On May 28, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified and classified ‘Burnout’ as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It further went on to classify burnouts under three dimensions:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
reduced professional efficacy.
Customer-facing jobs are tough. According to this report by Squelch, in a survey of 300 customer support professionals, 46% of them believed that their customers tend to take out their problems on the customer support reps. Further, 26% of them felt like they were always in fire-fighting situations.
Continually working under pressure and with a heavy workload eventually leads to stress and burnout. And consistently working through long hours can leave agents with little to no time for personal/professional development, making them feel unfulfilled.
Many of the stresses in a customer-facing environment are beyond anyone’s control because of the very nature of the job. However, there are some steps customer support leaders can take to alleviate some of these stresses and create a healthy environment to help their team thrive.
Let’s take a look at some of these strategies.
Strategies to prevent your customer service team from burning out
As a manager, you hold a lot of cards on how your customer support team feels at work. Small actions that you perform can go a long way in helping your team feel empowered and do their job better. Here are some strategies that you can take advantage of to help your team crush their bad days.
Understand your customers better
Take the time out to research your customer base. Create distinct personas based on specific traits and demographic information. Document the kind of usage patterns and customer support queries that come in from each type of persona.
An exercise like this will help you understand your customers better, understand their pain points, help you map out solutions to their problems, and give you a playbook to deal with them. Putting a structure to your customer responses can help reduce anxiety and thus curb burnout to an extent.
Create playbooks to deal with each persona based on your insights. Refine these playbooks over time based on real-time insights gathered from live customer interactions.
Make these playbooks searchable and available to your team members digitally so that the next time they have a difficult customer to deal with, they have a ready reckoner that tells them exactly what to do and what not to.
Further, this can also be an effective way to onboard new team members, allowing them to hit the ground running from day one.
Encourage regular breaks
As much as taking a break might seem like an unaffordable luxury in a demanding profession like customer service, it is a necessity. According to research by The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, small breaks or brief diversions can help you break the monotony, focus better, and come back replenished to do your job at hand better.
Most modern helpdesks even allow team members to take small breaks by letting them control their availability. For instance, with Hiver, agents can simply click on the toggle switch to change their status from online to offline and vice versa. In such situations, the helpdesk will route incoming queries to other agents available to serve customers.
Have regular, candid 1:1 meetings
Time is a precious commodity for most customer service professionals. You’re always fire-fighting or chasing down a hard deadline. Under such conditions, it is quite possible that your team won’t have the time to have 1:1 conversations with you to air their grievances.
And that’s why it is best to schedule time for these 1:1 meetings. These can be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly depending on your comfort level. But it is important to make sure that these are on the calendar and aren’t skipped unless, of course, there are some other pressing things to attend to.
While it’s good to keep these meetings simple and free-flowing, it might help to have a meeting template – a structure/set of questions to ask so as to make the most out of these meetings.
Here’s a simple template that you can use to have effective 1:1 meetings to allow your teammates to let go of their frustrations, understand their challenges, and come up with a plan to counter them.
Allow for a much higher level of team collaboration
Dealing with employee burnout individually can be daunting, but it becomes a little easier when your team works collaboratively. Customer service is quite like a team sport. Every individual might have their respective strengths and weaknesses, but when they come together, the whole department starts to work like a well-oiled machine. Response and resolution times go down, customer satisfaction scores go up, and as a result of this, their stresses get alleviated.
When your team collaborates, it makes collective knowledge available and makes the team a stronger entity.
Collaboration brings the team closer, helps build bonds, and eases up the working climate.
Hiver allows users to collaborate using built-in notes seamlessly. These notes have a chat-like functionality and can be found right beside the email threads. What’s more? Well, they are searchable as well.
Empower your team
Customer service due to its nature, can become a little tedious and repetitive. And this can lead to boredom and frustration among your reps.
One way to help your team break out of the monotony is to allow them to have a certain degree of freedom.
For instance, you can allow them to make modifications to their customer service scripts and bring in their unique flavor to problem-solving.
Give them a certain level of authority to make decisions that are right for the customers without consulting their superiors.
Small measures like these can help break the monotony associated with customer service and keep burnout at bay.
Support your customer service team
Customer service representatives are often at the receiving end of customer complaints. And that’s why they might feel like their job is a thankless one. This lack of appreciation might make them feel unvalued, leading to stress and eventually burnout.
Small gestures of appreciation from their managers can go a long way in helping them feel motivated to carry on with their jobs. Make sure to appreciate your team and tell them how they contribute to the organization’s larger goals.
Celebrate career milestones, help them chart their career paths, institute a rewards system and give them small but meaningful rewards in categories such as ‘Best team player,’ ‘most number of tickets resolved,’ ‘highest customer satisfaction,’ etc.
Try and get them access to the best in mental health. Having an on-call counselor on board whom employees can periodically talk with is an idea worth considering.
As managers, please keep the work-life balance
A large factor that contributes to burnout is work stress. Once you turn off your computer and head home, consider completely tuning out of work.
Remember that you set the tone for what your team does. So if your teammates see you maintaining a healthy work-life balance, they’ll follow suit, knowing that it is okay for them to do so as well.
If you’re distracted by your devices, consider using something like the new notification modes available on Apple devices with iOS 15, allowing you to separate notifications from apps under different profiles such as ‘Work,’ ‘Personal,’ and ‘Sleep.’
Upgrade your customer service tech stack
Today, the market is brimming with customer service tools. Depending on your needs and your budget, there is something for everyone. So do your research and pick the best tool in your budget.
Moving to a helpdesk like Hiver can help improve workplace productivity and efficiency significantly. It comes with all the features you need, but most importantly, it works right out of your favorite tool — Gmail. This means you don’t have to train your team members to use another tool, and they don’t need to switch screens constantly.
Keeping everything in one place can save your team a lot of time and thus reduce the pressure that comes with customer service.
When it comes to burnout in customer service, the biggest factor that can keep it at bay is creating the right work environment.
For managers, your voice and leadership can set the tone. Empower your employees, hold team-building activities, create a friendly atmosphere where your employees can speak up without the fear of being reprimanded, allow them to take time off, reward them, celebrate small wins, and get them the best technology that you can afford.
And finally, Most importantly, invest in long-term relationships with your team members, ones that go beyond mere transactional ones.