Chronic Contact Center Understaffing Sabotages Success
It’s an oft-quoted statistic that Americans are some of the most productive workers in the world. Unfortunately, to go along with this laurel, American workers are also some of the least engaged and most burned out workers in the world.
An article in last week’s New York Times recounts how Americans are being squeezed by excessive work demands. They’re putting in more hours than ever, and their professional quality of life is plummeting. According to a Gallup poll conducted last year, only 30 percent of employees in America feel engaged at work. This is a real problem.
Trying to squeeze ever-more productivity out of workers may lead to very short-term gains – and bonuses for executives – but in the long run, burned-out employees are hurting organizations in high turnover, high demands on the company medical plan for stress-related problems, and resentment from employees who feel their quality of life is being lowered by their jobs.
“Demand for our time is increasingly exceeding our capacity — draining us of the energy we need to bring our skill and talent fully to life. Increased competitiveness and a leaner, post-recession work force add to the pressures,” wrote the Times’ Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath. “The rise of digital technology is perhaps the biggest influence, exposing us to an unprecedented flood of information and requests that we feel compelled to read and respond to at all hours of the day and night.”
Organizations that are taking a longer-term view and improving the quality of work for employees by, for example, setting time limits on meetings, mandating breaks during the day and ensuring supervisors are supportive of employee efforts, are reaping large rewards.
In the contact center, turnover has always been traditionally high, so the idea of escalating turnover should be alarming. Turnover costs company money, and poorly engaged employees lead directly to poorly engaged customers. Understaffing in an attempt to save money in the short-term is a deadly step to take for any company that values its customers and hopes to keep turnover in check.
While every contact center would like to be able to take on more employees, it’s often not possible. Contact centers can, however, use technology to mitigate the effects of understaffing. Workforce management technology can be the answer to helping contact centers run smoothly, even when staff levels are lower than optimal. It can help balance days off and vacation time, and recalibrate when agents call in sick. Particularly when combined with a hosted contact center platform (which can allow agents to work from home or remote locations), formal workforce management can accomplish the kind of balanced coverage for the call center, based on historical information and projections, that a manual process simply can’t.
When funds do become available, hiring more agents is the best possible use for them. Engaged agents who can excel at their work without being pulled in all directions at once are happier agents who stay longer and develop the kind of professional touch customers appreciate. In a nutshell, happier agents mean happier customers.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi