Off Center
 
In my recently launched ebook, Full Contact, I cited a landmark study on employee health, fitness and emotional well-being. Among the 50 different industries that participated in said study, the contact center industry ranked 53rd..

Just because the study wasn’t real doesn’t make the findings untrue.

Hyperbole aside, there’s no doubt that the agent position is potentially dangerous to one’s health – and costly to the organization. Few other jobs are as inherently sedentary and as emotionally taxing, what with agents tethered to their workstations for hours on end talking to often-angry or upset customers. Adding to the health risks is all the pizza and other fat-laden fast foods that centers ply staff with in an attempt to keep them inspired and too full to leave their workstations.

I’m not saying that all agents are out of shape and on the brink of losing their minds; just the ones who make it through initial training and orientation. Some centers try to counter the negative effects of agent work by implementing wellness initiatives featuring such things as onsite fitness facilities; wellness courses (e.g., nutrition/weight loss, smoking cessation, stress reduction, etc.), healthy food options onsite; and ergonomics training. Such initiatives can be helpful, but rarely have a big impact since most agents are too busy having heart and panic attacks to take part in them.

In response, many leading contact centers today have found ways to cleverly incorporate physical and mental health exercises into agents’ daily routine.

Here are a few examples:

Adherence sprints. All it takes to get agents to engage in these healthy exercises is a little remodeling in the contact center. The key is to place the break room so far away from the phone floor that agents are forced to sprint there and back during breaks/lunches if they hope to adhere to their schedule and avoid disciplinary action. In centers where agents are severely out of shape, it’s a good idea to place the breakroom three or four floors above or below the phone floor to add a little “Stairmaster” kick to the sprints.

The only drawback of adherence sprints is that poorly conditioned agents often end up breathing heavily while speaking to customers just after a break. Of course, if you run a 900-number adult contact center, the heavy breathing could actually lead to increases in revenue and customer satisfaction.


Shift climbs. These are another great way to keep agents active in the course of their regular job routine. Instead of just sending agents their shift assignments via email, create a climbing wall that has the best schedules printed out and placed at the very top, with less desirable schedules placed below them on the wall. Agents line up at the base of the wall and, after a whistle is blown, compete against each other in scaling the climbing wall to see who is able to reach the best schedules first.

Such climbing competitions often result in injuries resulting from being stepped on by peers and/or falling from dangerous heights, which some say defeats the purpose of using shift walls to improve agent fitness. But such falls and flops often cause big belly laughs among agents who aren’t involved in the accidents, and laughter has been proven time and again to enhance employee health and well-being.  

 
Headset hypnosis. Where the previous two exercises are aimed more at improving agents’ physical health, headset hypnosis is intended to help keep agents mentally and emotionally strong.  Here’s how it works: During low volume periods when agents are sitting idle at their workstations awaiting their next call, they receive soothing subliminal messages through their headset convincing them that they have extraordinary powers to overcome harsh insults and unbearable stress, as well as the rare ability to spell correctly when chatting with customers. This results in agents getting lulled into a false sense of competence and calmness that is often enough to keep them from abruptly quitting, hurting themselves or, worse, interrupting you in your office to cry while you are busy snacking. 


The best headset hypnosis systems feature professional hypnotic voice talent and can be programmed to deliver personalized messages to different agents depending on their unique psychological and emotional weaknesses. For instance, an agent who tends to stutter profusely during difficult calls could receive a headset message convincing her that she has a dual doctorate degree in speech pathology and customer service. Or an agent who has a habit of flying into a rage with rude customers could receive a message convincing him that he is Gandhi or addicted to benzodiazepines.





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