major barrier to success in our jobs. Flexible (or inflexible) working practices, growing customer demands and a fast-changing competitive landscape are all taking their toll on the workforce – and these stressors are affecting everyone in the contact center and beyond.
It’s time to adopt a comprehensive approach to organizational wellbeing to better prioritize the needs of agents, supervisors and senior managers.
The waterfall impact of stress
Stress levels among agents are rising sharply, with 96% claiming to feel stressed at least once a week, while 33% of agents are stressed multiple times a week – up from 25% in 2017. It is not difficult to understand what’s contributing to this, given that agents are dealing with 14.4 additional omnichannel interactions per day. At the same time, many are still adapting to the ‘work from anywhere’ culture, while wrestling with the practicalities of juggling home and work life. What’s more, a recent study from analyst firm ContactBabel revealed that 60% of respondents agreed that staff attrition and absence, while initially pandemic-related, are still causing customer experience issues.
So, how do individuals running the daily operations of the contact center manage agent schedules and skills, while also planning for future recruitment, coaching and training needs?
The pressure is on contact center leaders to better understand the bigger picture, such as why staff are leaving for competitors or why customer churn rates may be higher than usual. They are tasked with better managing agent stress, tackling the hybrid working environment and handling an increased number of digital communication channels. Leaders also need to optimize performance, keep teams connected and meet ever-evolving customer expectations.
The pressure is bubbling over, and it has a waterfall effect that spreads anxiety and stress throughout organizations, threatening the wellbeing of employees and the long-term prosperity of businesses. It is time to prioritize reversing this trend.
Three ways to improve workforce wellbeing
What does wellbeing look like in the contact center? Agents who are empowered and taking control of their working lives and the customer experience; supervisors who have the tools and resources they need to better support and motivate the workforce so they can surpass key metrics and service levels; and executives who can more easily strike a balance across cost control, innovation and business expansion.
Here are three initial steps for creating a culture of wellbeing:
- Leverage an all-around approach – Find out what is working and what is not for your agents, supervisors and senior managers, then take action. Look beyond the contact center and think about involving other parts of the organization, including subject matter experts in departments such as HR, finance and marketing, who can help improve knowledge and boost contact center performance with new insights.
- Make the most of data – With customer and employee loyalty in flux during the pandemic, companies need relevant insights inside and outside the organization to help protect and grow customer relationships, while also keeping staff from straying to the competition. Unfortunately, valuable information tends to get trapped inside the contact center and goes nowhere. Prioritize breaking down data silos or clunky IT systems so data intelligence can be used effectively.
- Follow the leaders – Success requires more control over data by leveraging data-driven technologies. Thomson Reuters, for example, wanted to understand how the introduction of remote agent onboarding and training due to COVID-19 was affecting its business. Using the latest in analytics, the company identified calls with long and multiple hold times, then worked to establish a solution to reduce the number of calls put on hold. Take inspiration from those prioritizing wellbeing and emulate the same approaches.
Learn more about the different considerations and tactics for creating a culture of wellbeing in the “Workforce Wellbeing Recovery Kit.”
Edited by Erik Linask