De-Risking Wellbeing and Vulnerability Strategies in the Contact Centre
Does it seem that the world is more stressful than it used to be? Whatever your view of the world at large, research confirms that people are indeed feeling pressure in the workplace. A 2022 study by McKinsey Health Institute reported rapidly rising rates of burnout, with one in four employees reported experiencing burnout symptoms. In the UK, at the time of writing, the burnout rate is 27%, and in the USA 28%.
But, before we explore the implications of this, let’s clarify what we mean by burnout…
According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Characteristics include feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job and reduced professional efficacy.
That cannot be good for business and must be given careful consideration as part of organisations’ wider duty of care to their employees, particularly in highly intense, customer-facing environments… particularly, the contact centre.
The contact centre’s hidden challenges
Contact centres, where agents work constantly to achieve successful resolutions with difficult customers while being measured and monitored are inherently stressful environments, there’s no doubt. But data suggests that pressures in the industry are rising, and it’s costing contact centres their most capable, experienced agents.
According to ContactBabel, in UK contact centres, attrition has risen to 24% in just two years. In the USA, the mean attrition rate is 33%. This puts a lot of pressure on operations when agent idle time is usually under 10%. Compounding this problem is the increasing complexity of many customer interactions. Automation can increasingly resolve simple queries, but this still means advisors are left with difficult cases. This is reflected in the increase in call duration in both the UK and the USA.
It is no wonder that employee wellbeing programmes are cropping up in contact centres everywhere. With attrition and burnout at high levels, helping employees look after their mental health is not only the right thing to do – it just makes economic sense.
Centring the most vulnerable customers
Contact centres not only have to worry about their employees but also their customers. After all, the customer remains the focus of all effective contact centre operations.
Customer vulnerability is therefore a hot topic for businesses. Considerable time, effort and funds are being spent identifying vulnerable customers and training advisors to effectively manage them. The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has already issued its own guidance on the issue, and its 2022 survey reported that 47% of UK adults show one or more characteristics of vulnerability (there are four in total.) That is a staggering figure, with huge implications for contact centre operations.
How contact centres are responding
Fortunately, contact centres are taking the challenges of employee wellbeing and customer vulnerability seriously and taking a range of steps in response. There are health and wellness programmes, employee assistance programmes, recognition and rewards, training, and social activities, to name just a few.
In terms of customer vulnerability, considerable investment is being made in training advisors to work with vulnerable customers, creating appropriate policies and procedures, and enlisting the help of outside specialist agencies. This includes making various channels of communication more accessible and implementing measures to route customers to specialist teams, ensuring the customer journey is as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Tune in next week to learn how technology opens up new doors and efficiencies, and how to approach this brave new world within the Contact Centre. Visit Exponential-e to learn how Exponential-e and Five9 are driving excellence in the contact centre through common values and digital innovation.
Guest post by Suzette Bouzane Meadows, Lead Consultant UC/CC Exponential-e