Mindfulness, for those unfamiliar with the method, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, is a set of mental exercises intended to improve overall wellbeing of people. It covers many areas of everyday life, mainly through becoming fully aware of what is happening around us, while omitting deeply learned filters of consciousness. It helps to perceive the world as is.
While contact center agents are human beings under constant pressure from customers, wouldn’t it be nice to allow them to be able perceive and understand the customers, their needs and even frustrations? Not every agent would eventually become a psychologist, but every agent can become mindful.
Mindfulness is built on ancient methods of training human mind that seldom bring more understanding and overall presence of the practitioner. The strong point of mindfulness is the scientific evidence supported by hundreds of studies confirming profound benefits not only for single individuals in their personal lives, but also advantages for professional success and teams’ coherence.
One such an interesting study from contact center environment is available here (click “Look inside” in the upper right corner to get free access to the abstract).
When it comes to contact center agents, one of the main goals of mindfulness training is, apart from stress reduction and increase of job satisfaction, in reaching a point where traditional communication scheme is enhanced with mindful pause. This gives agents sufficient time to fully understand the customer, and react accordingly and professionally without mixing the response with possible negative connotations that the agents might have.
The traditional scheme of communication is depicted as the first part of the chart above. People (including contact center agents) simply react to certain stimulus, almost on the unconscious level. And of course this level of automation means that the response is based on their momentary emotional comfort, recent experience and doesn’t allow a fully conscious response. This is specifically true if people are forced to react promptly – which is exactly the scenario know from contact centers where the response time could be measured as one of KPIs.
Mindfulness promotes certain gaps between a stimulus (action) and a response (reaction). This gap rises from being conscious, fully present and aware of what’s going on in one’s psyche. Once this becomes a standard for contact center agents, we shall expect much higher customer satisfaction rating. The reason is simple – if the agent has the capacity to respond consciously (yet keeping the pace of a regular dialog), the customer will be served with much more calming and helpful way.
The magic is not in “taking an extra second” before reacting, although this could be the first step. What really matters, is an agent’s ability to be fully aware of a customer’s needs and his emotional state, while being able to observe the agent’s reaction without any judgement.
I know that words like “presence”, “awareness” and “non-judgement” are quickly becoming a self-help buzzwords, yet in this case the following makes perfect sense to me:
- Let’s make agents more present to help them focus better no their job. It will positively influence not only their results, but also their flow.
- Let’s help agents to become more aware of themselves and their customers to help them deliver better service. This will influence not only customer satisfaction and/or sales but secondary their remuneration as well.
- Let’s train agents to develop non-judgement about themselves and their customers. Being able to communicate with customers on the line without making any fault judgements (“He is rude”, “Her fault anyway”, or even worse), agents can provide a truly exceptional level of customer service.
Mindfulness became our go-to solution for increasing agents’ level of job satisfaction and mental energy, as well as decreasing their tendency to leave. It’s not a coincidence, that these parameters are measured by AgentBalance – by being able to train agents in Mindfulness and measure them on these metrics, we are closing the loop that can seriously impact contact centers’ performance and customer satisfaction.
Václav Martin, CEO AgentBalance