What is a call center environment without stress? Call center work is often intense — and not always rewarding for agents dealing with irate customers. And while stress in the call center can be controlled and managed to a degree, it’s still ever-present.
That’s why creating a positive work environment in the call center is so crucial. Without it, your agents’ well-being, engagement, and productivity can suffer. As a result, so, too, can customer satisfaction.
In this post, we’ll consider the importance of a healthy call center environment, look at what factors contribute to a poor call center work environment and the impacts on agents, and best practices and tips for how to improve a call center environment.
What are the hallmarks of a healthy call center work environment? Employees feel valued and supported — and there is an air of positivity in the workplace as a result. When the stress level ratchets up, call center agents approach their work with more energy, instead of feeling negative about the challenges they face. They can handle stress more effectively because:
Fostering an ideal call center work environment like the one described above is crucial to employee retention, well-being, and productivity — and ultimately, customer satisfaction. If your call center agents are happy on the job, they’ll be better able to deliver a positive customer experience.
As noted above, agents working in a healthy call center environment have a more positive outlook and work more productively. That helps boost team morale, which, in turn, drives retention of employees.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the attrition rate of agents working in call centers is as high as 45%. And since it can cost as much as $12,000 to recruit and train an agent making an average of $36,000 a year, agent retention is vital if managers are to keep costs under control.
There are many reasons a call center environment can turn toxic. Here are some of the major culprits.
As we’ve already established, a call center environment by definition is stressful. Agents are tasked with handling a high volume of calls every day, often from unhappy customers. Most agents have very little autonomy in their work, which can leave them feeling uninspired and unmotivated. And, in an unhealthy work environment, agents experiencing call center stress syndrome is a real risk.
Agents spend long hours in call centers, which are often housed in bland facilities with inadequate natural light and poor air quality. Working in these conditions day in and day out can be debilitating for any employee, especially if they’re also spending a lot of time on calls and looking at computer screens.
Call center agents are mostly sedentary throughout the workday, which can lead to back and shoulder problems and other chronic health issues. Headaches are a common complaint. And agents regularly working night shifts may suffer from sleep disorders.
Call centers, especially inbound call centers, are viewed as cost centers. That perception can sometimes lead to a lack of investment in modern technology infrastructure that can enhance the work of agents, ease their stress and reduce employee attrition rates.
No worker is going to be happy or stay in a job for long that offers few benefits. Since call centers are already uninspiring and stress-inducing workplaces, a lack of basic benefits is going to increase agent disillusionment, depress morale, and contribute to a poor working environment
Call centers dealing with global customers handle calls 24 hours a day, seven days per week — and require agents to regularly work night and weekend shifts. Even call centers with more conventional hours, such as 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week, can be stressful for employees if they never or rarely have the opportunity to alter their schedule.
Call center agents work from scripts when speaking with customers and typically have little autonomy or opportunity to demonstrate initiative. With few chances to “think outside the box” while at work and earn praise for innovative thinking, agents can easily become disengaged.
In fact, a lack of recognition is a key factor for high rates of attrition in call center workforces (so, too, is non-challenging and repetitive work).
According to Pew Research Center, the lack of career growth is the second-most common reason, after poor compensation, that employees decide to leave their jobs. Now, consider that call centers have more limited career paths than most industries.
The dearth of growth opportunities in the profession can negatively impact morale in the call center, as agents may end up feeling like they’re stuck in “dead-end” jobs. This bleak outlook creates a less-than-ideal call center environment.
Call center stress syndrome can lead to call center burnout. Burnout is a medical condition officially recognized by the World Health Organization that can lead to mental and physical illness. Burnout obviously impacts call center agent morale and, if rampant, the entire call center work environment.
If you’re looking for best practices to create a healthier work environment for your call center employees, resisting the temptation to micromanage is definitely one to embrace fully. Micromanagement is an atmosphere killer in any work environment. No employee likes their boss hanging over their shoulder and questioning their every move. (Would you?)
Now that we’ve covered some of the top contributors to a poor call center environment, let’s look at strategies for creating a healthy workplace for your agents. Here are seven call center environment best practices to help you develop and maintain a positive call center environment:
One of the most important call center environment best practices you can adopt is to provide appropriate training for your staff. When agents receive high-quality training on the job, they can strengthen their communication skills and become more confident when addressing customers’ questions, needs, and concerns.
Offering training resources beyond the onboarding process can lead to career growth — a major goal for most agents. Bringing technology like Invoca into the mix can also help to promote the continuous development of agents. Our conversation intelligence software delivers complete and unbiased feedback that can enhance training throughout an agent’s career.
Consider the example of MoneySolver, a national financial services company that deployed Invoca in its outbound call center. The company subsequently reported a noticeable increase in job satisfaction, motivation, morale, and engagement among its call center agents — and a doubling of the close rate at its contact center!
Giving credit to agents who deliver a superior experience to your customers can go a long way toward creating an ideal call center environment.
If you don’t have a formal recognition and incentive program, then make a point to call out an agent’s exceptional performance in a team meeting and personally thank standout employees for their efforts. These gestures are well worth it because positive reinforcement can help to elevate morale and increase engagement across all call center staff.
Creating a healthy workplace culture for employees and instituting clearly defined, well-communicated values for the organization as a whole, are essential steps for any employer that wants to attract and keep top talent.
In a call center, where recruitment and retention are ongoing challenges due to the demanding nature of the profession, these measures are even more critical. They help create unity of purpose and contribute to agents feeling good about coming to work and understanding the importance of what they do.
Minimize stress within your call center workforce and boost customer satisfaction by deploying your human capital wisely. Schedule enough experienced agents to cover high-volume call periods. Insist agents take regular breaks to cut down on physical issues and reduce burnout. And provide flexible scheduling for agents who need it — they are people first, after all.
Another tip: Set up new agents for success by scheduling them to work during periods when your call center typically sees lower call volume from customers.
Providing the right technology to agents can help them feel more effective on the job. They can work more efficiently, but also, more creatively, so they can deliver better outcomes for customers.
Invoca’s solution, for example, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to grade agents’ performance consistently and objectively — which can be both a performance driver and a morale booster. Also, because call center agents receive their scores immediately after each call, they’re empowered to engage in self-coaching and make adjustments to call scripts and tactics on the fly.
Managers can also use Invoca’s technology to elevate agent coaching and collaboration by personalizing training and using timestamps to flag “coachable moments” in call transcripts. These features have the potential to turn every agent into the best agent they can be.
Team-building in the call center environment helps employees develop solid professional relationships with each other and foster a sense of camaraderie. Consider setting up team projects, arranging social events, or encouraging group volunteer activities outside the workplace.
Anything you can do to lighten the load on your agents is going to make them more productive — and help them focus on customer satisfaction. Technology, like conversation intelligence and AI, can help you carry out many of the best practices outlined above so you can create a much healthier work environment for your call center employees.
With Invoca, you can share personalized coaching tips and give kudos to specific agents by calling out examples using the exact timestamps in call transcripts. Invoca also uses AI to automatically grade every call to your call center — not just a small sample — giving agents immediate, honest, and consistent appraisals of their performance.
Taking the human bias out of quality assurance assessments will engage your call center agents and empower them to adjust and improve call tactics confidently, on their own. And that means you, as a manager, can focus even more attention on how to create an ideal call center environment that will allow you to attract, keep, and make the most of the talent on your team.
Want to learn more about how Invoca can help you improve agent coaching and your overall call center environment? Check out these resources: