The Truth About Agent Burnout


Chris Dealy, WFM Evangelist at injixo, explains the truth about agent burnout.

Four Ways to Reduce Agent Burnout and Attrition

Staff turnover and high absence levels are symptoms of the same underlying problem: agents getting burned out and dissatisfied with their work, so they start turning up late, having lots of sick days, and eventually leaving.

It’s a common assumption that call centre attrition and high absence levels are simply a fact of life and there’s nothing you can do about them. I’d like to argue that that’s not true.

A key role of call centre management is to constantly assess the reasons why people leave and, even more importantly, what makes them stay.

A couple of years ago we conducted a survey to find out exactly why contact centre staff become dissatisfied. The survey showed that people leave because of bad job fit, a stressful working environment, poor compensation, lack of a career path, and lack of recognition.

People stayed because of good job fit, empowerment, pride in the work, growth opportunities, and the reward system. Now some of those things we can’t easily control, but there are some things we can control.

Let’s take a look at some practical tips that make a difference.

1. Ensure You Match People to the Right Job

The first takeaway from the survey is that job fit is the single biggest reason why people leave, as well as why they stay, and it trumps salary and compensation.

If you can match people to the right job, that’s one of the top things you can do to improve long-term retention. That boils down to being completely honest about what agents can expect when you advertise the job and when you interview them.

And once they’re on board, if an agent’s got a natural aptitude, or a burning ambition to work in a certain area, maybe sales, you should support them, if possible, in making the move.

You’ll also need to get your workforce management right, and make sure you’ve got the right number of people with those different skills in their desks, at the right time.

2. Reduce Workplace Stress

The next big reason for turnover is a stressful work environment, and again, let’s be honest, the job of a contact centre agent can be stressful at times. Customers aren’t always polite, and there’ll always be queues at peak times.

You can’t just dismiss that as part of the job, so here’s the second tip: probably the best way to reduce stress and burnout for agents is to manage their workload better.

Good planning practice, and a good workforce management application, will help you reduce stress and burnout by accurately forecasting your workload, the peaks and troughs, and scheduling agents in such a way that supply matches demand, as often as possible.

Now that’s bound to minimize the occurrence of understaffing periods that make agents feel overwhelmed, and it adds a higher degree of predictability about working hours, which we know improves agent satisfaction.

And don’t forget to be deliberate about occupancy levels when calculating staffing requirements.

If you aim for 100% occupancy, trying to maximize productivity, burnout is guaranteed. 90% occupancy is much more like it, and a Call Centre Helper survey recently showed that 83% is typical in the UK.

3. Monitor Schedule Adherence With a Human Touch

My third tip is monitor schedule adherence, but do it with a human touch. Now that might sound like an oxymoron, but let me explain: it’s obviously crucial to ensure that agents adhere to their schedules, but it’s equally important to understand why they don’t adhere to their schedules when that happens.

There’ll be situations like an extended customer interaction, a long call that overflows into a break, that really can’t be avoided. You don’t want agents terminating calls just to be in adherence with their shifts.

But equally you’ll find that there are unavoidable personal circumstances that require breaks from strict adherence. So, try to tread the right line with adherence monitoring.

4. Remember Shift Patterns Are an Emotive Subject

Fourth and final tip in this video is: shift patterns are a very emotive subject. Get them wrong and you end up with excessive absence levels and high turnover. Agents love having a say in the scheduling process, so ask them what their ideal shift pattern looks like.

Obviously, you can’t guarantee anything, but also don’t assume that everyone wants to work Monday to Friday 9 to 5. Some people actually relish the idea of working what used to be called unsociable hours, and would give you good coverage, while giving people shifts closer to what they want.

And think about giving agents the opportunity to bid for shifts, see what their colleagues’ shifts look like, specify their availability, book time off, or swap shifts, on a self-service basis. These are all things that are extremely effective in reducing stress, and reducing turnover.

Chris Dealy, WFM Evangelist, injixo
Chris Dealy

Engagement options like that not only reduce absenteeism and attrition, they’re going to instil in agents a feeling of being valued and in control of their work/life balance.

Empowered agents are more committed and motivated, and that translates into higher productivity, better morale, and reduced turnover and absences in your contact centre.

Thanks to Chris Dealy at injixo for contributing to this video.

Author: Chris Dealy
Reviewed by: Robyn Coppell

Published On: 11th Jun 2024
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