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Stress for Contact Center Agents Can Drive Attrition and Poor Customer Experiences


TMCnews Featured Article

November 11, 2008

Stress for Contact Center Agents Can Drive Attrition and Poor Customer Experiences

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

To say that the contact center can be a stressful environment is putting it lightly. To ignore this reality puts the center in a position where absenteeism and high attrition will become commonplace and replacing and training new agents will run costs higher than they need to be according to industry standards.

Jeannine Walsh, an Australian contact center industry veteran, says that the reduction of stress can lead to real workplace benefits. In a report, Walsh touched on the impact of stress in the contact center, pointing to the higher risk of heart attack, higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels and weight issues.
“It affects both gastrointestinal and immune systems,” Walsh said in the report. “And, of course stress can affect relationship and work performance.” Walsh revealed that one of the best ways to combat stress was to ensure the maintenance of optimum health.

“Optimum (News - Alert) health means that we are well hydrated and eat at regular times with the right balance of proteins, complex carbohydrates and good fats,” Walsh added. “It also means resting well and exercising properly.”

Stress within the contact center environment is also the result of interacting with customers who may not be happily interacting with agents. In such situations, agents can easily become frustrated with frustrated customers and the overall experience for the customer declines to a level where it is considered a negative experience.

Unfortunately, nearly three quarters of consumers are likely to tell others about poor treatment following such an experience, according to a Harris Interactive (News - Alert) study. Another 81 percent of customers will remove their business following a poor experience, up from 76 percent in 2007.
On the flip side, the study also found one in two consumers are willing to always or often pay more for a better customer experience. Such expectations could lead to higher stress on the agent, but in reality, it creates a situation where the agent has more control over the interaction and can therefore more effectively create a better experience for all involved.

It is commonly understood within the industry that poor customer experiences can also lead to emotional outbursts from the customer. After a poor experience, 32 percent of consumers have sworn, 25 percent have shouted and six percent have felt their chest tighten. Unfortunately, the recipients of such outbursts are almost always the contact center agent – whether they created the poor experience or not.
With the challenges that are being created right now due to the volatility of the economy, contact centers must put a stronger focus on driving high quality interactions. This is important for the sanity of the agent, as well as the preservation of the customer base.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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