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How to Reduce Stress in the Call Center Environment: Checklist


Scott Kendrick

September 11, 2015

street signs Reduce and Stress
street signs Reduce and Stress

There’s a reason why customer service gets a bad rap.  Between long wait times in queue, unhelpful agents, and being transferred from one person to another, it can sometimes feel like more trouble than it’s worth to pick up the phone to resolve an issue.

What many customers fail to recognize, however, is that customer service calls can be just as stressful (if not more so) for the agent on the other end of the line.  A high-pressure work environment, ambitious performance targets, conflicting role requirements, and workplace distractions are just a few of the many challenges faced by agents on a consistent basis.

With call centers notorious for high turnover – statistics show attrition rates can be as high as 20 – 30% annually – it isn’t just a good idea to design a stress-free work environment: It’s critical. The following is a checklist of tips your company can use to reduce stress in the call center:

  • Identify stress triggers: The first step in reducing workplace-related  stress in the call center is to identify stress triggers in the first place.  You might, for example, determine that a select group of agents is being negatively affected by background noise and take proactive steps to minimize noise-related distractions.

Whatever the solution (i.e., white noise system, glass partitions, cubicles with padded sides, etc.), taking the noise concern seriously from the get-go can help you address the issue swiftly and efficiency later on.

  • Consider office layout: In any workplace environment, there’s a strong relationship between mental and emotional well-being.  In other words, employees have to feel like they’re working in an environment that allows them to thrive – as opposed to one that impinges on their performance.

As noted in a Call Centre Helper article, office layout can have a big impact on the working atmosphere of the call center.  Individual layout needs (e.g., cubicles, pods, conference tables, etc.) will vary depending on the call center, but the point is to assess what will make the most sense for the individual or team of agents.

  • Factor in ergonomics: Office layout is just one factor that can negatively or positively impact agent morale and performance.  Another cause of agent stress may be due to workplace discomfort (e.g., strain, tension, and injury from bending, stretching, reaching, or even sitting for long periods of time).

To promote agent health and reduce the risk of injury, call centers should take the appropriate steps to factor in workplace ergonomics, the practice of designing the job to fit the employee as opposed to the other way around.  Examples in the call center might include seating with proper back support, keyboard stands, adjustable height desks, and so on.

  • Provide regular performance feedback: Outside factors – noise, cubicle design/layout, and physical discomfort – can be enough on their own to elevate agent stress levels.  But sometimes the underlying issue of agent performance can be an area of even greater concern.

Without proper feedback on their performance, call center representatives aren’t just in the dark about the way they’re handling customer interactions – they’re also less engaged in their work and more likely to become overwhelmed in high-stress situations.

With CallMiner’s speech analytics software, agents receive performance feedback in real time, prompting them to improve their performance and resulting in a better experience for the customer overall.

Remember the big picture: While there are a number of scenarios (escalation attempts, high emotion, churn language, etc.) that may require some form of intervention on the part of a manager or supervisor, it’s important to remind agents that there is a solution to every problem.

Statistics show 83% of Americans feel stressed at work, so you owe it to your employees to remind them of the big picture: Not every call can be one for the record books!

Speech analytics software can highlight areas where agents are performing well versus those where they may need additional coaching.  But a “don’t sweat the small stuff” attitude can remind agents to learn from difficult experiences with customers instead of dwelling on them.

Final Thoughts

In a high-pressure environment such as the call center, it’s inevitable that call center representatives will feel stressed from time to time.  Fortunately, there are a number of ways to combat such work-related pressures and promote the type of contact center environment that will allow agents to be productive, efficient, and engaged in their work – which will help with building a successful call center.

Do you agree with our checklist of ways to reduce stress in the call center? What would you add to yours?

© Brey

Contact Center Operations Speech & Conversation Analytics North America EMEA APAC