How to Stop Service Agent Burnout With These 5 Tips – Featuring Gabe Larsen

13 min read

In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen divulges five secrets on how to stop agent burnout. He goes into detail about why burnout absolutely needs to be prevented in the workplace and what leaders can do now to stop burnout before it happens. Tune in to the full podcast to learn more!

Burnout happens when employees experience prolonged workplace stress that never really gets resolved. The main reason why agents feel such immense burnout is because they lack support from their leaders and feel that process and money are valued above the people. Leaders, it’s up to you to prevent this! By doing these five simple tips and tricks, you can easily improve agent happiness and boost customer loyalty.

Step 1: Train and Educate

Imagine starting a job, such as being an engineer, with absolutely no training or experience. How in the world are you going to succeed? Although not the same job, CX agents undergo enormous stress in the workplace because customer satisfaction depends on them. Picking up the phone only to have an upset customer on the line is normal for a lot of these folks, so making sure that they have the proper tools and training is important to reduce their stress levels. Simply put, this advice applies to nearly everything: we need training and experience before we can successfully accomplish huge, daunting tasks.

Step 2: Show Gratitude

Remember how we said the main driver of agent stress is a lack of support from their leaders? Well, we weren’t kidding. According to a Gallup study, “Employees who feel supported by their managers are 70% less likely to experience burnout.” Showing support can come in many forms – perhaps recognizing good work when deserved or lightening the workload when the agents clearly look overwhelmed…to name a few. After all, happy agents make happy customers. It’s a widely known fact that the better the workplace environment and culture, the happier and more productive the agents will be, trickling down to a better customer experience.

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Step 3: Add Some Variety to the Mix

We all get bored of doing the same menial tasks day after day, which inevitably leads to burnout. When this happens we start to feel like our brains aren’t working at full speed and our interpersonal skills are left sitting around in limbo, withering away day after day. Leaders can add variety to the workload by assigning new tasks and being empathetic to any employees that voice their boredom with their overbearing and repetitive workload.

Step 4: Creating Career Paths

What a cool feeling, to walk out of the manager’s office with a new promotion and a raise! Agents are more likely to stick around when they have career-advancing, attainable goals they can work toward. Leaders would be wise to create these opportunities for employees pursuing a career with your company. I explain, “I think the nature of support agents’ role, as we said, can be tedious at times. So those that excel, they are able to develop a mastery of serving customers, but sometimes they fall victim to career stagnation and they’re not really recognized for their work.” By recognizing their hard work and offering a career-advancing reward, agents are sure to stick around.

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Step 5: Updating Agent Tools

Agents work hard to provide the best CX possible, don’t you think they deserve a supportive and easy tool that helps them with their work? Without updated tools like chatbots and AI that gather helpful info, these agents have to deal with tabs upon tabs and a multitude of data that all get mixed into one big mess. “Moving to a technology that fits their needs, makes them comfortable while delivering great customer service is extremely important.”

To learn more about how to stop agent burnout and enable an awesome employee experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Beat the Burnout Heat with These 5 Tips | Gabe Larsen

Intro Voice: (00:04)

You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:10)

Welcome to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast. You’ve got your host here, Gabe Larsen. Today we talk about five tips for CX leaders to combat burnout and enable happy agents. Look, support agents are often on the front line for businesses. That’s just the nature of the beast. Dealing with frustrated customers while working through repetitive tasks, it can be daunting. I mean, tasks pile up, it leaves agents with a backlog. In situations like this, the danger of burnout becomes pretty real. Now, research shows support agents often encounter stressful situations. In fact, there was a Cornell study that found that 87% of workers reported very high-stress levels in call centers. But employers, are they really doing enough to combat burnout as it manifests itself? One other study, it was Deloitte, I believe it was Deloitte, found that nearly 70% of respondents felt that their employer…it’s just not really doing enough to prevent burnout in the workplace..

Gabe Larsen: (01:23)

The top driver of burnout in the study was a lack of support or recognition from leadership. Man. That’s good for me to hear. You can always do more and this often needs to be individualized. You can’t always just do it as a blanket. Different people like to be recognized in different ways. So it is clear that we as leaders are responsible for setting the tone and establishing this culture, this workplace that allows our people to thrive. As managers of support teams, I do, I think it’s your responsibility to ensure that your team is feeling empowered and productive so they can deliver those best experiences possible for all of your customers. So I want to talk about real quick, some of the signs of burnout before I get into maybe a couple of tips and tricks. There was a, I think it was the World Health Organization.

Gabe Larsen: (02:34)

It talked about burnout being this idea of chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed can result in feelings of exhaustion, negativity, all focusing on one’s job. And truthfully, it ultimately leads to, I think, reduced productivity. There are signs, I think we get those, that potentially your team is burned out. Is the quality of their work slipping? Are they increasingly withdrawn maybe in meetings or how do they get negative, right? Pessimistic, combined with obviously a stressful environment. Each of these could be signs of burnout. So I compiled a quick list here of signs that managers should be looking for among team members to see burnout. One, I think is this productivity thing that I mentioned. You see KPIs being missed, you see performance dropping, right? The second one, to double click, is this anger, impatience, especially if they’re lashing out at fellow employees or they’re even taking frustrations out on customers.

Gabe Larsen: (03:49)

Another side, this one might be hard to pinpoint virtually, but sometimes there are physical symptoms of burnout. It could be fatigue or appetite, depression, anxiety. Getting a little harder to spot in our digital environment. But I think that can happen. And then one that I’d mentioned a little bit before, negativity. Pessimistic outlook, especially if they were normally pretty cheerful. I think this can be one. The last is probably absenteeism. This can be manifested through in making frequent calling in sick, not reporting to work at all. So you might see it clouded in some different ways, but ultimately I think it comes more in that category. So what do you do? How do you vent burnout? I don’t know if you can completely prevent it with a hundred percent accuracy. But again, leaders, I think you can reduce the risk. You can help.

Gabe Larsen: (04:54)

So what can you do? Well, here’s a couple of things we’ve been cooking on over here at Kustomer. One I think is training and education. Being underprepared for a situation at work, it contributes to stress. For support agents, this definitely rings, especially those that are new to the workplace or an organization, strong onboarding programs, they’re critical to the success of all the agents on our teams. I think it’s important to establish what the essential tools, foundational skillsets are for agents to be able to deliver that type of customer experience. Now it might be tempting. I think we’re all filling this a little bit more now, to cut investments in training. Training can be soft at times, but especially if budgets are tied. However, by doing that, we do, we inadvertently contribute to the stress and for a lot of members of our team, I’ve experienced that in my own way and in my own world, in addition to alleviating stress, professional development, it boosts engagement, loyalty, retention. There was a stat out there that said 92% of workers think formal workplace training positively impacts their level of engagement at work. And I would agree with them.

Gabe Larsen: (06:17)

The second thing I think you can think about doing is just that gratitude, showing support for your team members. Nearly all of the support agent actions are more or less monitored these days as part of their role, like talk time and handle time and sentiment, other metrics that allow leaders to optimize and refine the process. But sometimes this monitoring, it can contribute a little bit to employee stress. There was a Gallup study that said employees who feel supported by their managers are 70% less likely to experience burnout. Might seem obvious. I get it, but I think managers should be there for their team. Things like providing assistance with particularly challenging customers or thinking through solutions for long-term issues can go a long way. I think as managers, we got to know when to play coach, got to know when to play or sometimes you got to get your hands dirty, right? Get in there.

Gabe Larsen: (07:16)

Next one, providing a variety of work assignments. Mix it up a little bit. Giving your support agents this variety of different projects can take them away from that repetition that supports do and gets sometimes daunting or a little bit, maybe boring at times, but it can help alleviate some of that stress that comes with the role. I do think empathetic CX leaders may want to consider lightning the workload if team members express that they’re finding it to be unmanageable in a role where hitting numbers and reporting metrics is really emphasized. It’s always critical to remember that support agents are one of the key touchpoints to primarily interacting with your customers and keeping the agents refreshed and happy does ultimately lead to customers refreshed and happy. I think there’s also technology that can be leveraged here, like chatbots and automation to alleviate the burnout on your human agents. It’s integrating technology that uses AI to handle those basic, you want those basic queries done. You know, where’s my order? And stuff like that. Before we might be looping in human agents, it can reduce, it gets rid of the monotony and helps reduce potentially some of that stress.

Gabe Larsen: (08:35)

Number four on my list here is creating and communicating career paths. Yep. You heard it here. I think the nature of the support agents’ role, as we said, can be tedious at times. So those that excel, are able to develop a mastery of serving customers, but sometimes they fall victim to career stagnation and they’re not really recognized for their work. So offering advancement opportunities and clearly defining a career path to agents can make those team members feel like they just, got a north star, they’re working towards something. I do think on this point, make sure you recognize hard work with a salary that reflects their contribution to your organization. It’s a basic thing, but with the way the market is going, so much up and down, without proper compensation, employees might be left feeling a little underappreciated and burned out. And so do watch that one.

Gabe Larsen: (09:37)

Number five, last one here. Good tech stack. Look, they’re in it all day. The technology used by some teams can be annoying. It can be a pain point. It’s outdated. It’s annoying. Your tech stack might need to be refreshed if it inhibits agent collaboration or excludes important customer information alongside conversational data. Just, I got to go here. I got to go here. I got to have this tab. I got to have that tab, and all of a sudden it’s feeling like that Frankenstack that I always talk about. I think it’s important to listen to your team members if they believe they’re working in an antiquated or outdated tool, they’re the front line. Listen to them a little bit. Remember, at the end of the day, your customers will likely feel the negative effects if your team is feeling it as well. Now, look. There are a lot of options available that can make agents day to day lives much easier. Moving to a technology that fits their needs makes them comfortable while delivering great customer service is extremely important. So look in summary here, happy agents, happy customers. It’s cliche, but it’s true. It’s commonly accepted that providing customers with great personalized support is essential for brands to develop this loyalty, to get repeat purchases.

Gabe Larsen: (10:57)

Successful organizations will be those who also realize that the parallel between your internal employee experience and the experiences they have will in turn directly impact those of your customers. You want happy customers, then you’ll need to focus on your agent. They need to feel supported, productive, prepared to carry out all those responsibilities in their role. You’ve got to prevent burnout. It should be a priority focus for all of us to elevate our organizations among the sea of competitors that I think we’re all experiencing. So that’s my rant for today. Five tips for leaders to combat burnout and enable happy agents. With that, thanks to everybody for joining, and have a great day.

Exit Voice: (11:58)

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