I have a bad habit of biting my nails. I know, I know, I need to stop. Every couple of days I say to myself, this is it. I’m not going to bite them anymore. But then, I’ve got a handful of impending deadlines, a meeting I’m dreading with a client, and I find myself – you got it – BITING MY NAILS.
My bad habit is just one outworking of the stress I face during a workday.
Some days my stress creeps up disguised as weird dreams in my sleep, or no sleep at all. When we know work is a source of stress, we do what we can to cope. Whether it’s exercise, drinking more coffee, watching Netflix during our lunch break, we all have our efforts to decrease our stress. Because ultimately, we all face some level of workplace stress.
On an individual level:
- 76% of respondents said workplace stress negatively impacted their personal relationships;
- 66% have lost sleep due to work-related stress;
- 16% have quit jobs because stress became too overwhelming.
Stress is a reality in the workplace, especially in call centers. Customer-facing roles are stressful. There are times it can feel like weeks since you heard a customer say something positive. Call centers are the front lines. They take the heat, fix the issues, and fight for customer loyalty and retention.
As a call center manager, not only do you deal with high-stress customer situations, but you’re also responsible for team strategy, performance goals, management of budgets, employee satisfaction and coaching. I’m sure some days you’ll do just about anything to get a breath in. But reducing call center stress (for you and your agents) matters.
The Problem When Stress Creeps in: Disengagement
The American Psychology Association reported on stress in the U.S. specifically. They found that of the stress symptoms reported, around one-third of adults reported feeling nervous or anxious (36%), irritability or anger (35%), and fatigue (34%) due to their stress. Though work is not always the sole source of stress, it often adds to stressful situations.
And the cost of stress in your work environment? Low productivity, more burnout, and lower retention.
When I get stressed about work or a long to do list, I’ll do anything to avoid thinking about it. So consider, if your agents are anxious, tired, or irritable, their engagement and productivity suffer. When your agents are overwhelmed, believe me, they’ll only become more disengaged with their day-to-day tasks. And, this hurts you, team morale, and your customers.
Each disengaged employee can cost you $ 2,246, according to ADP. Employee engagement is directly tied to revenue growth. In fact, the total economic impact of employee engagement in the U.S. easily runs into billions of dollars each year. One estimate puts it as high as $ 400B.
So, where do you start to reduce stress and engage agents in your call center? Let’s start with something specific and tangible — your reporting.
Maybe it’s time to apply Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up Method within your call center reporting to simplify your life and the lives of your agents.
Mess Causes Stress: Why Cluttered Reports Overwhelm Your Agents
To put it simply, mess causes stress. Psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter wrote in Psychology Today that clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile). This causes our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren’t necessary or important.
Think of where clutter lives in your contact center.
When you open your call center software and see a page of all your reports, with data points, spreadsheets, graphs and colors, your brain gets overwhelmed. And, too much distraction will only pull your brain in different directions.
Maybe you wanted to check on your Service Level, but caught a glimpse of Average Handle Time. Hmm, both are looking kind of low. What will your leadership say when they see these numbers? How are you supposed to make sense of the relationship between these metrics? Stress stress stress! *bites nails*
With too much distraction in the visual cortex it’s difficult for your brain to sort through all the detailed information to ID the bigger picture. A study by the National Institute of Health said when we’re shown a lot of different information at once, the brain’s sensory responses become weaker. Information shown one at a time, however, is easier to consume.
So cluttered, ultra-detailed reports actually bring less clarity to what’s happening in your contact center. Distilling your metrics down and simplifying how you display them to your agents and execs is more effective (and less stressful).
What’s easier to digest and use as you plot new customer experience strategies? Is it a spreadsheet with thousands of cells packed with numbers, or a clear dashboard with only the metrics and insights that matter?
Think about when you used flashcards in school. If you’re looking at all the terms you’re supposed to be learning on a single page, that list feels very daunting. But, if you practice them one at a time, all of a sudden, it’s not a problem to remember all the state capitals or that long vocabulary list.
Apply the Flashcard Theory to your Reports to Reduce Call Center Stress
Where you can both consolidate data, and be selective with data, do both. You want to be able to access your reports all on one platform, so you’re not jumping between five applications just to get a picture of your call center’s performance.
When you bear the burden of sifting through every metric and goal, anxiety increases.
So instead, take things bit-by-bit. Sit down with your team and your leadership to decide which KPIs are most important to you this quarter. Where do you want to see improvement as a manager, and where do your agents want to improve? Make sure this is a team effort. If you dictate your metrics, or leadership does, you could add to existing stress. Engaging your employees in the conversation will help them to feel motivated.
Depending on the morale and stress level in your call center, you may want to stay clear of stretch goals for a bit. Instead, set reasonable goals that will build up your team to feel accomplished. Maybe you want to see your Abandon Rate drop, and your First Contact Resolution levels improve.
Cut out excessive reporting on tons of other metrics, and really focus on those two data points for the quarter. This sets an actionable achievement for your whole team to work towards.
You’ll clear space mentally to see where there are pain points or weaknesses in methodology, and can actively pursue coaching and training for just those two metrics before tackling the others.
Being more intentional with specific metrics to chase after will cut out the distraction and help your agents and yourself focus on the goals and tasks at hand.
The Power of Color
How do you feel when you walk into a room painted a soft blue? You feel calm, right? What about a red room? Excited? Hungry?
Hear me out.
There’s evidence that colors have a strong psychological effect on us. Interior designers, marketers, and artists are aware of how colors impact our minds and bodies in deep and moving ways.
Universally, we look at the colors in a sunset and feel warm and inspired. Or consider the blackest black pigment ever created, Vantablack. It makes anyone who looks at it feel despairing because it reflects almost no light.
Let’s focus on the color red for a moment. Where do we see red out in the real world? Stop signs, fire trucks, Coke bottles. Red is often described as warm, vibrant, and intense. It’s seen as an exciting and even aggressive color. Red is eye-catching and sometimes abrasive. It’s the color I think of when I think of big flashing “Error” messages on my computer screen.
This is not necessarily the kind of color that makes you feel restful or calm. Let’s think back to school again. Why do teachers use their infamous red pens to grade our papers? No one likes to see a graded test covered in red ink. One study even found that participants who looked at the color red before taking an exam scored 20% lower than those participants who had looked at the colors green or black prior.
Now, think about the colors in your call center reports.
How would red on your reports make you and your agents feel? If we consider the study I’ve mentioned, certainly not very hopeful or positive. In this circumstance, customize your reports to use the color red sparingly. Make sure that red only appears when your results desperately need to catch your attention or signal a need for improvement to your agents.
Instead, consider using a lot of green in your reports. Researchers found that green can improve reading ability. And, green is thought to relieve stress and help heal. Which is exactly why actors and entertainers wait in a green room prior to going on TV. Or use blue, which provides most people with a sense of stability and safety. It’s been tied to productivity in the workplace, which is why many offices are decorated with blue.
Use colors mindfully when you craft reports to display to your agents. Make the necessary data pop without adding to the stress of your workplace.
Do your Reports Spark Joy?
If Marie Kondo walked into your call center, she would probably ask if your reports were sparking any joy for you. Well, are they? Take some time tidying up your reporting tools and track the difference it makes on your mood and your agents’ stress levels.
Reports are just one area you can manage and reduce stress in your call center. When your agents are on the brink of burnout, it will be tough for them to deliver positive experiences for your customers.