Call Center Agent Stress: Techniques & Tips to Handle Stress & Overcome Anxiety
September 22, 2022 | Convoso
It’s no secret that many call center agents are stressed.
According to a study of the industry, as many as 74% of contact center agents are at risk of burnout. The widespread nature of this problem has even led some commentators to wonder whether or not chronic workplace stress is the “new normal.”
Our take? While stress isn’t hard to find in call centers and elsewhere, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Previously, we discussed the scourge of call center burnout and offered strategies and solutions managers can use to fight back against stress within their own businesses. Here, we dig into the sources of call center agent stress and break down a range of techniques agents can use to manage stress and overcome anxiety in the call center.
Read on to learn 7 techniques for how to handle call center stress — be sure to share these insights and strategies with your team.
What’s Behind Call Center Agent and Sales Job Stress?
It’s common knowledge that call center agent stress affects sales floors (and virtual teams) almost everywhere. But what’s driving these high levels of stress? Among many factors, these call center stressors stand out:
- High call volume and expectations: A heavy workload is one of the most common causes of stress in the workplace. It’s no different in the world of call centers. Agents are often expected to handle a high volume of calls, meet sales quotas, and more.
- Excessive monitoring: Even though call center QA tools can help boost accountability and drive results, research shows that overly frequent or intrusive call monitoring practices can increase call center agent anxiety and stress.
- Repetitive and tedious tasks: Call center agent life can get quite repetitive, especially when facing frequent issues that plague today’s outbound call centers like call blocking and flagging or poor answering machine detection.
- Unclear or a lack of advancement: Without an idea of how they can improve themselves and develop in their careers, agents lack a clear path forward and very well might struggle to stay engaged in or attached to their work.
- Outdated technology: 60% of agents feel their company doesn’t always provide them with the technology they need to solve customer issues. And it’s no wonder how that can drive up agent stress levels. Old call center software can make even the simplest tasks difficult, and even some new technologies that lack call center automation tools don’t make agents’ lives as easy as they should be.
7 Call Center Stress Relievers for Agents
Knowing how to manage stress in a sales job, or in a customer service role, is just as important as knowing how to speak to a customer. Of course, the stress management techniques and tips for call center agents we cover here often get overlooked.
Explore these top call center stress relievers for agents that can help counter those sources of pressure listed above.
Tip 1. Communication Is Key
Agents might spend much of their days talking to customers, but to reduce stress it’s important they also do plenty of talking with their managers. The best managers can provide guidance and support, and take action to ease stress once they’re informed. Importantly, though, maintaining an open dialogue with managers can ensure clear expectations are set, which is crucial for agents trying to overcome anxiety. According to a Gallup report, only 60% of workers could strongly agree that they know what’s expected of them at their job. The disconnect that results from the rest of the workers and their supervisors can be a huge source of stress.
Tip 2. Lean on Your Colleagues
Managers are far from the only source of support for call center agents, of course. Whether you’re in person together or connected at a virtual call center, establishing a network of colleagues to communicate with provides an important outlet. Workplace stress becomes much easier to deal with once you get your coworkers in on the act. Whether they provide encouragement, consolation, a fresh perspective, or even just plain distraction, having coworkers you can turn to can go a long way toward helping you handle the stress of being a call center agent.
Tip 3. Practice Self-Care
Meanwhile, you can’t forget to take some time and attention just for yourself, even amidst a busy workday. After all, mental health and physical health are closely connected—stress can manifest itself physically, and likewise, physical activity can help reduce psychological stress. So, call center agents should be sure not to neglect their physical needs during the day, taking steps including:
- Staying hydrated: It might sound simple, but drinking enough water can actually help you handle stress. When you’re not properly hydrated, you actually place added stress on your body and release stress hormones that only add to the psychological burden of workplace stress.
- Getting some steps in: Staying sedentary can take its physical and mental toll. Going for a quick walk—even just five minutes every hour, according to one study—can help boost focus, productivity, and mood.
- Practicing mindfulness: Life inside the call center can sometimes move at a dizzying pace. Mindfulness techniques can help you slow down—and they’ve been proven to lower stress in the workplace.
Tip 4. Take Time Away from Work
Sometimes, there’s just no better option for handling call center stress and overcoming anxiety than to step away from work. Agents—and workers of all stripes—should take all of their allotted vacation days and relax over extended breaks from work. It’s always preferable and reasonable for them to spend their vacation time far away from their work, even going abroad in tropical & subtropical zones of sunny Africa, Asia or Latin America. Hence the active rest and trekking activity around Kilimanjaro highest peaks, fabulous Malaysian Borneo, or even sunny beaches in Rio de Janeiro where they will have a chance to rest from stressful business cases. However, a restful beach vacation isn’t always in the cards and it isn’t always necessary.
Effective, stress-relieving breaks can take a variety of forms. So-called “micro breaks” of just five to ten minutes have been shown to bolster productivity and well-being at work. In addition, a study found a striking correlation between regular, lengthy lunch breaks and employee engagement.
But it’s also important to make those daily breaks from work really count—that is, your mornings and evenings. Establishing a healthy work-life balance, setting up a clear boundary between your work day and your personal time, and taking intentional steps to de-stress by doing things that you enjoy while you’re not on the clock are essential steps in successfully managing stress.
Tip 5. Understand Data and Your Customers
Taking steps to become a better sales or customer service professional can be a call center stress reliever, too. And these days, there’s maybe no better place to start with than digging into data. Analyzing call center reporting and tracking essential call center KPIs can open up an easy path to improvement. By identifying patterns in performance, call center agents can gain insights into what’s working and what’s not, and make necessary improvements to remove some stress and friction from their days.
Tip 6. Learn to Handle Objections
Even for the best call center agents, sales objections (and angry prospects) are simply part of the job. Knowing how to handle them isn’t just an essential skill but an important way to manage stress in a sales job. The most important part of handling objections sounds straightforward but it’s not always easy: you can’t take objections personally. It might take time—and repeated reminders—but once you internalize the fact that rejection isn’t about you, you’ll be on your way to less stress.
Tip 7. Keep Working on Yourself—and Working Toward Something
There’s no overlooking the fact that a typical day in the life of a call center agent requires repetitive work. While all of the tips for working in a call center we’ve covered above can help you manage and overcome the stress that comes with it, more is still required to put stress and potential burnout behind you. At the end of the day, you need clear goals to work toward.
Without a plan to progress in your career, all that repetition doesn’t add up to much. So, it should come as no surprise that, in a study by Comparably, workers cited having “unclear goals” as the top source of workplace stress. Building off the line of communication you establish with your manager and those insights into your strengths and weaknesses, set short- and long-term career goals that are both realistic and measurable.
As with any job, some call center agent stress is unavoidable. However, with the help of the tips above, the worst of it can be overcome. And with the right career goals to work toward, the rest of that stress will all be worth it.
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