The Business Case for Automating Stress Out of Your CSRs’ Lives

 

 

We all know the feeling. It’s certainly happened to me on more than one occasion.

There you are watching television, flipping through a magazine or checking your online news feed when, suddenly, you come across an urgent message about … [cue loud, menacing music] … THE DANGERS OF STRESS.

Naturally, processing this bit of “helpful” information only makes you more stressed out about how often you’re needlessly stressing out. A slice of deliciously cruel irony if there ever was one.

But let’s be honest: When put in perspective, the stressors of the average person are fairly trivial. Most of us live in general equanimity compared to, say, what a typical Customer Service Representative (CSR) contends with on a daily basis. It’s not a coincidence that the average turnover rate for CSRs in the U.S. is 33% — nearly doublewhat the average turnover rate is among all professions.

These statistics are not lost on today’s forward-thinking companies.

As business leaders shift their focus to more value-added strategies such as customer experience improvement, the link between CSR burnout and business profitability has become painfully clear. After all, it costs a lot of money to find, hire and train new employees. The question is, can anything significant really be done about a department that’s long been synonymous with high-stress and high-turnover rates?

When looking at how order processing automation fits into a customer service environment, the answer appears to be a resounding “Yes.”

Chronic stress & customer service

Although stress can be a positive and motivating force in small doses, the long-term activation of the body’s stress-response system opens the door to some pretty serious health issues: It can alter mood, memory and sleeping patterns; it can contribute to headaches, heart disease, and musculoskeletal disorders; and, it can even affect how a person’s genes express themselves!

Unfortunately for many CSRs, prolonged exposure to stress is all in a day’s work. When they’re not fielding calls from needy customers, CSRs can be found performing the mind-numbing task of hand-entering order data into their department’s ERP system or hunting down a lost document. And, when a mistake is made and the arrows of blame start to fly, you can bet that the biggest targets hang on the backs of CSRs.

These types of stressors are so prevalent in environments that rely on manual and paper-based processes that they’re often just accepted as “part of the deal.” Thankfully, more businesses are waking up to the fact that this is not a sound strategy.

A stressed-out CSR team ultimately leads to larger issues. The big two being:

  1. Higher turnover rates. Included in this is the cost of:
    • Hiring and onboarding a new person
    • Lost productivity in getting new person up to speed
    • Training over a period of 1-3 years, typically
    • Cultural impacts due to constant staff “cycling”
  2. Lower customer satisfaction. Included in this is the cost of:
    • Increasing resources to quell customer contentions
    • Poor customer experience scores; potential loss of existing customers
    • Damaged reputation preventing new business opportunities

Now, I know what you may be thinking: How can automation — something that’s often feared by CSRs as a job replacer — be the key to reducing their tension and avoiding the subsequent fallout? It’s all about equipping them with the right tools to succeed …

4 stress-busting benefits of order processing automation

Too many managers make life harder for their CSRs by setting them up for failure. If a banana was the only tool a team of carpenters had to pound nails with, it’s fair to say that frustration and cynicism would soon follow. The right tools can make all the difference.

Below are the four biggest stress-busting benefits automation offers CSRs:

  1. It reduces repetitive and emotional encounters with customers.
    All of us can picture a helpless CSR being berated by an angry customer over the phone. As stressful as that is, having to manage routine, repeated requests also plays a big role in CSR burnout. It’s key to remember why these interactions are happening in the first place — a customer’s expectations were not met, or, the customer had no other means of performing the desired action. Automated solutions defuse these potentially combustible situations by allowing companies to offer their customers a self-service portal to place orders, track orders and even log disputes. Should a customer want to clarify an issue or ask a question directly, a built-in chat tool enables real-time communication with a CSR. Bottom line:Customers are far less likely to reach for the phone when they’re afforded transparency and control into their orders. That’s a recipe for happier CSRs, happier customers and a healthier bottom line.
  2. It relieves CSRs of unnecessary blame.
    Whether it’s their manager or a customer doing the finger-pointing, being a magnet for blame is huge stressor for CSRs. But humans make mistakes. If manual data entry is part of processing a customer order, at some point, errors are going to occur. It’s the process — not the person — that’s broken. Once again, automation provides a simple and intuitive fix. Machine learning technology embedded in the solution ensures that all the relevant data on an incoming order is extracted and analyzed, regardless of how the order arrived (e.g., EDI, fax, email, etc.). The data is then automatically processed or presented to the CSR for validation and uploaded in the ERP system. Bottom line: Automation eliminates manual data entry — the main source of order processing errors. This relieves CSRs of their burden of blame while avoiding the inevitable downstream costs of righting any wrongs.
  3. It helps CSRs be more organized and proactive.
    Most CSRs would love to get ahead of potential issues and showcase initiative. However, with no centralized system to view and manage all of the orders coming into and out their company on any given day, their hands are often tied. If order volumes spike unexpectedly or a priority customer’s document needs to be retrieved ASAP, the CSR is left scrambling. Here’s the beauty of automated order processing: Best-in-class solutions are equipped with customizable dashboards that display live, visual analytics to help CSRs strategize their day. Whether it’s seeing how many priority orders to validate or even managing open customer issues, CSRs can finally say goodbye to the endless cycle of backlogs and boondoggles. Bottom line: Dashboards empower CSRs, and empowered CSRs are a very low-stress and high-reward investment for any company.
  4. It creates an environment of purpose, fulfillment and upward mobility.
    Career uncertainty is also a major stressor for CSRs, as they can often feel trapped in the daily minutia of performing thankless, low-value tasks. With no clear path for professional growth in sight, their performance inevitably suffers, as does the overall customer experience. Order processing automation addresses this by relieving CSRs from traditional administrative duties so they can perform tasks that are more critical to the business and have greater potential for career-pathing. What’s more, managers can track KPIs in the dashboard to reward those CSRs who are going above and beyond. Bottom line: CSRs who receive recognition and serve a strategic purpose almost always perform better at their jobs and have a lower rate of turnover.

Workplace stress is a serious health issue that we’ve all experienced in varying degrees. And while measures like exercise, meditation and self-affirmation techniques can be employed at an individual level, in specific cases (i.e., CSRs), a more holistic solution is needed. What sets order processing automation apart is its ability to go beyond simply treating the symptoms of CSR stress and actually address the underlying root causes.

So, to all the businesses stressing out over how to solve their customer service problems, relax. Take a deep breath. It’s nothing a little automation can’t solve.

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