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Support Leaders Talk: Protecting Your Customer Service Team from Burnout

Customer service12 MIN READJul 25, 2022

Support Leaders Talk- Protecting Your Customer Service Team from Burnout

Burnout is something that 3 in every 4 people, at some point or the other, experience at work.  

When it goes unchecked, it can result in a loss of focus and productivity, a dip in morale, decreased participation, and absenteeism. 

Things that you don’t normally associate with a high-functioning support team. 

Furthermore, customer service just so happens to be one of those inherently stressful professions. Who knew a combination of having to regularly deal with unhappy customers and a never-ending queue of support tickets would be the perfect cocktail for burnout? 

So, with all this being said — what can you do to minimize the chances of burnout affecting your support team? 

That’s what we asked this all-star crew of support leaders. And here are their top tips for you to purr-tect your customer service team from getting overwhelmed. 

Set expectations early in your agent onboarding process 

welcome

It’s hard to succeed when you don’t know what the definition of success looks like.

A well-planned agent onboarding program is your opportunity to eliminate this ambiguity and help your team understand exactly what they’re trying to achieve with clear goals linked to specific support KPIs

CRAIG STOSS

You’ll also want to demonstrate how individual projects and tasks fit in with company-wide goals. This allows your agents to understand the larger impact of the work they do, improving both morale and team spirit. 

Once you’ve established targets to strive for, you’ll need to follow this up by creating a clear pathway to help agents achieve these goals. 

Give your agents all the context and information they need to feel more comfortable in their role. This includes going through the different: 

  • customer personas they’ll be dealing with.
  • ways in which your product is used.
  • scenarios they might encounter.
  • the software they’ll be using.

Equipping your support team with all the tools, information, and resources they need to succeed before throwing them in the deep end will reduce anxiety and significantly curb the chances of burnout plaguing your team in the future. 

Minimize monotony by creating variety in your team’s workload

Dealing with support tickets every single day can feel monotonous. 

Even more so when many of these tickets are repetitive questions that your agents have answered (and will have to continue to answer) multiple times. 

tv klaus

An easy starting point to mend this is by reducing the effort needed to resolve these repetitive questions. 

Creating and maintaining a robust knowledge base alone will significantly reduce the number of repetitive queries you receive. Some companies even report a 35% decrease in support tickets after implementing a knowledge base

That said, no matter how good your knowledge base, customers will still reach out to your agents with repetitive queries. Pre-made templates that are easy to personalize will allow your agents to respond to such questions in a quick and frictionless manner. 

Ethan Walfish

While dealing with support tickets is a core part of an agent’s job, make sure to mix it up with other projects as well. Ensure there’s dedicated time set aside to participate in different activities like team meetings, 1-to-1s, conversation reviews, and non-work social time. 

You can even consider experimenting with shifting schedules to different times/channels, have seasoned agents mentor new ones, or involve them in inter-department activities (like working with the marketing team on a content piece, for example) from time to time to keep things fresh. 

Don’t let meetings be depleting

When you’re racing against the clock trying to tackle a long queue of support tickets, every second counts. 

So you don’t want to be disrupting the flow of your agents’ busy work days with meetings that exist simply to tick a box. 

Now, don’t get us wrong. Team meetings are a great platform to discuss the changes, ideas, and challenges that affect your support team. 

But it’s essential that each of your customer service team meetings have a clear purpose and goal. Make it a practice to share the agenda in advance so that everyone is on the same page and knows exactly what you’re trying to achieve. 

Meetings might also be one of the few social interactions, not focused on solving a specific problem around customer interactions, you have as a unit. So use this time to gauge your team’s overall energy and motivation levels. 

Desiree Gregory

Ensure your meetings are scheduled at a time that works for your entire team. Avoid going over the time frame you’ve set (we recommend 45 minutes) or calling meetings for things that can just as easily be communicated via Slack.

Use conversation reviews as your base for coaching

Handling emotionally challenging conversations is unfortunately just part of the customer service package.  

However, with a systematic approach to coaching sessions, your support team can get better at handling difficult conversations with angry customers

Justina Valytė

Regular conversation reviews are the starting point of successful coaching sessions for a reason. Amongst other things, it gives you an easy way to keep track of your agents’ individual progress, helping you identify and prevent agent burnout before it becomes a problem. 

conversation review party

Once you narrow down on the conversations that your agents struggle with the most, you can bring it full circle by following it up with personalized feedback to struggling agents and changes to your training programs based on the patterns you notice. 

Help agents unlock their full potential with your 1-to-1s  

As the leader of your support team, you want to recognize signs of burnout in your team before it becomes too late.

One-to-one meetings with your support agents are the perfect opportunity to proactively identify these issues faced by your team. 

Benonica

This dedicated face time with individuals from your team will not only help you gain insight into how your agents are performing and progressing towards their goals but also helps you understand how they are coping with everything that is going on in their lives.

watercooler klaus

If done well, these conversations will keep your support team motivated, engaged, and productive. 

Here are some tips for your 1-to-1s with agents to minimize the chances of burnout:

  • Give agents plenty of space to talk and use lots of open-ended questions to keep the conversation flowing. 
  • Open up the agenda to agents so they can talk about the most important things to them at any given time. 
  • Take a lot of notes. You can not only quickly refer back to points in your next meeting with the team member but also identify similar topics or themes that come up over time and with different agents. 
  • Besides checking in on their motivation and job satisfaction levels, you’ll want to gauge how agents are meeting their long-term goals. Create customized growth plans tailored to your agents’ strengths to help them progress professionally.

Kimberly Powell

Trust your agents to make on-the-spot decisions

No support system can survive without a framework of rules. 

However, if they are too rigid, you risk agents feeling like they’re just sticking to scripts, leaving them unfulfilled. Balancing the fine line between helping customers and following policy can also be a cause of agent anxiety. 

Allowing your agents more decision-making power gives them a sense of ownership and belonging.  This not only results in higher productivity but ultimately a higher quality of service for your customers as well. 

Keep in mind, that this is a double-edged sword. While giving your agents more autonomy is great, make sure you’re not forcing them to spend all day making judgment calls, which in itself can be another significant cause of burnout. 

Chris Broughton

Invest in support software that your team enjoys using 

Using software that you don’t enjoy can be frustrating. When you’re forced to use it for all your daily responsibilities, it can be a major cause of stress. 

Difficult-to-use technology unnecessarily complicates the already complicated lives of your support reps. 

That’s why you need to ensure your agents actually enjoy the different software you’re using.  

Nouran Smogluk

You can do this by signing up for trials of different software to go through yourself and by also actively involving agents, who’ll be using the software the most, in the decision-making process.

maths

While far from an exhaustive list, here are some must-have features you’d want your customer service software to come with: 

  • Sufficient context about customers
  • Quick links to easily looking up information
  • The ability to personalize and add their own touch to responses
  • A way to efficiently automate repetitive tasks (with macros, canned responses, etc.)

The best customer service software has the potential to enhance the agent experience significantly. And more often than not, an improved agent experience translates to an improved customer experience. 

Recognize good work and let your agents feel the love 

We’ve highlighted it multiple times in this article alone, but it’s still worth saying again — Being on the front lines of customer service is a hard job!  

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that if your support agents feel like they don’t get the recognition they deserve, they’re bound to get demotivated. 

This includes both recognizing the excellent work they’re doing as well as times when they just need a break. 

Cheryl Spriggs

Whatever the case, it’s essential to constantly make your team feel appreciated and optimistic.

Here are some ideas you could consider trying to keep your support team’s morale high: 

  • Creating a shout-out channel on Slack where anyone can praise a coworker
  • Virtual coffees with rotating groups of team members during work hours
  • Putting together swag packages, written letters, or surprise gifts 
  • Audio-only meetings that encourage people to walk and talk
  • Encourage work-life balance with a flexible work schedule 
  • Group activities like trivia, online games, etc. 

Bridge the gap between product and support 

Another huge reason for burnout in support teams is a mismatch between product and customer service. 

Paul O'Brien

A product without the right support system around it often results in increased workloads and ultimately burnout. 

So it’s key to bridge the gap between product and support as much as possible. 

You want to ensure that both teams are always up-to-date with what the other has been working on. Set up clear processes for agents to share their customer insights at, most importantly but not limited to, roadmap prioritization meetings.

You should also examine if the tools you’re using allow for sufficient context sharing whenever a ticket is created so that unnecessary back-and-forths between support and product teams can be eliminated. 

While we’ve narrowed our product, the same principle holds true for other departments as well. 

Mo McKibbin

Also, make it a point to show off the good work your support team is doing to other departments and higher management to improve company-wide recognition of your support team. 

It’s time to burn out that burnout!

In some cases, burnout may be quite easy to identify. In others, it may be a silent killer that rears its ugly head only after a while.

Whatever the case, with your newly acquired fire extinguisher packed with tips, you’re putting yourself in the best position to show burnout the way out. 

A massive shoutout to all the ameowzing contributors of this article who were incredibly gracious with their time and inputs! 

Do you have a different tactic that’s worked well with your support team? Share your brain food with the cat crew over at our CX-focussed community, Quality Tribe

More in the series

Support Leaders Talk: Action Plan to Improve Customer Satisfaction

Support Leaders Talk: How To Define Customer Service Quality

Support Leaders Talk: 7 Customer Service Trends

Written by

Jay
Jayanth Padmakumar
Jay loves all things mindfulness, sports, and craft beer. Sometimes, he also writes.

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