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Eliminate Distractions in Your Contact Center

What workplace distractions have you experienced so far today? I’ll bet you’ve had a few.

Work Distractions

Contact center leaders face distractions like interruptions, frantic agents, frustrated customers, email after email, and on and on.

Distractions and interruptions are huge issues in workplaces of all types around the globe. A recent study by RescueTime discovered that 35 percent of workers check email or instant messaging at least once every 3 minutes throughout the day. In addition, 40% of employees say they never get 30 minutes of uninterrupted work time.

These issues may sound familiar in your workplace.

Contact center agents face unique demands while working. Those demands include:

Noise - There are constant conversations from peers across the work space. Equipment fans and hums are audible. There might even be music playing in the background. Usually the decibel level is high and unrelenting.

Workplace Layout - Getting from one place to another can be a maze. Traffic patterns can cause noise right behind agents working with customers. Cubicles cut down noise somewhat but they also reduce beneficial interactions.

Isolation - Agents move fast and independently. Headsets reduce ambient noise but they isolate agents who are trying to be nice, responsive, and effective at solving customer issues “in a vacuum” - by themselves, with only the contact center database to refer to. Sharing of insights from the day or asking for help is all too rare.

Fatigue - The pace of customer requests via calls or chats or messaging never stops. Agents can’t take a breath easily much less recharge for a few minutes.

Unhappy Peers - Toxic players who are constantly venting and/or complaining exhaust even your best agents.

Ultimately what you want are agents who are fully present and fully engaged - and distractions inhibit both those desirable qualities.

The challenge is that every agent may prefer a slightly different work environment - different than yours, different than their best friend, etc. It’s difficult (and expensive) to create a completely different physical work setting for each player but you can create a less distracting environment for many.

Social styles and personality types can be quite different across your population of leaders and agents. Extroverts want to talk through their frustrating customer interaction immediately afterwards or celebrate with their peers a call that went perfectly. Introverts need quiet time and space to process a call that didn’t go well or even to “pat themselves on the back” for a call that worked great.

Extroverts can be energized by interruptions. Introverts are usually frustrated by them.

What can contact center leaders do to reduce or eliminate distractions?

You can’t rebuild your workspace (not quickly or cheaply, anyway). You can, however, make subtle tweaks to the layout and space to reduce noise and create spaces that serve a wider range of social styles and team needs.

For all these suggestions, seek the perspective from your agents. They live and (obviously) work in the environment and will likely have suggestions for improvements in each of these areas.

Flow - This might be a tough change to implement; you may not have space. And, engage in this process anyway. Examine traffic flows in your center. Where you can, create “traffic lanes” - wider walkways - that don’t back up onto open cubicles where agents are working. Create direct line/lanes from cubicle communities to restrooms or kitchens or conference rooms, etc., away from agents at work.

Recharge - Create quiet space (or at least “quieter” space) where individuals can unplug for a few minutes. Small tables with 1-2 chairs encourage individual disconnection which is vital for those with introversion preferences.

Cooperation - Create spaces where small teams can meet (and cheer and learn) without their noise distracting agents at work. Conference rooms with doors that close are outstanding - if you have them and they’re available to teams. Outdoor picnic areas can work well during nice weather.

Noise - This may be one of the most difficult issues to address. The nature of your workspace may amplify voices and equipment noise. High ceilings and cool industrial design look great but they’re hard to make quiet. Acoustic panels can make a huge difference and are not that expensive.

Well-Being - These changes won’t reduce distractions - but they will increase your agents’ capacity to bounce back from them! Some small ways you can boost health and energy include refreshments that taste good AND aren’t high sugar. Replace sodas with low sugar electrolyte drinks. Replace high fat snacks with healthier proteins and nuts. Encourage movement - get people up from their chairs at least twice an hour, even for a few minutes. Get a few stationary bikes which will provide some exercise in a short time frame. Encourage walkers by posting steps taken daily or miles walked weekly.

Reducing distractions and interruptions where you can will increase your - and your agent’s - sanity, productivity, and creativity.

Don’t get frustrated. Get better. Invest time and energy in creating a more effective work environment for every agent (and leader).