Call center work can be demanding, especially for a customer service agent.
They have to handle several calls, resolve customer issues, meet targets, and more — while ensuring high customer satisfaction levels. This can create stressful situations, which negatively impact agent productivity.
Fortunately, there are several effective ways to deal with call center stress.
This article includes:
(Click on a link to go to a particular section)
- What is Call Center Stress?
- 6 Common Call Center Stressors
- 12 Effective Ways to Manage Call Center Stress
Let’s get started.
What is call center stress?
Call center stress is the result of factors in the work environment that pressure agents.
The intensity of stress in the call center industry can vary depending on whether the agent handles outgoing or incoming calls.
Usually, outbound sales calls can create a more stressful, target-driven environment because agents focus on converting potentially disinterested people. But inbound calls can be equally stressful as the agent must try their best to retain a dissatisfied customer by solving their issues.
Similarly, agents working in demanding industries like healthcare or tech must comply with rigorous training standards and the high cost of non-compliance.
This can negatively impact agents’ mental health, causing anxiety, anger issues, and insomnia.
High stress levels can also reduce agent productivity, cause absenteeism, and decrease employee retention rate.
But most importantly, it can lead to agent burnout.
What’s call center burnout?
Burnout is the feeling of exhaustion or lack of energy, negativity related to the workplace, and reduced efficiency. Call center employees may suffer from burnout when they experience continuous stress over long periods.
Moreover, according to the World Economic Forum, burnout can also lead to a monetary loss of $322 billion annually.
That’s why it’s necessary to identify what can cause call center burnout and take appropriate measures to control it.
6 common call center stressors
There are several sources of stress in call center agents. Let’s look at a few of the most common stressors:
1. Unclear job expectation
Your agents might find it difficult to work if they aren’t aware of their job responsibilities and duties.
They may feel confused about attempting certain tasks, which can be demotivating and cause them to doubt their abilities. This can lead to stress.
2. Intrusive monitoring
Call monitoring lets you gather critical performance and quality data.
However, if done improperly, it can cause stress.
Your agents might find it too demanding, and the fear of doing something wrong can be overwhelming. In addition, it can lead to anxiety, depression, and reduced job satisfaction — which, in turn, can increase turnover rate.
3. Improper management
An abundance of rules and regulations can cause confusion rather than prevent it.
Moreover, it can create an environment that values obedience over originality.
Call center agents may find their job highly inflexible if you ask them to:
- Follow the call center script strictly.
- Take fewer breaks.
- Meet ambitious sales targets.
- Undergo rigorous training.
This could mean that they have very little freedom at work, which can eventually cause chronic stress or even employee burnout.
4. Not realizing the importance of their work
Most call center agents fail to recognize the importance of their work in an organization’s success.
They don’t realize their role and the value of their job, which can lead to low self-esteem. If the agent feels like a mere cog in the system, they’ll be demotivated to put their best foot forward. All of this can lead to call center stress.
5. Too much workload
Providing customer support or cold calling is a stressful job that can keep an agent mentally occupied, even during breaks.
Handling high call volumes and difficult customers while meeting goals can be tiring and stressful.
6. Unsuitable work environment
The lack of proper resources like a good computer system, ergonomic office chairs, etc., can cause physical discomfort and mental stress.
Such environmental factors can discourage your employees from working, leading to reduced performance rates.
Common challenges in the work environment can be:
- Concentrating on computer screens.
- Continuously sitting for long hours.
- Working through night shifts.
- Wearing headsets.
This can lead to exhaustion, back pain, headaches, or even short-sightedness in the long run. The high physical cost of working in the high-pressure setup of a call center discourages people from continuing long term.
12 effective ways to manage call center stress
As a call center manager, you can follow some measures to help reduce stress in agents.
1. Allow agent autonomy
Understandably, agents need to follow the script while assisting a customer.
However, enforcing these guidelines strictly can limit their critical thinking. As a result, agents might feel stressed while dealing with off-script situations.
To avoid this, you can use scripts as a reference and interact with the customer naturally.
You can also allow agents to choose their work timings or location.
For example, agents can work remotely for a fixed number of days in a month. You can also keep shift schedules flexible to accommodate agent stress or emergencies.
2. Provide better training
Training is a vital part of human resource management as it familiarizes new agents with the software and techniques used at the call center.
However, it shouldn’t be restricted to the onboarding process.
Your agents will face new challenges frequently. That’s why they must be trained regularly to improve their skill.
The call center training process should:
- Provide tips to handle customer calls smartly.
- Help improve technical know-how.
- Explain customer persona, brand identity, and other client guidelines.
Training can help your agents deal with stressful situations like assisting a difficult customer or requesting supervisor escalation. This lets them maintain their calm when faced with similar problems.
Through training, you can also help them gain more self-respect, increase job satisfaction, and reduce the effect of stress. You can guide agents on solving customer problems with their interpersonal, communication, and relational skills.
3. Invest in better technology and resources
But more importantly, it can make call center tasks easy, reducing agent workload and stress.
It can also enable automation of operations like attending inbound calls, collecting customer information, recording calls, etc., which make working in call centers less stressful.
Some of the software you can use are:
A. Automatic call dialer (ACD)
An ACD can automatically make phone calls to customers and connect them to a suitable agent as soon as they pick up. It helps save the time spent on dialing and connecting a call — reducing agent workload.
Some popular ACD tools include Ameyo, Exotel, and Bitrix24.
B. Computer telephony integration (CTI)
A CTI acts as an interface for business communications by letting computers and telephones interact with each other. This way, your agents can easily access the information of a customer who is calling, helping them provide better customer service.
You can use CTIs like Tenfold, Jive, and RingCentral.
4. Help agents manage time
According to a CareerCast study, the most common cause of stress is deadlines. That’s why it’s important to consider the time they take to complete tasks.
Fortunately, you can use time tracking tools like Time Doctor to track agents’ time and set reasonable deadlines based on the recorded data. This allows them to complete tasks without feeling stressed.
Time Doctor also helps you see what tasks your agents work on, which helps prevent micromanagement.
You can also use the tool to:
- Access detailed productivity reports.
- Create analytic attendance reports.
- Track agent inactivity using idle time tracker.
- Manage agent distraction using the idle pop-up feature.
- Schedule work shifts for agents.
- Pay your agents effortlessly with payrolling features.
Moreover, agents are in complete control of when they track time with Time Doctor’s interactive mode. They also have total transparency and access to their own recorded data. This eliminates the stress due to employee privacy concerns.
5. Reward achievements
Your call center agents work hard to achieve target metrics and provide quality customer service. That’s why acknowledging their efforts might make them feel valued.
Both verbal and non-verbal appreciation help increase employee satisfaction, job security, and agent loyalty — lowering attrition rates.
One way to do this is to appreciate them personally during performance reviews or office gatherings. This helps increase their job satisfaction and reduce performance-related anxiety.
You can also offer them bonuses, paid leaves, and non-monetary incentives like gift coupons and medical insurance.
6. Offer emotional support
High call volumes and ambitious targets can leave even an experienced agent stressed.
However, according to a Gallup study, agents who feel supported by their managers are 70% less likely to experience stress or burnout.
That’s why managers should be approachable to agents. This way, you can learn about the issues that cause stress and take measures to overcome them.
You can be supportive by:
- Engaging in non-work-related conversations.
- Giving constructive feedback and suggestions.
- Volunteering to share their workload or solve their issues.
- Verbally acknowledging their work efforts.
Such support can provide a sense of comfort and job security, allowing agents to focus on positive thoughts and diminish stressors.
7. Explain job responsibilities
Your agents may not completely understand what their responsibilities are if you don’t explain to them clearly. This can make them wary of doing something wrong, which can lead to stress.
To avoid this, brief your agents over their responsibilities and guide them through tasks. You should also train them to use the tools and resources relevant to their call center job.
Additionally, you can set clear performance expectations using KPI (Key Performance Indicators) targets and explain the evaluation process followed in your call center.
8. Make work exciting
After some time, your agents may find their work repetitive and feel emotionally exhausted.
In such cases, they may be forcing themselves to work, causing stress. To prevent this, assign agents challenging projects that encourage them to pitch in fresh ideas.
You can also conduct team-building activities like virtual tours whenever possible to keep them interested in work.
Want some ideas for virtual team-building?
9. Provide better work conditions
Call center jobs can be physically taxing due to untimely schedules and the nature of work. This can cause stress, reduce job satisfaction, and lower retention rates.
To help your agents work without stress, you should:
- Install proper seating.
- Provide good quality headsets.
- Create a comfortable work environment.
You can also improve their working experience by considering agent stress and burnout while setting deadlines and scheduling shifts.
10. Include enough breaks
Taking frequent short breaks can refresh your agent’s mind and help them concentrate on the task at hand.
They can use these breaks to have:
- Engage with their colleagues.
- Take a power nap.
However, you should caution your agents against using social media during breaks as it can cause high levels of stress — nullifying the purpose of breaks.
It’s important to note that frequent breaks need not impede an agent’s productivity. To ensure this, you can draft a well-thought-out break policy that finds a balance between resting agents and meeting targets.
11. Encourage employee engagement
Agents can reduce the effect of stress by engaging with colleagues and building positive workplace connections.
They can share the frustrations of engaging with an angry customer or difficulty in achieving targets. Sharing such negative feelings can help agents relax, allowing them to handle stressful calls better.
Moreover, talking to other agents can also provide them with a fresh perspective for solving customer issues.
You can also conduct office parties, dinner nights, and birthday celebrations to bring the team together as a community.
12. Promote exercising
Physical exercise is one of the most effective ways to help your agents manage workplace stress.
Exercising produces hormones, like endorphins, that can reduce stress and increase blood flow and oxygen levels — making agents energetic.
You can conduct fitness workshops, offer discount coupons for wellness centers, and promote creativity.
You can also introduce them to various breathing exercises that they can practice during their breaks. Such exercises can lower blood pressure and heart rate, helping them remain calm during stressful situations.
Employees from all fields experience stress at some point in their careers.
However, call center agents may experience a little more as they may have to deal with irate customers while maintaining a high service level.
With the help of some critical workplace changes and individual stress management techniques, your agents can manage stress with ease. Go through the tips we covered here to eliminate call center stressors to ensure your agents’ well-being.
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.