Supporting the wellbeing of modern contact centre workers

Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash

Over 4% of the UK’s working population are employed in contact centres (also known as call centres).  There are 6200 contact centres in the UK with over 734,000 agents.  With a balance struck between on-shore and off-shore, the UK is seeing an increase in the sector, which is widely tipped to become one of the UK’s most important sectors in the coming years.

The modern contact centre has revolutionised the way businesses interact with their customers. With the advent of technology, contact centres have become more efficient and cost-effective, allowing businesses to provide better customer service and support.

However, there are both good and bad aspects to modern contact centres. In this article I look at how modern contact centres impact the mental wellbeing of their employees and measures that can be taken to protect colleagues from adverse effects. I also argue for an innovative new approach to joint-funding of wellbeing programmes.

Outsourcing company culture

Overall, modern contact centres offer many benefits for businesses looking for an efficient and cost-effective way of providing excellent customer service and support. But there are also some potential challenges to take into consideration.

Ultimately these operations are an extension of the businesses they represent, so organisations have a real opportunity to embrace and assist with the culture that exists within their own companies. 

This isn’t a new way of looking at this, many outsourcers claim already to be the embodiment of their clients but now need to move this on a step. They can do this by reflecting the value they place in the employees representing their brands, in order to help support what is a low paid wage in testing times around mental and financial wellbeing.

Keeping contact centre colleagues well

The modern call centre worker faces a unique set of challenges that can have a significant impact on their mental wellbeing.

  1. With the rise of digital technology, contact centres are now handling more calls than ever before, with over 80% of call traffic being bad news. This can lead to increased stress levels, burnout, and feelings of isolation. It is important for employers to understand these challenges and provide support for their employees to ensure their mental wellbeing.
  2. One of the biggest challenges faced by modern call centre workers is the sheer volume of calls they must handle. With so many calls coming in, it can be difficult for workers to keep up with the demand and maintain a high level of customer service. This can lead to feelings of frustration and overwhelm as they struggle to meet customer expectations.
  3. Additionally, many contact centres are now using automated systems which can make it difficult for workers to connect with customers on a personal level. This lack of human connection can lead to feelings of loneliness and disconnection from their work.
  4. Another challenge faced by modern call centre workers is the lack of variety in their work. As mentioned previously, over 80% of call traffic is bad news which means that most calls are negative in nature. This can lead to increased stress levels as workers are constantly dealing with unhappy customers or difficult situations. Additionally, this lack of variety can make it difficult for workers to stay motivated and engaged in their work as they become bored or frustrated with the same type of calls day after day.

In order to support modern call centre workers with their mental wellbeing, employers need to take steps to reduce stress levels and create an environment that encourages connection and engagement.

  • One way employers can do this is by providing regular breaks throughout the day so employees have time away from their desks and phones.
  • Additionally, employers should consider introducing flexible working hours or remote working options so that employees have more control over when they work and how much time they spend on calls each day.
  • Employers should also look at ways to introduce more variety into the workday such as providing training opportunities or introducing new technologies that allow employees to interact with customers in different ways.
  • Employers should also ensure that there is an open dialogue between managers and employees so that any issues or concerns can be addressed quickly and effectively before they become too overwhelming for staff members.

I wouldn’t be doing justice today if I didn’t highlight the need for a complete wellbeing programme.  Many companies do this, but the overarching focus is budget. I fully understand that within this industry every penny counts; the margins are incredibly tight and the cost of such a programme can be the difference between winning and losing business as well as making a profit or loss.  The real loser though is the worker. 

Stronger together

A paradigm shift is required within the industry between client and outsourcer to fund a joint wellbeing programme for the staff that will represent the client’s brand. Thus sharing a cost that delivers a focussed happier agent that feels valued.

It’s a thought and a potential differentiator in what is an incredibly competitive market. 

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Time will tell, but I hope as this market pushes forward as it rightly should, we can create dynamic and well supported workplaces for agents around the country, whilst we continue to navigate challenging times.

About the author

Simon Graham has over 20 years in the outsource market working across a number of sectors and verticals as well as covering voice, communication & print, technology and finance.

Currently Simon is focused on creating science backed mental wellbeing programmes for businesses around the globe. Helping change cultures and workforces for the better by deploying modular solutions provided by “Happence” where he is the Chief Commercial Officer.

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