What “Zoom Fatigue” can teach us about using video in the contact center

My significant other researches human behavior at work and she brought this study to my attention. She thought it would be very relevant to what I do. I want to summarize some key points and how they relate to the contact center, but first, I really wanted to title this post as “Why video will never kill the phone contact center star”, but that seemed too childish.

So what can Zoom Fatigue teach us about using video in the call center? Let me highlight a few key points from the article.

…in one-on-one meetings conducted over Zoom, coworkers and friends are maintaining an interpersonal distance reserved for loved ones.

Is your customer relationship what you would consider intimate? I can’t think of a single service or product where I would use that term, so the answer is more than likely no. Now, imagine having to handle customer video calls all day and feeling your personal space invaded. It would be exhausting for agents and off-putting for customers. Video calls should be reserved for customers with a long-standing relationship and limited to a few key agents who know the customer well. Additionally, considerations should be made around how many video calls an agent should handle in a short amount of time.

One of the remarkable aspects of early work on nonverbal synchrony (i.e., Kendon, 1970) is how nonverbal behavior is simultaneously effortless and incredibly complex. On Zoom, nonverbal behavior remains complex, but users need to work harder to send and receive signals.

Processing these extra nonverbal signals contributes to what my significant other and other researchers call “cognitive load” or the amount of information our brains can process at any given time. Video calls divert precious mental resources away from the task at hand, making it more likely your agents will make mistakes on complex tasks like financial services or billing. Traditional audio-only phone calls enable them to focus better while doing their work.

There is no data on the effects of viewing oneself for many hours per day. Given past work, it is likely that a constant “mirror” on Zoom causes self-evaluation and negative affect.

Self-view is very distracting for me, however that’s the only way for me to know if I’m in view or not as I use a standing desk. In addition to being distracting, this article argues that it is also stressful. If your agents are handling video calls, consider the ability to turn on and off self-view. Vendors should come up with a technology solution which notify the users when they are out of view without relying on the equivalent of looking in the mirror all day long.

…cultural norms are to stay centered within the camera’s view frustrum and to keep one’s face large enough for others to see. In essence users are stuck in a very small physical cone, and most of the time this equates to sitting down and staring straight ahead.

We first had handsets and they were terrible to hold and work at the same time. We then got wired headsets and life was better, but we needed to make sure not to get tangled or have someone kick them. We then moved on to wireless headsets and we got freedom! … only to have it taken away by video that creates a “lock in” effect. You can no longer just stand up and stretch. You can’t just run to the fax machine or to refill your water bottle. If your agents collaborate in a team to handle customer requests or handle calls which can be very lengthy avoid having them on camera.

~david

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