Less Stress, More Success: How to Deal With Workplace Stress
Let’s face it -- the modern contact centre is a hotbed for stress.
There are 1,001 things to do, and so many different hats to wear. Agents are expected to do the jobs of accountants, researchers, medical professionals, secretaries, and even fix their own hardware since the IT team is too busy.
Customers can be downright rude, even to agents with the patience of angels. Top that off with strain on the eyes from screen-time overload, and the pressure to reduce their AHTs, and you’re bound to find yourself with one tense team, on the path to burn out.
There are, however, ways team leaders can divert this path before your human agents reach the burn-out point. We sat down with customer service training guru Donna Earl to discuss how to reduce stress in the modern customer service workplace.
Make work more fun
One of the best ways to reduce your agents’ workplace stress is to introduce fun and laughter into your office. Laughter has been proven to reduce stress. It enhances the body’s intake of oxygen-rich air, increasing endorphins. It relieves the body’s stress responses, and by stimulating circulation, also aids muscle relaxation.
How can you encourage laughter amongst your team? Buy some games, suggests Donna.
“One of my all-time favourite teams had fun activities onsite for break time. Far more fun, healthy, and distracting than griping about the job or technology or customers. I think the games available at the desk are also good. Fun is the best antidote for stress. Hard to grip while you’re having fun with a retro Hula Hoop.”
Donna recommends that the games come complete with timed cut-offs and that they should be enjoyed during employee breaks.
Another fun idea that Donna suggests is for agents to keep a laugh diary on their desk, where agents can record the funny things that happen at the workplace throughout the day. It’s a great place to vent frustrations, too!
Or, she suggests taking this a step further and suggesting to your agents that they keep visuals in their eyesight that make them laugh. This could be a meme or even an inside joke.
“Laughter is excellent for rebalancing the brain’s neurocircuitry,” she explains.
Encourage off-screen time
Research shows that at least half of everyone who works at a computer screen has at least a few symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) -- or, simply, eye problems caused by the computer. When the eyes follow the same path over and over, they can be affected in a similar way to how carpal tunnel syndrome is aggravated by repetitive motion. And it only gets worse with time.
There are a few ways to combat CVS.
- Start by encouraging team members to follow the 20-20-20 rule: Look away from the screen every 20 minutes, at something 20 feet away, for about 20 seconds. You could even try setting a 20-minute timer that everyone can hear, to implement this technique.
- Encourage employees to do eye rolls and shoulder wiggles recommends Donna. “Do eye-rolls at your desk to help your eyes (I know your mother told you not to roll your eyes, but she didn’t stare at a screen all day long.) Wiggle your shoulders, stand and move. Get outside for fresh air during break time.”
- Cut down on office glare. Eye strain can be aggravated if the light from a nearby window casts a glare on computer screens. Install dimmer switches and adjust the window shades accordingly, for the benefit of your team’s eye health.
Augment and automate
The majority of the tasks most customer service agents have had to perform have been repetitive and, let’s face it, boring and time-consuming. Luckily, AI is here to solve this age-old problem of a mountain of tedious tasks preventing real work from being done, and real results from being achieved.
Thought about and implemented carefully, intelligent chatbot automation can become one of your most powerful digital experiences and touchpoints on your customer journey. Not only that, but it lifts the stress and burdens off your customer service agents by taking on the tedious, repetitive cases.
Augmentation, for its part, can be an even more effective tool for reducing agent stress. Software that has been properly trained with historical customer service data to offer suggested answers to agents effectively upgrades your human agents to work more effectively and efficiently.
With the best answers to the most common customer service cases at their fingertips, the agents can breeze through their repetitive queries with ease, allowing them to concentrate their energy on the more complex and rewarding cases. This brings the stress level down, and satisfaction level up.
Train your chatbot and agents well
There’s nothing more stressful for a customer than being forced to interact with a chatbot that cannot answer a query. But imagine if the customer service agents were trained the same way, and provided just as little help to that customer? This is the recipe for baking one unhappy customer.
Donna encountered this scenario when she found herself with a problem that the vendor’s chatbot hadn’t been trained to handle.
“When I finally reached a human, the human-only consulted the company’s Knowledge Bank, which also fueled the chatbot. Hence the human was rendered useless by the resource as well. I was a mega unhappy customer and the agents felt useless because they didn’t have the knowledge or path to solve the problem. Fortunately, this vendor has competitors and I’ll choose anyone else.”
As we can see from Donna’s experience, one bad experience with an improperly trained chatbot or even human agent can cause a customer to take their business elsewhere. This is a perfect example of automation gone wrong and actually causing more stress than it saves.
To avoid this, make good use of your historical customer service data to train your chatbot as extensively as possible. If you ensure your chatbot is properly trained, you can avoid the scenario Donna encountered of becoming working up her frustration with the chatbot and then having it amped up even further by the human agent.
Empowering your human agents to use their critical thinking skills, combined with their knowledge of your company’s products and services and procedures, will allow them to answer pretty much any customer case that comes their way.
Sufficient training of your team -- both human and machine -- will bring increased confidence and peace to your contact centre.
A contact centre doesn’t have to be the stress magnet it’s often thought to be. By introducing elements of fun and laughter, combined with preventative health protocols to reduce eyestrain, as well as automation and augmentation, and finally, extensive training for both humans and machines will ensure that the wheels of your contact centre stay well oiled and squeak-free.
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