7 Tell-Tale Signs Your Call Center Agents Are Burning Out

Faith Ocampo Published on November 28, 2016 Last updated on January 17, 2024

When the limits to the capabilities of agents have been reached, call center burnout occurs. Here are signs that leaders should look for.

Running a successful call center requires a dedicated team of agents who are committed to providing exceptional customer service. However, the demanding nature of the job can sometimes take a toll on your agents, leading to call center burnout.

How Call Center Burnout Reflects on Customers

Recognizing the signs of call center burnout is crucial to ensure the well-being of your agents and maintain a high level of service quality. But first, here’s a look on the repercussions of call center burnout on customers:

  • Decreased Customer Satisfaction

    Burnt-out call center agents may struggle to provide the level of service that customers expect. They may be less engaged, less empathetic, and less patient when handling customer interactions.

    This can result in lower customer satisfaction levels as customers may perceive the service they receive as subpar. Dissatisfied customers are more likely to voice their concerns, seek alternatives, or switch brands.

  • Longer Wait Times

    Call center burnout can lead to increased absenteeism and reduced availability of call center agents. This can result in longer wait times for customers seeking assistance. Extended wait times can be frustrating for customers, leading to a negative experience and a perception of poor service quality.

  • Inconsistent Service Quality

    Burnt-out agents may struggle to consistently provide the same level of service quality. They may be more prone to making mistakes, overlooking important details, or providing inaccurate information. Inconsistencies in service quality can erode customer trust and confidence in the call center’s ability to meet their needs.

  • Lack of Personalization

    Call center burnout can diminish an agent’s ability to personalize customer interactions.

    Personalization is crucial for building rapport and creating a positive customer experience. However, when agents are burnt out, they may lack the energy and motivation to tailor their approach to individual customers. This can result in interactions that feel impersonal and robotic, leaving customers feeling unimportant and undervalued.

  • Negative Word-of-Mouth and Customer Churn

    Dissatisfied customers who have negative experiences with burnt-out agents are more likely to share their frustrations with others.

    Negative word-of-mouth can damage the reputation of the call center and deter potential customers from seeking their services. Additionally, customers who repeatedly encounter poor service due to call center burnout may choose to switch to competitors.

Now, let’s discuss the seven tell-tale signs that your agents may be experiencing call center burnout. Once these are identified, you can take proactive measures to deal with burnout and create a healthier work environment.

Decreased Performance Metrics

One of the first signs that your call center agents may be burning out is a noticeable decline in their performance metrics. You may observe a decrease in call resolution rates or an increase in average call handling time. These changes can indicate that agents are struggling to deal with burnout. In addition, it will be hard to meet their targets due to exhaustion or lack of motivation.

  • How to Deal with This Problem

    It’s important to track these metrics closely and compare them to individual performance trends to identify any alarming patterns. Are certain agents consistently falling behind? Are there any sudden drops in performance that are out of the ordinary? If your answers to these questions are “yes”, then it’s time to deal with burnout right away.

    Analyzing these data can help pinpoint which agents may be at risk of call center burnout. This could be one of the first steps to deal with burnout in the call center.

    Additionally, pay attention to customer feedback and satisfaction scores. If you notice a decline in customer satisfaction or an increase in customer complaints, that could mean call center burnout. Basically, you should deal with burnout by being supportive to your agents.

Absenteeism and Attrition

Call center burnout can often lead to increased absenteeism and attrition rates among your agents. Pay attention to unscheduled absences or higher-than-usual rates of sick leaves. Frequent and unexplained absences may be a sign that agents are feeling overwhelmed and need time off to recharge.

Similarly, if you notice a rise in employee turnover rates, it could be a clear indicator of call center burnout. High levels of absenteeism and attrition can disrupt the workflow and negatively impact team morale. When agents are burnt out, they may feel disconnected from their work. This could lead to a lack of commitment and an increased desire to leave the organization.

  • How to Deal with This Problem

    To address this issue and deal with burnout, create an environment where agents feel comfortable discussing their concerns openly. Encourage them to take breaks when needed and support them in finding a healthy work-life balance.

    Implement strategies to deal with burnout and improve agent well-being, such as offering flexible scheduling options and providing opportunities for professional development. These can help mitigate staffing challenges and create a more stable and productive workforce.

Emotional Exhaustion and Irritability

Emotional exhaustion is a common symptom of call center burnout. It can manifest as increased irritability and emotional reactions in your call center agents. You may notice that agents become more easily frustrated or impatient with customers or colleagues. Sometimes, they may display a lack of empathy or struggle to manage their emotions effectively.

These emotional changes can not only affect their performance but also impact customer interactions and satisfaction. When customers encounter an agent who seems disinterested or agitated, it can lead to a negative experience.

  • How to Deal with This Problem

    To deal with burnout within this context, keep an eye out for signs of emotional exhaustion. These include frequent mood swings, irritability, or prolonged stress. Engage in regular one-on-one conversations with your agents to gauge their emotional well-being. In addition, make sure to provide a safe space for them to express their concerns.

    Providing agents with resources to deal with burnout can help alleviate these symptoms and foster a healthier work environment. Consider implementing mindfulness training, offering employee assistance programs, or organizing team-building activities that promote camaraderie and support.

Physical Symptoms and Health Issues

Call center burnout can also manifest in physical symptoms and health issues. Prolonged stress and exhaustion can lead to headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, and even more severe health problems. If your agents frequently report physical discomfort or persistent health issues, it may be a sign of call center burnout.

  • How to Deal with This Problem

    Encourage agents to prioritize self-care and offer resources to deal with burnout. This could include access to wellness programs, gym memberships, or educational sessions on techniques to deal with burnout.

    Creating a culture that promotes work-life balance and taking care of one’s health is also important. After all, it can go a long way in preventing call center burnout and improving overall agent satisfaction.

Decreased Job Satisfaction and Engagement

One of the most significant signs of call center burnout in agents is a decrease in job satisfaction and engagement. Call center burnout can cause agents to feel disillusioned, detached, and disengaged from their work. They may lose interest in their responsibilities and exhibit a lack of motivation or enthusiasm.

  • How to Deal with This Problem

    To deal with burnout, monitor indicators of job satisfaction, such as feedback during performance evaluations or participation in team meetings and activities.

    Are your agents expressing satisfaction with their roles, or do you notice a decline in their level of engagement? Are they actively seeking opportunities for growth and development, or do they already appear disinterested? Perhaps you need to deal with burnout if you are having any doubts about your team’s performance.

    It’s important to create a supportive and inclusive work environment where agents feel valued and recognized. Provide opportunities for skill development and advancement, and regularly communicate with agents to understand their career goals and aspirations.

    Implementing rewards and recognition programs can also contribute to boosting job satisfaction and engagement. Incentives are one of the most effective ways to deal with burnout.

Escalating Customer Complaints

Another tell-tale sign that your customer support agents may be experiencing burnout is a noticeable surge in customer complaints. More specifically, these complaints are tied to agent behavior and service quality.

As agents grapple with increasing levels of stress and frustration, they may find it challenging to maintain their composure. During particularly trying customer interactions, this may result in a higher incidence of escalated issues.

This problematic trend can significantly impact your organization, tarnishing its reputation and eroding customer trust. Escalated complaints not only lead to dissatisfied customers, though. They also increase the workload for managers and support supervisors as they must work around these complex issues.

  • How to Deal with This Problem

    To effectively address this concerning situation, equip your support agents with the tools and skills on dealing with difficult customers. Specialized training in de-escalation techniques is also important.

    Moreover, it is essential to instill in your agents the profound significance of empathy and active listening during customer interactions. These qualities can serve as powerful shields against the escalation of complaints. Incorporating regular quality assurance reviews and coaching can also help guide agents to become more adept at handling customer complaints.

Difficulty in Concentration and Decision-Making

Burnout doesn’t just affect an agent’s emotional well-being; it also infiltrates the cognitive aspects of their work. As a result, agents may find themselves making more errors, struggling to discern which tasks to prioritize. In other words, they find it hard to maintain a sustained level of focus throughout their workday.

This decline in cognitive function can have multifaceted repercussions. Mistakes and oversights become more prevalent, which can potentially affect the quality of customer interactions and overall productivity. Moreover, the inability to effectively prioritize tasks may lead to inefficiencies in workflow and, consequently, heightened stress levels.

  • How to Deal with This Problem

    Addressing this challenge requires a multifaceted approach. More specifically, it should focus on both mitigating cognitive fatigue and enhancing cognitive skills among your support agents.

    First and foremost, it is essential to encourage the practice of regular short breaks. These intervals provide agents with brief moments to step away from their workstations, stretch, or simply relax.

    In parallel, the implementation of time management techniques can be invaluable. Agents should be equipped with tools and techniques to help them better organize their workloads. Furthermore, offer ongoing training that specifically targets the enhancement of problem-solving skills and cognitive agility.

The Importance of Effective Employee Management

Effective employee management plays a critical role in identifying and mitigating agent burnout. Essentially, managers and supervisors must be attuned to the well-being of their teams. After all, they are the front-line defenders against burnout’s encroachment.

Effective employee management involves keeping a vigilant eye on the behaviors and emotions of agents. It means understanding that agents may exhibit signs of burnout in their interactions, such as increased frustration with customers or coworkers. Identifying these subtle signals before they escalate is key.

Another key element of successful employee management is the cultivation of empathy and offering support when agents need it most. Creating an environment where agents feel comfortable sharing their concerns and stressors allows managers to step in and provide guidance.

The Role of Employee Engagement

Employee engagement represents the emotional connection and commitment that agents have to their work and the organization. High levels of engagement often translate to lower burnout rates.

Sustaining employee engagement requires multiple approaches. Encourage agents to participate in decision-making processes, seek their input on work-related matters, and recognize their achievements regularly. Engagement is also bolstered when agents can see a clear connection between their work and the organization’s broader goals.

Career Development as a Burnout Mitigator

One of the most potent tools for preventing burnout is offering opportunities for career development and ensuring job security. When agents see a future in their roles, with avenues for growth and advancement, their motivation remains high.

Call centers can take proactive steps to invest in career paths for their agents. This includes offering ongoing training, creating opportunities for skill development, and providing a clear roadmap for advancement. The knowledge that career progression is possible keeps burnout at bay.

Job security is equally vital in the burnout prevention toolkit. Agents need to feel confident that their positions are secure to reduce anxiety and stress. Emphasizing job stability and offering support during challenging times helps call centers establish a sense of security among their teams.

Other Tips to Prevent Call Center Agent Burnout

Preventing call center burnout among agents is crucial for maintaining their well-being and ensuring the long-term success of your team. While work-life balance and a supportive environment are important factors, there are additional strategies to prevent call center burnout:

  1. Establish Clear Expectations and Goals

    Setting clear expectations and goals for your call center agents can help them stay focused and motivated. Clearly communicate performance expectations, quality standards, and targets to ensure everyone understands what is expected of them. This clarity helps agents prioritize their tasks and work efficiently, reducing call center agent burnout.

    To deal with burnout, regularly check in with your agents to discuss their progress and offer support as needed. Providing constructive feedback and recognition for their achievements can boost their morale and motivation, reducing the risk of burnout.

  2. Offer Skills Development and Training Opportunities

    Investing in the professional development of your call center agents is beneficial in two ways. It enhances their skills and also demonstrates your commitment to their growth.

    Provide opportunities for training and skills development that align with their career aspirations. This can include workshops, webinars, or certifications related to customer service, communication skills, problem-solving, or technology.

    With the necessary knowledge to excel in their roles, agents are empowered to handle customer interactions more effectively. Continuous learning and growth opportunities also keep agents engaged and motivated, reducing the chances of burnout.

  3. Foster Team Collaboration and Support

    Encourage a collaborative work environment where agents can support and learn from one another. Facilitate regular team meetings, huddles, or brainstorming sessions to promote knowledge-sharing and collaboration. When agents feel part of a cohesive team, they are more likely to experience job satisfaction and motivation.

    Create channels or platforms for agents to deal with burnout alongside their peers. Implementing mentorship programs or buddy systems can provide additional support and guidance, especially for new or less experienced agents. Promoting a culture of teamwork and mutual support to deal with burnout also strengthens overall team performance.

  4. Recognize and Celebrate Achievements

    Regularly recognize and celebrate the achievements and milestones of your call center agents. Acknowledge their hard work, exceptional performance, and contributions to the team’s success. Publicly praise their efforts during team meetings, share positive customer feedback, or implement an employee recognition program.

    Recognizing and celebrating achievements boosts morale, enhances job satisfaction, and reinforces a sense of value and appreciation among agents. Feeling valued and recognized for their efforts helps agents stay motivated and engaged, minimizing the risk of burnout.

  5. Implement Flexibility and Autonomy

    Offering flexibility and autonomy in work arrangements can significantly contribute to preventing burnout. Consider providing options such as flexible working hours, remote work opportunities, or compressed workweeks, where feasible.

    This flexibility allows agents to deal with burnout and manage their personal commitments effectively, which can improve work-life balance.

    Additionally, empower agents by granting them some autonomy in decision-making and problem-solving within their roles. Providing them with a sense of ownership and control over their work cultivates self-motivation and reduces the risk of burnout.


Recognizing the signs of burnout in your call center agents is essential for maintaining a productive and healthy work environment. Taking note of the signs mentioned previously can help you prevent call center burnout and support your agents effectively.

Remember, investing in the well-being of your agents ultimately leads to improved customer satisfaction and a stronger, more resilient call center team.

Work in the outsourcing industry can be challenging to some people, and it is the contact centers and their clients joint responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of the people working on their programs. This includes supporting their self-care endeavors and initiating campaigns that promote better mental health.

As a multichannel outsourcing firm, Open Access BPO is home to multicultural teams across our global locations. We take this responsibility seriously, developing various health and employee engagement programs to help our teams manage stress and live healthy lifestyles.

Yes, this means successful, productive programs for our clients. More importantly, however, this means healthy, fulfilling work-lives for our people. Learn more about our employee engagement and health and wellness programs that empower our clients and their customers. Contact us today.

Chronic workplace burnout can lead to high employee attrition rates in call centers. What should customer support managers do to address this?

When you start noticing dips in your customer service team’s productivity levels, it’s easy to assume that it’s just because of laziness. When this happens, your first move would probably be to hold a meeting and reprimand your employees for poor performance.

This, however, won’t solve anything if the problem is much bigger and much more alarming than the occasional procrastination. If your consistently reliable call center employees suddenly start handing in unacceptable outputs, they may already be burned out.

Brands need to be extra observant to detect subtle changes in their team’s behavior. This way, they can manage their performance better, minimize employee attrition, and continue looking for effective ways to boost people’s morale.

Here are five signs that your customer service agents are burning out, along with some team management tips for handling them.

  1. Disengagement From Work

    frustrated call center with headache
    Employees who actively contribute to discussions, offer insights, and collaborate with their teammates are satisfied ones. When they start feeling too stressed, however, you may notice them talking less and less with their colleagues. They may even miss deadlines and let their pending tasks pile up

    In the call center sector, the cause may have something to do with too much routine work. As a solution, therefore, try to give your employees a variety of tasks. You may also offer leadership trainings for top-performing agents so you can evaluate them later for a management position.

  2. Increased Absences and Tardiness

    empty call center chair workstation with absent post it sign
    Absenteeism can negatively impact your company’s productivity, especially when most of your employees’ absences are unscheduledโ€”sick days, family emergencies, and others. Even your workforce scheduling may be affected, so you may end up not being able to accommodate all incoming transactions.

    If your agents’ frequent absences are suspicious, talk to them directly to uncover the root cause of the problem. Implementing employee engagement strategies, such as team building activities, can also encourage your call center staff to come to work regularly.

  3. Health Issues

    sick call center agent at work sneezing blowing nose
    We already know that stress can take a toll on us. For one thing, burned-out employees are more likely to experience impaired cognition. They may have difficulty finishing tasks or coming up with high-quality outputs.

    But aside from this, they may also be susceptible to infections and illnesses. To deal with this, call centers must actively promote a healthy lifestyle among their employees. You may conduct annual health exams, provide free gym memberships, and organize sports events.

  4. Poor Work Quality

    overwhelmed call center agent staring
    When employees are burning out, work quality is probably your number one concern. When it comes to customer experience, you must be able to deliver consistently high-quality services. When you’re having a hard time adhering to clients’ standards because of a disengaged workforce, you need to strengthen your employee engagement strategies. Happy agents are more capable of delighting customers and delivering a good performance.

  5. Interpersonal Problems

    call center agents screaming at each other
    One of the trickiest parts of call center team management is resolving internal conflicts. If your previously harmonious team starts having unhealthy disagreements, it may be a sign that they care less about their job and their colleagues. To prevent interpersonal issues from getting in the way of work, encourage your staff to communicate openly. Organizing group activities can also increase trust and friendship within the team.

Work in the outsourcing industry can be challenging to some people, and it is the contact centers and their clients’ joint responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of the people working on their programs. This includes supporting their self-care endeavors and initiating campaigns that promote better mental health.

As a multichannel outsourcing firm, Open Access BPO is home to multicultural teams across our global locations. We take this responsibility seriously, developing various health and employee engagement programs to help our teams manage stress and live healthy lifestyles.

Yes, this means successful, productive programs for our clients. More importantly, however, this means healthy, fulfilling work-lives for our people. Learn more about our employee engagement and health and wellness programs that empower our clients and their customers. Contact us today.


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Faith is a digital media enthusiast aiming to become an active part of the tech world by sharing her insights. She likes to blog about everything digimarketing, technology, and social media.
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