Why Call Center Stress Statistics Are So Alarming, and What You Can Do About Them

Chances are you’ve dealt with a call center recently. Any corporation that receives a high rate of inbound phone calls probably has a call center. It’s usually a centralized office used to manage inquiries from consumers and address their needs.

Call centers and helpdesks have a secret. It’s not something we’re immediately aware of when we pick up the phone, but helpdesk managers know the truth. They know all about the alarming call center stress statistics that drive burnout and plague daily operations on the other side of the line.

These statistics are a wake-up call for companies of all kinds.

“The U.S. call center market continues to expand due to corporate reshoring, onshoring initiatives and the quest for quality customer service. There are over 7,400 call centers in the U.S. employing 50 or more workers.”

Unfortunately, these call centers suffer shocking rates of agent burnout, with some of the highest turnover of any industry. Staff must be rigorously trained and retrained, with new hires pouring in to replace their fallen predecessors. Call center stress statistics are the public face of a huge drain on company time and energy.

Yet very few companies do anything about it. Most companies, if anything, simply increase new-hire training.

Let’s look at call center stress drivers, how that stress creates burnout, how to recognize negative trends and what can be done to combat it.

What is Burnout?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as “a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed, consisting of three primary features:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy.”

These symptoms are harm an organization’s efficiency and morale, especially when they occur in a widespread pattern. On top of that, this kind of chronic stress can lead to long-term mental health issues, and even heart disease.

It’s important to recognize that the individual employee is not to blame for burnout. Call center burnout is symptomatic of a broad set of problems within a company’s information strategy. Rather than trying to change the behavior of a burnt-out employee, companies should focus on changing the factors causing this burnout.

This analysis should begin with information flow. What sort of calls drive your call center request lines? Can call center agents find the information they need to answer these calls quickly and accurately? If not, how might a company upgrade those conditions?

Training alone often provides no solution. And chances are if one employee is experiencing this, so are countless others.

What Causes Burnout?

Burnout can occur in any job, but the stress can be especially high for call centers. Call centers experience some of the highest turnover of any industry. And call center agents report very high levels of on-the-job stress and frustration.

“Call center jobs are notorious worldwide for their high levels of turnover, absenteeism, employee burnout and emotional exhaustion. Agents are at constant risk of angry outbursts from customers, sexual harassment and outright abuse.”

Any number of factors can cause call center burnout. There are often many in play at once, creating a buildup of pressure with no sufficient outlet. From long hours and low fulfillment to unclear expectations and emotional labor, call center agents are suffering. It’s up to management to confront this problem at its core.

We know support agent disaffection is extreme. Despite the factors mentioned above, most point to knowledge base access as the single toughest aspect of the job. As customer requests pour in, agents must be armed with a clear, concise and easy-to-use information database so they respond to customer needs quickly. This will prevent customer dissatisfaction and, consequently, agent burnout. Companies who implement these changes properly will see reduced turnover, higher employee satisfaction and better call center stress statistics.

How to Identify Signs of Burnout in your Team

“Before the full blow of the burnout, there are the months before. One lacks motivation and feels exhausted with their work. The quality of their work may be reduced.”

Watch employees for burnout markers:

  • Lateness
  • Absenteeism
  • Negativity
  • Irritability
  • Decreased productivity
  • Lower quality of work
  • Careless mistakes

These signs should be easy to spot for attentive managers.

When unhappy and unproductive employees quit or get let go, it creates huge costs in rehiring and training. But you can’t address the problem if you haven’t clearly identified it. The first step is to evaluate your team. You may even wish to implement employee surveys to get a better idea of how your staff is really feeling.

How to Prevent or Alleviate Burnout

There are some simple steps an organization can take to mitigate call center burnout. Remember, support agents cite a lack of knowledge base and support materials as their number one frustration, and understandably so. How can we expect agents to address a wide range of customer needs without easy access to the necessary information?

Investing in new call center technology can make a big difference here. Many systems operate with outdated and inefficient software. Great tools exist, designed to alleviate burnout. This in turn reduces the turnover caused by burnout and its costly cycle training, retraining and endless hiring.

A searchable, updated knowledge base:

  • Improves first-time resolution rates
  • Raises customer satisfaction
  • Reduces the need for training
  • and lowers turnover by 20%

Plugin-based solutions are ideal. They should be easy-to-use, and extract product information from isolated silos into a single, definitive, highly-searchable knowledge base. Companies should include anything containing product answers: PDFs, FAQs, videos, tutorials. This sort of streamlining lifts a huge burden from agents’ shoulders. Support agents no longer need to scramble for solutions while impatient customers wait on the line.

This technology—not to mention lower levels of agent burnout—cuts customer wait time and dissatisfaction. When customers face long wait times and unsatisfactory service–even once–they walk away with a negative brand impression. In one survey, 95% of US consumers said customer service is crucial to brand choice and loyalty. 62% have switched brands in the last 12 months due to poor customer support. Brand switching is easier than ever for customers, and it costs companies $137 billion per year.

Support your Call Center

Don’t ignore distressing call center stress statistics. And don’t leave your support team to suffer the effects of call center burnout. See where your team stands and take steps to alleviate current burnout and prevent it from occurring in the future. The best thing you can do to support your agents is to invest in updated call center software in the form of a consolidated and easy-to-use knowledge base. This will help reduce turnover rates, save the company time, energy and money and maintain a more satisfied customer base.


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