Effective Mental Health Management for Call Center Agents – Tips and Strategies
Call centers are well-known for being stressful work environments. A call center agent has to handle a huge volume of calls, working reactively to handle their queries and problems in real-time. Call center services entail a huge volume of calls, along with the need for constant patience, understanding, and problem-solving often creates stress, leading to the deteriorating mental health of the call center agents. This deterioration often ends up in employee burnout. Here is a guide on handling and helping improve the mental health of call center agents.
What factors contribute to mental health deterioration and burnout in call centers?
Dealing with irate customers: Call center agents have to deal with irate customers day-in and day-out and are on the receiving end of frustration and abuse, which leads to heightened stress on the part of the call center agent.
Insufficient training and resources: Agents who receive inadequate training will not be able to handle their work well, leading to stress and overwhelm. If the agency does not provide enough resources such as supportive software or equipment it can further lead to heightened stress.
Repetitive tasks: Call center agents are required to perform repetitive tasks leading to demotivation and under-stimulation. The monotonous nature of their scripts could make them feel disengaged and frustrated.
Micro-management: Constant micro-management and requests for improved performance often leads to agents feeling stressed and negatively impact their performance.
Lack of recognition: When management does not recognize the hard work of their agents, it leads to disengagement, a lack of motivation, and anxiety.
Overwork due to high volume of calls: Managing a high volume of calls is the leading factor for stress in call centers. An unrelenting workload and targets based on a number of calls make agents feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious.
How to identify deteriorating mental health and burnout in call center agents?
Mental health deterioration and burnout are a result of chronic workplace stress. To identify these issues in call center agents, watch out for these three symptoms:
Increased levels of negativity and cynicism about the job
Growing underperformance and inefficiency
Exhaustion or lack of energy while on the job
Further signs of burnout and mental health deterioration:
A call center agent who develops a pattern of being late and wanting to leave as early as possible once a shift is over.
The physical symptoms could look like insomnia, fatigue, appetite loss, anxiety, and depression.
A normally positive-thinking call center agent becoming increasingly negative in their outlook.
A call center agent who starts frequently skipping team events. Similarly, when an agent who would rarely skip work, starts missing their shifts, is a cause for concern.
Agents lashing out at colleagues and customers could be experiencing increased levels of stress.
An increased number of mistakes missed milestones, and general poor performance as mental health deterioration makes it tougher to sustain high levels of productivity.
How to handle the deteriorating mental health and burnout in call center agents?
1.Recognize the signs of burnout and mental health deterioration in agents
Recognizing when an agent is going through a mental health crisis or burnout requires a fair bit of empathy and a keen eye for observation. Before burnout occurs, there will be months when the call center agent appears unmotivated, fatigued, anxious, and so on. Watch out for reduced efficiency and productivity, and signs of increasing negativism or aggression. Understand that this is not the fault of the agent, burnout is due to unfair treatment, micromanagement, unreasonable expectation, and poor work conditions.
2. Avoid micromanagement
While it is important to track key performance indicators, micromanagement causes unhappiness, overwhelm, and stress. Instead, support the call center agent in different ways, such as allowing personal days off or mental health days. Virtual call center services won’t fall apart if one agent is not present. Schedule in a way that optimizes the workforce so that the agents get enough time to unwind. Also, give insightful feedback without berating the agent by providing context and support.
3. Tackle unfair treatment
Unfair treatment is often a subjective issue. Managers must try to foster a safe, healthy, and fair working environment. The company should prioritize and set empathy as a goal. Empathy training can be organized to help both managers and agents feel more understood.
4. Invest in quality technology
Outdated and insufficient technology is a major source of stress for call center agents. To improve virtual call center services, invest in quality technology that allows agents and employees to collaborate extensively over teams, offers quick relevant information, and is easily accessible. Call center companies that want to do well should focus on customer loyalty and satisfaction over direct profits. Satisfied customers are loyal customers, and loyalty is where the profits lie.
5. Manage unreasonable expectations and unmanageable workloads
If call center agents are feeling overburdened by excess workload, it makes sense to lighten their burden. Outsourcing part of the work to a virtual call center may help here. The virtual call center will be able to take on the additional load leaving everyone happy. Avoid over-scheduling and understand that everyone wants and deserves to have a healthy work-life balance. Modern-day call center solutions such as automation, chatbots, and self-service go a long way in reducing the workload of the agents. There are also analytical tools that help agents to monitor their performance and progress without needing a manager to breathe down their necks the whole time.
6. Hire the right people
Ensure you have the right mix of agents—people at the start of their call center career can be balanced by agents with industry experience. Experienced agents can help guide and improve the performance of newcomers. If profits are a problem, you can still hire the right people through virtual staffing. You get access to quality agents and employees at the fraction of the cost of hiring in-house full-time agents. You don’t have to worry about giving them office space either.
To help build a virtual call center for your company, contact Virtual Staffing Agency today.