Nathan Dring

Tips on supporting contact centre workers

By Nathan Dring, Head of People Development, CCP

According to the research, a crisis creates three psychological states of mind. The first is a state of emergency, when an event comes from nowhere or catches us off guard and we find a clear sense of purpose, grow in energy and become more productive. How long you stay in this state varies by person, for example a crisis junkie, like myself, often enjoys spending time in this mindset so may prolong this period.

The next phase we move to is regression. When the uncertainty of a situation makes you lose purpose and can lead to withdrawal, irritability and a drop in productivity.

The third and final phase is the recovery. We start to reorient ourselves, check with our goal, adjust if necessary, and then get our heads into how we move on.

Individuals move through these phases at different speeds, which you may have witnessed when observing your colleagues’ behaviours as they have dealt with the Covid pandemic.

How have ‘we’ coped?

Many contact centres were very quick to prepare their staff for homeworking, with equipment and technology made available so people could work and service could be maintained. Non furloughed staff had clear objectives and knew what they had to do to make things happen. Rooms in the house were turned into working spaces and new daily patterns established…all with the intention of ‘making homeworking operational!’

After several weeks in lockdown, many people will have naturally started to drift into regression. The uncertainty of how long the crisis will last had kicked in, with the lack of interaction and normal patterns of communication starting to impact on how people felt. Work started to feel laborious and customers (who were also going through the same behavioural patterns) became a bit more irritable. Family were not as understanding as they were, which created its own problems.

All in all, things began to feel much harder.

Then we moved into ‘lockdown lifting’, which may or may not change your working arrangements. With some homeworkers heading back into the office and others remaining at home. That said, there is a potential for staff to see ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.

Supporting staff in the transition to the ‘new norm’

As a leader with staff working from home, what can you do to help support team members and your customers as we tiptoe towards recovery?

Keep up the staff communication

Firstly, on a human level, check in with your teams. How are they getting on? How are they feeling? What is happening in their personal life? Show them that you care about their wellbeing and as people, not just ‘doers’.

Secondly, give your team insight into the business. What is happening within the organisation? How is it performing? What is their part to play? Given that they may well have felt a loss of purpose, now more than ever is a time to direct them back to that and be sure to make it clear. Connect the dots very obviously, thereby creating a renewed sense of purpose in what they are doing.

Set expectations for customers

According to research, many people have had mixed experiences dealing with contact centres during Covid. I personally found it infuriating being told my wait time was 5 minutes (due to demand) and then waiting 45 minutes before giving up as had to join a meeting. Conversely, my bank has a message in its IVR explaining that they are doing their best and that their staff are working from home. My expectation had been set so I understood that I might hear noises in the background due to family life still going on. I was happy with this. Not only did it set my expectations, but I had immediate empathy with the person on the other end as I too have had that struggle.

My advice for leaders is to keep up your communications with homeworkers, both on a personal and organisational level, to remind them that they matter and that they have a purpose. Help your customers to be aware of what you are doing to help and how your teams are operating. Bring a personal level and some empathy to your conversations. Keep up the encouragement and give regular gratification. Life will get easier as we head towards recovery so remain positive and focused on your goals.

Concerned with staff wellbeing and productivity?

If you require help improving team member wellbeing and productivity, we can assist. At CCP, we are skilled at assessing and implementing progressive cultural change. Our extensive experience of working with a large range of clients, including large multinationals, SMEs and charities, means we have the expertise to help any business. For further information click here or get in touch for a chat.