5 Tips for CX Leaders to Combat Customer Service Agent Burnout

10 min read

Support agents are often on the frontlines for businesses, dealing with frustrated customers while working through a repetitive queue of work. Tasks can pile up, leaving agents with a daunting backlog. In a situation like this, the danger of burnout looms and can become a source of unhappiness for your team.

Research shows support agents often encounter stressful situations. In fact, a Cornell study found that 87% of workers reported high or very high-stress levels at call centers. But are employers doing enough to combat burnout before it manifests? A Deloitte study found that nearly 70% of respondents feel that their employer is not doing enough to prevent burnout in the workplace. The top driver of burnout in the study was a lack of support or recognition from leadership.

It’s clear that CX leaders are responsible for setting the tone and establishing a workplace that allows agents to thrive. As a manager of a support team, it’s your responsibility to ensure your team is feeling empowered and productive so you can deliver the best experience possible for your customers. It is important, and very crucial, that CX leaders and upper-level management create a safe and productive work environment to allow agents to feel as comfortable as possible. This will allow your agents to express when they experience burnout and ask for support and assistance in areas they may feel overwhelmed in before it is too late.

We’ve previously authored a blog on 7 self-care methods agents can practice to alleviate burnout for themselves as well as create a more productive and enriching workspace with a variety of tasks away from the support queue. In this blog, we’ll focus on how CX leaders can identify signs of burnout and five ways to combat it.

What Are the Signs of CX Burnout?

According to the World Health Organization, burnout is typically viewed as chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed and can result in feelings of exhaustion, feelings of negativity related to one’s job, and reduced productivity.

There are many signs members of your team might be burnt out. Is the quality of their work slipping? Are they increasingly withdrawn in meetings or seemingly pessimistic? Combined with a stressful work environment, each of these could be a potential sign of burnout.

We’ve compiled a list of burnout signs that managers should look for among their team members. If agents are beginning to display these signs, it is a cause for concern and indicates that an agent might need time away from work, among other things, as a form of self-care:

  • Reduced productivity, which can result in poor performance or missed KPIs. 
  • An increase in anger or impatience is a sure sign, especially if they’re lashing out at fellow employees or even taking frustrations out on customers.
  • Although hard to pinpoint virtually, the physical symptoms of burnout could include your agents suffering from fatigue, loss of appetite, depression or anxiety.
  • Negativity or a pessimistic outlook, especially from an agent who is normally cheerful, could be a sign of distress and also indicate that they need time off.
  • Absenteeism can manifest in ways like frequently calling in sick or not reporting to work at all.

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5 Tips to Combat CX Burnout Among Agents 

Preventing burnout completely is not within any one individual’s control, but CX leaders can reduce the risk significantly for their team by following the tips we’ve compiled. 

1. Offer Training & Education

Being underprepared for a situation at work can contribute to stress. For support agents this rings true, especially those that are new to the workforce or organization. Well-executed onboarding programs are critical to the success of all the agents on your team. Because support agents undergo rather high volumes of stress on a daily basis, you will need training and experience before your employees can successfully accomplish daunting tasks.It is extremely important to establish what the essential tools and foundational set of skills are for an agent to deliver a superior customer experience.

It might be tempting to cut investments in ongoing training if budgets are tight. However, by doing that, you are potentially inadvertently contributing to stress and burnout for the members of your team. In addition to alleviating stress, professional development also contributes to engagement, loyalty and retention since research indicates that 92% of workers think formal workplace training positively impacts their level of engagement at work.

2. Show Support for Your Team Members

Nearly all of a support agent’s actions are monitored as part of their role including talk time, average handle time (AHT), customer sentiment and other metrics that can allow CX leadership to optimize and refine processes. Such close monitoring can contribute to stress for employees. 

According to a Gallup study, employees who feel supported by their managers are 70% less likely to experience burnout. It might seem obvious, but good CX managers should be there for their team. Things like providing assistance with particularly challenging customers or thinking through solutions for longer-term issues can go a long way in helping their team members feel supported throughout the company. 

Be empathetic to your team’s concerns and set time to meet with them individually at a regular cadence. These meetings can occur weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly depending on the needs of the employee. Weekly or bi-weekly 1:1 meetings are crucial in the long run as they give both the agent and the CX leader insight or answers on tasks that could pop up throughout the week and leave little to no room for confusion. It is also critical for managers to ensure that these aren’t skipped, as they will provide an opportunity to show support to your team members and get a sense of any struggles they might be facing. They also provide an opportunity to brainstorm any solutions needed for a successful workload.

Showing your team members and other agents support could also include creating healthy work boundaries throughout the company. This could be as simple as having designated lunchtimes and breaks when agents are not taking any calls or working on any tasks. When employees do not have time away from the screen, it can feel like the company does not value their personal time and overall well-being. You can also maintain a healthy work-life balance by letting agents know that it is a preferred practice to leave work at work and not carry it over during paid time off, sick days or weekends. 

Promoting healthy lifestyles and creating incentives can help all-around employee wellness and prevent burnout. This can take many forms, but some examples include providing employees with incentives like discounted gym passes, reimbursing for athletic equipment, or access to mental health services and meditation apps (e.g. Calm, HeadSpace, Shine). Offering these incentives aligns with creating healthy lifestyles that can produce happier agents who feel rejuvenated when it is time to hop back online and deliver an exceptional customer experience.

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3. Provide a Variety of Work Assignments

Giving your support agents a variety of different projects that take them away from the repetition of the support queue can help alleviate some of the stress that comes with the role. 

Furthermore, empathetic CX leaders may want to consider lightening the workload if team members express that they are finding it to be unmanageable. In a role where hitting numbers and reporting metrics are heavily emphasized, it’s critical to remember that support agents are one of your customers’ primary touchpoints, and keeping them refreshed and happy is integral to providing an overall excellent customer experience. 

While having a variety of work assignments can help agents’ workloads from feeling redundant, sometimes too many tasks can be overwhelming. Offering to help out an agent that might be over capacity could help out team morale in the long run. It lets your team know that they are supported in moments when they might feel overwhelmed with their daily tasks. A supported team is typically one with better overall attitudes and a more positive outlook.

Also, consider leveraging technology like chatbots and automation to alleviate the burden on your human agents. Integrating technology that uses AI to handle basic queries before looping in a human agent can reduce these low-level, repetitive tasks, and allow agents to focus on building customer relationships and solving more challenging problems.

4. Create & Communicate Career Paths 

The nature of a support agent’s role is tedious by nature. Those that excel and are able to develop a mastery of serving customers may fall victim to career stagnation if not recognized for their work. Offering advancement opportunities and clearly defining a career path to agents can make your team members feel like they are valued and have something to work toward. Furthermore, consider providing employees access to professional development courses and certifications that they could apply on the job. Investing in your agents is simultaneously investing in your company and its success. If your agents feel confident about their skill set, they will be well suited to provide excellent customer support.

Compensating employees well for their time, skill and hard work is integral in combating burnout. Be sure to recognize their hard work with a salary that reflects their contributions to your organization. Without proper compensation, employees will be left feeling underappreciated, which can lead to burnout and potentially even resignation in the long term.

5. Invest in Your CX Tech Stack 

The technology used by some CX teams can be a pain point for support agents if it’s outdated. Your tech stack might need refreshing if it inhibits agent collaboration or excludes important customer information alongside conversation data. 

It is important to listen to your team members if they believe they are working with inadequate or outdated tools. Remember, at the end of the day, your customers will likely feel the negative side effects if your team is using inefficient technology. 

There are now many options available that can make agents’ day-to-day lives much easier. Moving to an omnichannel platform like Kustomer with a 360-degree view can dramatically improve workplace efficiency. Agents will have a real-time view into the conversations that occur on all the available channels, so they have context of the issue, without needing the customer to repeat any information. Furthermore, as mentioned above, automating your CX strategy with intelligent routing and chatbots can reduce call volume by cutting down on manual work and routing simpler problems away from agents.

Happy Agents = Happy Customers

It’s commonly accepted that providing customers with an elevated, personalized level of support is essential for brands to develop loyalty and earn repeat purchases. Successful organizations will be those that also realize the parallel between your internal employee experience and the experiences they, in turn, provide your customers. 

Want happy customers? Then you’ll need to ensure your agents are feeling supported, productive and prepared to carry out the responsibilities of their role. Preventing burnout should be a priority focus for any leader wanting to elevate their organization among a sea of competitors by delivering excellent support.

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