7 Techniques to Handle Stress in the Contact Centre



1,362

Stress. An ever-present and unwelcome part of modern life, it seems. We may try to live with it and manage it as best as we can, but how much damage is it doing to us and our employees?

The Health and Safety Executive reports that of 38.8 million working days estimated lost due to work-related conditions in the UK in 2019/20, 17.9 million were down to stress, depression or anxiety.

That is nearly 50%. So if you want to address why your advisors are calling in sick and leaving you with gaps to fill and longer wait times to answer calls, targeting the causes of stress seems to be the obvious place to start.

A contact centre can, of course, be a great place to work. But it also has the potential to be a hugely stressful environment. The good news is that many of the factors that may influence the stress experienced by your advisors are becoming, to some extent at least, under your control.

So what can you do to place your advisors under less stress and help them deal with the stress that cannot be avoided? There are several options, many of which need not cost a huge amount to implement, and all of which will have wider positive impacts on your business and the service that you offer your customers.

Remember, too, that a series of small changes to points of detail can come together to make a much bigger improvement overall.

1. Make Sure Your Advisors Are Properly Trained for the Role

This seems obvious, but then many of the best ideas do in retrospect. We have all been in situations we felt ill-equipped to handle. It is not a pleasant experience. Similarly, we have all dealt with people who we quickly determined were unable to help us with our problem, and it is very difficult to avoid becoming frustrated in that situation.

Nobody wants to be unhelpful, especially an advisor in a customer service role.

Nobody wants to be unhelpful, especially an advisor in a customer service role. But if they do not have the information that the customer needs or wants, they are helpless. Your advisors need to have all the latest information to deal with what your customers are asking them about.

If you are about to start advertising a new product or service, tell your advisors before it goes live. If there is a problem that customers may be calling about, keep your advisors fully briefed on the situation.

It hardly inspires confidence in your company when the customers are educating the advisors about your new offering, and it will quickly send advisor stress soaring – nobody likes to be left looking ignorant.

Make sure that your advisors are trained properly and regularly to keep them fully equipped for their jobs. Do not expect them to figure out a new phone or IT system as they go, and if they are moving into a new role, dealing with different customers or products, make sure that they are professionally trained on their new responsibilities.

A well-trained advisor will be confident and relaxed, provide better service and be less prone to stress.

Similarly, make sure your advisors have the proper equipment for the job. If they spend half their time fighting a cranky call-routing system that is not fit for purpose, they will likely already be stressed before even speaking to the next customer.

Make sure they are comfortable too – anyone gets stressed when they have to spend 7 hours a day in a chair that gives them backache!

2. Encourage Your Advisors to Be Themselves

Acting is hard. Ask any performer and they will tell you that they come off stage both pumped with adrenaline and exhausted. If you ask your advisors to conform to a rigid corporate persona, you are asking them to put on a performance the whole time they are talking to customers.

This is not good for their stress and mental health, and not good customer service.

That in no way means giving your advisors completely free rein – you have company values, expectations, key messages and so on. But let your advisors put these across in their own way. People like talking to other people with individual personalities, not people pretending to be a machine.

People like talking to other people with individual personalities, not people pretending to be a machine.

Let your advisors be themselves and they will serve your customers better while getting less tired and stressed in the process.

3. Connect Callers to a Real Person as Fast as Possible

Angry customers are stressful for your advisors to deal with. There is no getting around that, and it is part of the job. Customers that have already been hanging on the phone for several minutes before they can even speak to somebody may already be well on the way to being angry, regardless of their reason for calling.

Delays in answering calls are also inevitable from time to time – things happen that are outside your control, leading to a sudden spike in calls. But do you really need to make your customers wait several minutes while listening to recorded messages that may not be relevant to them, even when there are advisors waiting for calls?

Of course those messages serve a purpose and are unavoidable at times. Of course it makes sense to get customers connected to the right department as fast as possible. But can you improve your system?

Is there a way of fast-tracking callers who are just not going to be able to get what they want from a recorded message or an automated service to an advisor? Do that and you will have happier customers and less stressed advisors.

4. Be Careful With Targets and Measures

Anyone with a target to hit is likely to feel some pressure, and pressure leads to stress.

Advisors are often encouraged to get through as many calls as they can to meet average call handling time targets. But what this may mean is that advisors are pressured to finish calls quickly rather than properly addressing the customer’s problem, leading to both increased advisor stress and poor service. Targets around sales and schedules can have similar impacts.

Anyone with a target to hit is likely to feel some pressure, and pressure leads to stress.

A good alternative is to base targets around the result of the call – is the problem solved and the customer satisfied? Targets like this will reduce stress and encourage advisors to do everything they can to help rather than just get off the call as quickly as possible.

5. Encourage and Reward Your Advisors

It is not enough to just value your advisors highly – you have to tell them and show them that you do.

Regularly show and tell your advisors that you value them and their work, and, if you can, have a recognition and reward scheme for advisors that provide exceptional service.

A few personal words of encouragement to individuals and small groups can also work wonders – most people simply like to know that what they do is recognized and valued.

It is not enough to just value your advisors highly – you have to tell them and show them that you do.

6. Keep in Touch With Your Advisors

While you are encouraging your advisors, make sure to take time to listen to them too. They will hear the problems that customers are having first-hand and may well be in the best position to suggest possible solutions, even if it goes beyond the scope of their role.

Sometimes you can achieve a great deal just by listening.

Sometimes you can achieve a great deal just by listening.

Everyone needs to vent occasionally, and just the process of telling a manager about the issues they face can be a valuable stress-reduction mechanism. Of course, you should also follow up the conversation and take practical steps to address the problems raised if you can.

7. Give Your Advisors the Support They Need

Support can take many forms, some of which have been touched on in previous points. There are two additional areas to flag here.

Firstly, consider how easy it is for your advisors to escalate difficult calls. Of course you don’t want every unhappy customer passed to a supervisor, but your advisors do need to feel that there is backup there when they need it for those really difficult calls.

Stress will likely go through the roof if a customer is getting angry and the advisor knows that there is absolutely nobody else to turn to. Often speaking to a different person can calm the caller down in and of itself.

Secondly, have support services in place for when your advisors do struggle. Everyone goes through good and bad times, and these can be triggered by events both in and out of work. Consider what you can offer in terms of counselling and other staff welfare services.

These will again help to make your advisors see that they really are valued, and hopefully get your people through those tough times faster and with less angst.

Conclusion

The benefits of less stressed advisors go way beyond reducing your absence rates. If the person who answers your call immediately sounds happy and calm, you instinctively warm to them.

Even if you are phoning to make a complaint, a happy voice that sounds eager to help on the other end of the phone immediately starts to dilute your anger.

As Richard Branson said, “if you look after your staff well, they will look after your customers.” Destressing your advisors is a win all round.

If you look after your staff well, they will look after your customers.

Stress will not go away if you ignore it, but by managing it and taking steps to reduce the causes of stress and help advisors to deal with it when it does occur, a few small changes can make a big difference. That is good for your advisors and good for your business.

Thanks to Mark Palmer for putting together this article.  

For lots more advice on looking after your employees’ well-being, check out our articles:

Published On: 6th Sep 2021 - Last modified: 7th Sep 2021
Read more about - Call Centre Management, ,


Get the latest exciting call centre reports, specialist whitepapers and interesting case-studies.

Choose the content that you want to receive.