Meeting the daily demands of rigid contact center metrics and answering ring after ring of angry customers buckles agents into seats on a Ferris Wheel of stress.
The continuous pressure and endless ups and downs of an agent’s Ferris Wheel ride trigger stress responses that impact the way they work. They can’t focus, get sick more often, and are more likely to burnout.
Not only does too much stress take a mental toll on your agents, impacting productivity and effectiveness, but it takes a physical toll, too. Increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and reduced brain activity are all physical manifestations of stress.
To be a better leader and support your team of agents, you need an action plan for stress management. Teaching your team about the dangers of overworking and overstressing are imperative to keeping your team happy and healthy. And to keeping your contact center running smoothly.
A quick recap of mindfulness
Mindfulness is about being intensely focused on the present moment. It’s about tuning out the distracting noise and zooming in on what you’re thinking and feeling in that moment.
Mindfulness reduces stress, improves memory and focus, reduces emotional reactivity, increases mental processing capabilities, and increases immune system function.
That all piles up to more clarity for your agents while they’re on the clock. Plus, a laser focus on achieving their goals and helping customers.
How mindfulness can help
In another post, 7 Ways Mindfulness Training Can Transform Your Contact Center, we chatted on what exactly mindfulness is and how it has proven benefits for the contact center.
To wrangle in some of those benefits for your team, here are the steps you can take.
How to bring mindfulness into your contact center
Mindfulness counteracts a lot of the negatives caused by the stress that exists in contact centers, and there’s a number of benefits for your agents. If you’re looking to bring those benefits to your agents, here are a few easy ways you can encourage more mindfulness in your contact center.
Teach your agents to embrace stress.
Psychologist Kelly McGonigal gave a Ted Talk on the negative impacts of stress. In her talk, she discussed three separate studies that all had one thing in common: how you perceive stress affects its impact.
In other words, if we believe stress is bad for us, it is. If we believe stress is good for us, it is.
So, the next time your agents’ queues fill up and five of them need to phone-a-manager for help, tell them to press pause.
Coach your agents to take a second and evaluate the energy they’re giving off. Are they stressed? Nervous? Irritated? Are they smiling? Frowning? Biting their nails?
Train your agents to get in touch with how they’re feeling and evaluate how they respond in moments of perceived stress.
Take the same approach, yourself. Your agents feed off of your energy, so they’ll mirror your attitude during tough times. Toxicity spreads, but so does a sense of calm and ease.
Get your agents hyped and ready for peak times, stay positive, and hand out reminders that a late answer from a calm agent is better than an on-time answer from a frantic one. Then, celebrate your team’s hustle once the queues die down.
Encourage short breaks and laps around the office.
In a contact center, you sit…a lot. Unfortunately, studies have found that sitting only compounds the effects of stress.
To counteract the toxic combo of stress and staying planted in a chair all day, encourage your agents to get up and move. And while they’re on the move, it’s a great time to take a few moments of mindfulness.
Tell them to reflect on their day or the tough call they just had with an angry customer. Then, take a few deep breaths and shake it off. Even a walk to the water cooler or the bathroom helps them reset, neutralize stress levels and improve productivity.
Don’t create strict policies around break times, either. All too often, contact center agents feel chained to their desks. Helping your customers is important. But you can’t provide top-notch service at the expense of your agents. If a one-minute lap around the office will improve your agent’s mood and productivity for the next hour or two, that 60-second lag in answer time is worth it.
Use in-line training to point out valuable moments for mindfulness.
You’re sitting down to dedicate 30 minutes to coaching, and you hear signs of stress on one of your agent’s calls. His tone gets tense, and he seems a bit frantic. Use in-line training to leave a comment on this part of the interaction. Tag it with feedback, sharing that the moment of tension would be a good spot to pause and take a breath.
In-line training lets you share relevant, actionable feedback with your team. It’s perfect for mindfulness reminders and starting a conversation with your agents about stress. Agents can comment back on the interaction, asking for tips about mindfulness, or asking for clarity on your feedback.
And, with in-line training, you can even queue up additional moments of learning for your team. If you’re taking on the mindfulness initiative, create quick, two-minute mindfulness lessons or guided meditation sessions for your team.
Then, as you listen to call recordings and read transcriptions, add these pre-created lessons to your agents’ queues when relevant. A two-minute training session will pop-up in their queue just like any other interaction.
You can work in quick bursts and coach your agents without interrupting your team’s day-to-day flow.
Reap the benefits of mindfulness and reducing the stress of your agents. They’ll be happier, and so will your customers.
We originally posted this article on March 27, 2018, and updated it on March 15, 2019.