The Rising Risk of Call Center Agent Burnout in the Age of COVID-19

5 Ways to Keep Your Team Safe and Engaged

Since March, companies around the world have faced a seemingly unending series of difficult trade-offs in the struggle to remain operational and save the business. For so many organizations, survival has depended on whether their employees could even do the job remotely and how quickly they could be back up and working from home.

For brands that have always used onsite call centers to care for their customers – and for the agents who worked onsite – this has been a particularly challenging time. The truth is, while there had been a growing trend of call centers moving their staffs out of office buildings and into at-home workspaces, that trend was moving pretty slowly. Skybridge Americas is one of very few customer care call centers that had invested early and robustly in the technology, infrastructure, and talent necessary to run large, geographically dispersed at-home agent teams.

When the pandemic hit, most North American companies did everything in their power to transition to remote call centers. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t pretty. Hastily put together technology and platform solutions left many agents – and their customers on the phone – feeling frustrated.

These folks are now in their fourth month of working from home. In the rush to go remote, there probably wasn’t much time or many resources to prepare them for how different the job would be. How are your agents doing during this unprecedented, often confusing, sometimes painful time? When I’m asked to share tips on keeping at-home agents engaged, I can’t avoid the obvious first answer: either invest in the technology, the management team, and the process redesign – or choose a BPO that has made that investment. But for operations who have not had the time or opportunity since the coronavirus came to our shores, here are my top 5 suggestions.

1. Communicate more frequently and in multiple ways

All customer care agents need to know they’re supported by their employer and their coworkers. During periods of crisis and change, that need rises exponentially. But for agents who have just been moved out of a shared workspace, there can be initial feelings of upheaval and isolation. If the move was abrupt, you may not have the systems in place to make face-to-face (on screen) check-ins easy. But these are more important than ever. Try to schedule daily one-on-one conversations. Bring clear agendas to some and keep things open-ended for others. More than anything else, these meetings allow you to convey your care about each member of your team, to ask how they’re doing, to empathize with their concerns, and to act on their feedback.

Layer on additional group videoconference opportunities. Run some meetings for your whole team so they can get updates from you and “get together,” with each other. Host other gatherings for smaller groups.

2. Acknowledge Stress and the Need to Reduce it

Your at-home agents haven’t just been staying home for their jobs. They’ve pretty much been at home, away from the regular routines, activities, and social gatherings that allowed them to burn off the stress and blow off the steam. Remind your team that taking their breaks, getting their exercise, and staying connected with others are important. Ask them how they’re doing and share resources that can be helpful, whether that’s online mental health support or a simple guided-meditation app. Get creative with additional ways your team can do fun things together. Maybe that’s a weekly virtual coffee break or a regular game time or friendly competition.

3. Do Everything in Your Power to Empower Your Agents
That may feel hard to do under your current circumstances. But I can tell you that one of the biggest lessons we have learned is that autonomy and freedom lead to employee engagement. Can you allow agents to choose their own shifts? Can you offer financial incentives for picking up additional shifts or to reward other actions that benefit customers or help the team in other ways?

4. Keep Building Skills with Training, Practice, and Coaching

Now more than ever, your agents need reassurance that they have the ability to learn and do the skills necessary to succeed. That means they need to know they’ll have access to the training, coaching, and feedback required to build and polish those skills. Again, this is so much tougher if you’ve always delivered your training in an onsite classroom. But it’s not impossible. Focus on both hard skills and the softer skills and for every new level of mastery achieved, be sure to praise each agent, both individually, and in front of their peers.

5. Pour on the Gratitude

Let’s face it, things can get hectic. Wait times and handling times can drive otherwise happy, calm people to get frazzled. But at the end of the day, few things will go further to keep your agents in the game as a simple but heartfelt Thank You. Even – especially – when things go wrong, remember to express your gratitude for what went right.

If you would like to know more about how Skybridge Americas can builds high-performing teams customer care teams, please reach out. We would love to talk!

Bobby Matthews
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
Skybridge Americas

Find out how Skybridge Americas can help you delight your customers and grow your business.

We seamlessly integrate our superior customer care skills with your brand messaging. For more information, contact us at 763-317-4794 or submit the form below!