Tackle the 3 A’s – Absence, Agent Burnout, and Attrition

Tired and stressed customer support operator with headache
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The role of the contact centre agent is challenging and can lead to burnout. This results in high rates of absenteeism and attrition too – but fortunately, this can be prevented!

That’s why we asked our expert panel for their top tips and advice on reducing absence, agent burnout, and attrition.

Here’s what they said…

1. Monitor Schedule Adherence With a Human Touch

Isabel Lim, Product Marketing Manager at InVision Group, injixo
Isabel Lim

It’s crucial to make sure that agents adhere to their schedules, but it’s equally important to understand and empathize with necessary deviations.

This means recognizing that situations such as extended customer interactions or unavoidable personal circumstances will require breaks from strict schedule adherence.

Also, be sure to identify peak periods and ensure sufficient staff coverage without pushing agent occupancy to 100%, as this is often a guaranteed recipe for burnout.

Good practice is not to exceed 90% occupancy, whilst Call Centre Helper estimates that the industry average is 83%. This not only prevents agent fatigue but also ensures high service levels.

Contributed by: Isabel Lim, Product Marketing Manager at InVision Group, injixo

2. Lead by Example and Make Sure YOU Take Breaks Too

Ali Kamaley, Senior Sales, Odigo
Ali Kamaley

Teamwork, wellbeing initiatives, values and culture are all cornerstones of a healthy working environment. Leaders, however, need to embody these values to encourage open communication and reduce mental health stigma.

Everyone has met a supervisor or manager who fails to delegate, neglects breaks, and exhibits a relentless work ethic. Unfortunately, this only perpetuates the reluctance to seek help.

No amount of stress management workshops or conversations about work/life balance will be effective if agents don’t feel empowered to take those steps without judgement.

Encouraging regular breaks is vital so agents can mentally reset, and supervisors who lead by example will have more success when reminding agents to step away from their desks or grab a snack.

Contributed by: Ali Kamaley, Senior Sales, Odigo

3. Use Analytics to Identify Signals of Stress or Burnout

Using analytics platforms to monitor performance and behaviour metrics can help identify patterns which can be signals of stress or burnout.

These signals of burnout, or risk of burnout, are often witnessed in agents as presenteeism before absenteeism and/or attrition.

Quick identification of agents who are not themselves is crucial to timely interventions that will allow agents’ wellbeing to be supported and enable them to flourish.

For example, giving managers visibility of adherence allows them to support agents and reach out and ask if they are okay if they fall out of schedule, ensuring timely and helpful intervention to reduce risk to the wellbeing of the agent.

Offering targeted training and development to agents can also make them feel valued and engaged.

This can also include training in stress management and resilience building, which will improve the wellbeing of the agents and make work more enjoyable for them, leaving customers with positive experiences and reducing attrition and turnover rates.

4. Trust Agents to Manage Their Own Time

Scott Budding, Sales Engineering Manager, UK & EMEA, Calabrio
Scott Budding

The impact of absenteeism on agent productivity and retention rates can lead to a vicious cycle of short staffing and increased pressure on remaining staff, further exacerbating wellbeing issues and affecting service levels.

Yet there are multiple reasons as to why agents may be absent – from sickness or a negative attitude to work, or scheduling issues that leave agents with no alternative solution.

One way to help reduce absenteeism is to facilitate flexible scheduling. Workforce management tools offer flexibility by putting agents in charge of their schedules and giving them the option to swap shifts.

This small change can be hugely impactful – fewer agents will feel the need to call in sick should their shifts clash with personal commitments if they have the opportunity to swap it out for a preferred time.

Trusting agents to manage their own time empowers them and fosters a more positive relationship with their work.

Contributed by: Scott Budding, Sales Engineering Manager, UK & EMEA, Calabrio

5. Eliminate Distractions and Discomfort in Every Conversation

Declan Doyle, Senior Manager-Category Development, HP | Poly
Declan Doyle

Background noise has a massive impact upon the experience of staff. We naturally raise our voice by 20 dB above ambient when speaking, so the louder the background, the more we must strain our voice to project above it.

Sound in the workplace can be reduced by sound-shielding technologies in the space, but also by ensuring all staff are equipped with professional-grade active noise-cancelling devices, where necessary, that can reduce background noise from their experience, allowing them to be more relaxed and less distracted.

Another critical element in the delivery of intelligibility is the quality of the microphones that you employ to transmit your voice, and the quality of the speakers that you’re using to understand those who are remote from you.

Minimizing the extent to which either the agent or the customer must ask for information to be repeated is fundamental to lowering stress and producing more efficient interactions and better business outcomes.

It’s equally important that wearable devices are fit for purpose for long-term multi-hour wearing. First, they need to be engineered to be robust enough to survive that environment for lengthy periods of time.

The form factor of the device must be optimized for wearing comfort, with the materials used the best possible to avoid irritation. Finally, the connectivity, where possible, should facilitate movement of staff – ideally being DECT wireless based.

Contributed by: Declan Doyle, Senior Manager-Category Development, HP | Poly

6. Switch Up Your Agents’ Day With a Variety of Interactions

Andrea Matsuda at NICE
Andrea
Matsuda

It can be highly demotivating to just answer calls all day. Task variety can be a big driver of employee engagement and ultimately retention.

Thanks to advanced analytics capabilities, contact centres can add more variety to their employees’ workloads and enable them to manage voice and digital interactions and even front and back-office needs.

Advanced analytics has transformed what’s possible with workforce engagement management, especially when it comes to digital. Digital interactions require a different time commitment from employees due to the interactions’ asynchronous nature.

Up until now, back-office operations also had to be managed differently than front office, or customer-facing, operations.

Advanced analytics has merged management of digital, front- and back-office operations, enabling managers to take into account the different amounts of time needed for different tasks.

Managers can now switch up their employees’ days, giving them a variety of interactions throughout the day and even switching them between front- and back-office tasks.

Contributed by: Andrea Matsuda, Manager, Product Marketing, NICE

7. Ditch the Rigid Schedules That Don’t Accommodate Family Needs

Some of the most common reasons for absenteeism are agent burnout and work/life imbalance. Taking steps to prevent agent burnout, like providing a clear path to promotion, is one way to reduce absenteeism.

To address work/life imbalance, make sure that you have a flexible scheduling system. Having rigid schedules that don’t accommodate personal and family needs can make it difficult for agents to balance their work and personal lives, leading to absenteeism.

8. Publicly Praise Your Agents When They’re Doing a Good Job

John Ortiz, Technology Sales Manager, MiaRec
John Ortiz

Having a strong employee recognition programme is one surefire way to help reduce agent attrition.

Studies found that employees who are recognized for their work are six times more likely to stay with their current employer compared to those who are not recognized.

Make sure you publicly praise your agents when they are doing a good job! It’s basic human psychology.

Everyone wants to feel appreciated. So, let your agents know that you care and that you appreciate their hard work, and watch the burnout levels drop and the attrition rates decline.

Contributed by: John Ortiz, Technology Sales Manager, MiaRec

9. Give Agents a Voice So They Can Tell You How They’re Feeling

Andrea Meyer at Centrical
Andrea
Meyer

Voice of employee capabilities allow employees to share how they are feeling and any workload challenges. This helps managers evaluate who is at risk of burnout and take steps to prevent it.

AI capabilities also enable managers to prioritize who to coach, thus increasing face time with direct reports, building relationships, better identifying root causes, and ultimately reducing burnout and attrition.

10. Add Fun and Healthy Competition Into the Workday

By applying game mechanics to the employee experience (leaderboards, narratives, badges, levels, etc.), organizations add an element of fun to the workday (and a sense of healthy competition) while motivating and engaging employees.

Contributed by: Andrea Meyer, Content Marketing Manager, Centrical

11. Use Real-Time Praise to Boost Morale

A staggering 69% of Gen Z feel stressed and experience symptoms of burnout due to work, according to Jabra’s research. AI technology that provides real-time insights can improve customer calls and support employee wellbeing.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, such as Jabra Engage AI, provide real-time feedback uniquely based on the power of the human tone. This provides an instant measurement of the customer experience and live coaching on how to manage the given situation.

Real-time insights allow agents to adjust their approach during calls immediately, to better suit the caller’s needs, as well as post-call, in the form of engagement scores to understand areas of improvement.

Real-time updates on praiseworthy and coachable moments can help to boost an employee’s sense of value and morale. This creates a better experience and working environment – meaning less burnout and higher retention of staff.

12. Improve Collaboration and Make Meetings More Inclusive

A headshot of Nigel Dunn
Nigel Dunn

Millennials and Gen Z, now by far the biggest part of the workforce, crave personal connections with colleagues and are much more likely to feel left out and excluded in hybrid meetings, Jabra’s research shows.

And more than 6 in 10 (62%) of Gen Zs agree that seeing or having casual catch-ups either on video or in person is an important factor in making them feel more connected.

Yet a lack of proper technology can make relationship-building and team interactions more difficult than they need to be.

Technology that enables everyone to be seen and heard, whether they’re in the room or joining remotely, is essential for collaboration and ensuring everyone feels engaged and part of the team.

For example, video-conferencing cameras with a 180-degree field of view that fit everyone into the picture make it possible to have more personal interactions where everyone can contribute.

Contributed by: Nigel Dunn, Managing Director, EMEA North, Jabra

13. Eliminate Time-Consuming Manual Processes to Take the Pressure off Human Agents

Jason Griffin at Five9
Jason Griffin

To prevent absence, attrition, and burnout in contact centres, managers should incorporate AI as part of the contact centre strategy.

Various approaches such as implementing intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) and workflow automation can streamline operations and alleviate workload pressure on human agents.

By implementing IVAs, contact centres can ensure 24/7 support for routine interactions, reducing the need for human intervention and minimizing service costs.

Additionally, AI-powered workflow automation tools can automatically transcribe calls, coach agents, and eliminate time-consuming manual processes, further enhancing efficiency and productivity.

The integration of AI in the contact centre can help leaders effectively manage escalating service demands, retain and motivate agents, and ensure consistent service quality.

AI augmentation not only optimizes operational efficiency but also fosters a supportive work environment, and in turn, happier agents.

Contributed by: Jason Griffin, Principal Solution Consultant, Five9

14. Set Realistic Expectations Around Workload and Work/Life Balance

Chris Angus at 8x8
Chris Angus

Historically, there has been an ‘always on’ mentality to progress, and those that are prepared to work around the clock get the best opportunities.

This is one of the core reasons for burnout, the fear of saying no, or reluctance to take the allotted annual leave.

So you should encourage vacation time, and motivate agents to prioritize their mental health, as this will promote long-term sustainable effort from the team.

It’s also vital to set realistic workload expectations, ensuring that they are manageable and sustainable. Continuous monitoring of these with regular agent check-ins as well tools like workforce management systems will help balance the load and spot issues before burnout becomes a problem.

Contributed by: Chris Angus, VP for Contact Centre Engagement, 8×8

15. Build in More Breaks for Agents When You Introduce AI

Chris Mounce at EvaluAgent
Chris Mounce

Contact centres need to start leaning in to AI to pick up the slack. The technology is now advanced enough to handle routine queries, leaving agents to focus on the high-complexity, high-emotion interactions that require a human agent.

There’s a balance to be struck, though – the introduction of AI doesn’t mean you should expect your agents to just handle more.

You need to bolster its use with supportive initiatives to help prevent absence and attrition, so that means building in breaks for agents and rewarding them for a job well done.

Otherwise, you risk burning them out not from volume, but from the intensity of the interactions they’re handling. Remember: look after your agents, and they’ll look after your customers.

Contributed by: Chris Mounce, Quality and Coaching Specialist, evaluagent

For more great insights and advice from our panel of experts, read these articles next:

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