Levels of stress within the customer support workforce are higher and more intense than ever due to a variety of reasons, many stemming from the pandemic. This is especially true for contact center agents, who are navigating more channels, with new systems and solutions, while also dealing with customers who may show up already frustrated from their last interaction with an agent, bot or automated system. All this pressure can feel incredibly overwhelming, and it’s up to contact center leaders to both acknowledge this pressure and to implement improvements within organizations to better care for and address the wellbeing of employees.
The good news is that leaders do not have to go it alone. There are tools and technologies available that humanize and soften experiences with AI-infused analytics and intelligent automation, such as modern workforce engagement management (WEM) solutions, that leaders can embrace to create a more robust culture of support and wellbeing.
Three ways to de-stress your workforce
Modern WEM solutions can serve as a de-stressing tool for agents, operational supervisors and senior managers alike by enhancing employee engagement, optimizing contact center performance and boosting profitability. Here’s how it works:
- Greater control over schedules. As the amount of work increases, agent stress understandably increases. They cite managing their work/life balance as the biggest stress factor (41%), followed closely by complex customer issues (36%), and too many calls (34%). Like any other industry, when the workforce has greater control over the working environment, some of that pressure can be alleviated. Moods lift, energy rises and stress levels lower when there’s more calm than chaos in the workplace. And, when agents are given autonomy to work around pressures in their personal lives — by self-scheduling — the sense of control can create greater confidence and more engaged employees.
With a self-scheduling tool agents can move lunches, schedule one-on-ones with colleagues, set aside time for new learning, even add extra shifts to their week if they need or want to earn overtime. Greater access and instant changes provide a sense of independence and, if leaders need visibility into those changes, certain parameters or guardrails can be automated within the WEM solution. What’s more, agents can track their own performance within personalized dashboards to help them stay on track and motivated. There’s total ownership to structure the day in a way that works best for them, while ensuring agents meet their goals and complete their tasks. A true win-win.
- Better supported managers, more confident agents. Holding a supervisor or managerial role can be difficult. According to a Gallup poll, only one in four managers strongly agreed they were able to maintain a healthy balance between work and personal commitments last year. That’s because they’re expected to build the business, please the customer, shine individually and foster growth for direct reports – all at once, all the time. It’s a tall order, made even more challenging when leaders don’t have access to adequate data and tools to manage the fast-changing dynamics of the workplace.
Though many organizations have embraced analytics to better understand the customer and glean insights from behaviors and interactions, they’re lagging when it comes to using those same strategies for better understanding agents. Roughly half (48%) of contact center managers report they are not doing enough to focus analytics tools on their teams. They cite training opportunities (37%), employee satisfaction (33%), and productivity (33%) as the top missing insights.
This needs to change. Leaders need to start leveraging the analytics at their disposal for personalized performance coaching, which is now even easier since the introduction of AI-enabled recording and tracking of interactions and agent performance metrics. This type of intelligence can facilitate coaching conversations, identify potential skill gaps and provide managers with a starting point to advocate for and provide better training and support to the agents who need it most, all backed by data. This ultimately creates happier managers, increases agent confidence and satisfaction and boosts overall operational productivity.
- Exceptional experiences, backed by data. According to Harvard Business Review, while 83% of companies stress the importance of turning data into actionable insight, only 22% of senior executives feel their company is successful in doing so. Without actionable insights, there are no informed decisions – rather, leaders are left with limited visibility into what’s happening across their organization, and the decisions they make are often riddled with risk.
Recognizing the importance of connectedness is one step, but implementing an approach that embodies connectedness is what true leaders do. It’s time to break down silos across systems and departments and create solutions that allow for seamless data sharing and communication across the enterprise, all to improve our ways of working and thinking and, ultimately, deliver exceptional customer experiences.
When organizations prioritize employee engagement by providing teams with the right tools and technologies that make everything “click,” pervading stress starts to dissipate. What remains is a strong foundation that puts the contact center at the heart of everything, which has insurmountable benefits for the business, for the workforce and, of course, the customer.
Learn more about the different considerations and tactics for creating a culture of wellbeing in the “Workforce Wellbeing Recovery Kit.”
Edited by Erik Linask