Why Decision Fatigue is Costing Contact Centres Billions

Why contact centre agents are becoming overwhelmed and making poor decisions as a result, and how do you help them?

Decision Fatigue: What is it, what's the cost, and how do we stop it?

According to research by McKinsey, one of the world's largest management consulting firms, bad habits within contact centres are costing the US economy as much as $450 billion a year. With a population size about 1/5 of that compared to the US, that could equate to as much as $90 billion within the UK.

Some preventable bad habits can pose serious risks for companies bottom-line through lost productivity hours, customer dissatisfaction, and even expensive penalties from regulators. For example, simple habitual process failings such as going too far ‘off script’ can lead to poor customer experience and compliance issues that lead to that ever so costly customer churn and penalties. The phenomenon is part of one of the major reasons why many businesses fail to reach their full potential – the difficulties of managing people and performance.

The stereotype is that this kind of behaviour is often seen in more junior staff who are more likely to lack experience and perhaps motivation. This group can often feel so distant from strategic decision-making that they lose sight of the bigger picture and become disenchanted with new processes and transformation. Contact centre managers and leaders cited high agent turnover as their biggest challenge in a 2021 study.

Bad habits, though, are also formed amongst upper management, people whose behaviour can, and often does, directly influence others within the organisation. Particularly for coaches and managers within the business, bad habits can have an impact much larger than that of a single agent, simply because these habits impact more people as they flow down your organisational structure.

We want autonomy... but maybe not that much

One area commonly overlooked by leaders is with regard to decision making processes. The following may be a surprise to some, but there is a growing body of research suggesting that most people don't like making too many decisions. It can lead to employees putting off deciding on what to do or how they should handle certain situations, and explains in part why you’ve likely experienced some pushback in transformative projects.  

Still, this isn't the only way in which decision fatigue can have an impact on workers. The same research found that people are more likely to take risks when they've made many decisions throughout the day. Many companies have lost substantial amounts of money due to risky decisions being made under these pressurised conditions.

To prevent these kinds of setbacks, managers need to encourage their employees not just to make good decisions in the first place, but also be aware of any underlying factors—such as their own fatigue or stress—that might affect their judgment when making choices. Contact centre management must also be willing to step in when necessary and lead by example when their employees are faced with particularly complicated or challenging problems.  

However, like most contact centres, most of your managers time is probably taken up by cumbersome administrative processes and day to day people managing.

So, what’s the solution?

It’s time to throw out your outdated technology and processes to relieve the admin and data fatigue from people across your organisation and empower them with actionable and easy to understand data. This will result in managers who are able to identify areas for improvement at the click of a button, and agents who are brought closer to the metrics that your contact centre runs on. Better yet, comparative thinking can encourage your agents to overperform versus their peers which you should reward (kudos, anyone?).

By tracking data on a daily basis and using intelligent AI and machine learning (on the backend, so you never have to rely on expensive technical resources) – you’ll be able to identify significant changes in metrics and use these as early warning signs of problems. This way of data-led managing will mean you identify poor behaviour before it develops into habits (which take just 8 days to form by the way).

Bring agents closer to the metrics, reduce 100s of wasted hours spent on admin and take the guess work out of coaching. Interested? Learn more about our Coaching & Performance Management platform.

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