The Human Cost of Customer Care: The Impact of Vulnerability on our Contact Centre Team

Most organisations strive for a steady flow of happy customers who are satisfied with their interactions and enthusiastically advocate for their brand. It is well understood that one of the key ways to achieve this is to have happy employees. Happy team members are much more likely to create a positive, customer-centric environment that will foster customer satisfaction.

 “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

Richard Branson

So, with our contact centre advisors at the front line in forming and managing those critical customer relationships, it is concerning that Contact Centre Monthly report that attrition rates within contact centres are generally higher than the national average of 15%,  with estimates ranging from 26% to as high as 85%.

Repercussions from the loss of experienced team members can be significant. Alongside substantial recruitment, onboarding and training costs, there’s the potential for the dreaded ‘brain drain’ – where the team’s collective wisdom, tone of voice and know-how diminishes – not to mention the drag on overall morale and motivation. This naturally has a significant impact on customer experience, brand perception, and the overall reputation of the business.

You’re having a bad day? What about me?

It’s no secret that working in a contact centre has never been easy for those on the front line. Now more than ever, with strong economic headwinds, geopolitical pressures and increasingly complex customer issues to contend with as automation and self-serve rise, burnout in even the most conscientious and tenured team members is common.

We all know what’s at stake when our team members lose motivation and engagement and become tired – but what can we do? The first step to addressing the issue is to understand what’s happening.

  • Large call volumes result in continuous pressure and little downtime.
  • Performance goals and monitoring around call duration, customer satisfaction, and call resolution rates create a sense of stress, micromanagement and surveillance.
  • Customers often call when dissatisfied and upset, which is stressful for both parties.
  • Advisors may work irregular shift patterns due to call centres’ long working hours, creating a negative work-life balance.
  • Call centre work can be repetitive and lacks autonomy, with advisors having to deal with repeating issues with little scope to make decisions.
  • Advisors have to work hard to manage their emotions to provide an excellent service.

This last point (effectively managing our emotions) is a critical aspect of the advisor role that requires our team members to manage and regulate their emotions carefully, even when dealing with customers who are angry or upset.

At a time when many of our front-line advisors are experiencing the same economic and emotional pressures that customers are facing, we must acknowledge that historically, the role has not allowed much time for autonomy, reflection, or self-care. This emotional toil can be draining and contribute to emotional stress.

It’s time to act:

Fostering an empathy-based culture

The cumulative effect of these factors can lead to burnout – a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, leading to decreased well-being and job performance, increased absenteeism, and even health issues.

This is not how it has to be. 

Agents themselves are becoming more discerning around the nature of client/campaign, shift patterns, and location of work. It’s important we recognise that while call centre work can be stressful, the level of stress can be hugely influenced by our company culture, degree of flexibility in management and working practices, and employee support.

At BPA Quality, we regularly help our customers with specialised training that focuses on providing excellent customer care to all, including the most vulnerable, and we always acknowledge that when it comes to vulnerable circumstances, it cuts both ways.

We encourage and guide advisors to focus on themselves, expand their self-awareness, and ensure that their own cup is filled first so that they are able to help and support others. We provide opportunities for self-reflection and to identify self-care strategies that will work for them personally within the role.

When we invest in our team members’ wellbeing with our training interventions, natural outcomes are enhanced resilience, engagement and overall job satisfaction.

“When it comes to our advisors supporting customers in vulnerable circumstances, we always acknowledge that it cuts both ways.”

Investing in employee well-being, effective training, and creating a supportive work culture are all part of a positive cycle where happy employees contribute to happy customers… and happy customers, in turn, contribute to business success.

Want to boost empathy in your teams? Tips to try:

  1. Lead by example – ensure that your leaders and coaches prioritise expanding their own self-awareness. Ask yourself: are you modelling the behaviours (and self-care) you wish to see in your team members? Our actions speak louder than our words.
  2. Boost your listening skills – empathy starts with listening. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason! Commit to practice really tuning in and attentively listening for a whole hour, and see what you notice (does one hour seem too short a time frame for you…? Try it…! It’s simple, but not always easy).
  3. Empower and upskill your teams with the right training and coaching.

If you would like to talk to us about how we can help you build an empathetic workplace that fosters both employee and customer happiness and well-being, please reach out to our Head of Training and Development, Helen Beaumont Manahan, at or connect with her on LinkedIn.