As an agent, you’re always caring for others. But it’s important to care for yourself, too. Customer support can be a selfless and unforgiving job, and if you forget to practice self-care, burnout will inevitably be on the horizon.
Whether it’s the holiday season rush or another busy period like a flash sale making resources tight, it’s even more important to take proper care of yourself in order to avoid burnout and deliver a superior support experience.
What Is Customer Service Burnout?
The World Health Organization defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It involves three main dimensions:
- Feelings of exhaustion.
- Feelings of negativity related to one’s job.
- Reduced productivity.
The current state of the world is not making things any easier for support agents, as 67% of workers believe burnout has worsened over the course of the pandemic. Not only is burnout tough on the agents experiencing it, but it also has consequences for their respective employer organizations as well. According to Gallup, employees experiencing burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6x as likely to be actively seeking a different job.
Burnout, in general, has negative consequences pertaining to employee productivity and retention, but for support agents, the stakes are even higher. Customer support jobs are stressful due to time pressures, complex problems and potentially frustrated customers.
Customer service burnout can happen more frequently than in other areas of work. Agents often have to deal with an immense amount of pressure in short time periods. Customers are usually calling to inquire about a pre-existing issue and may be upset going into the conversation, leading to a less than desirable tone from the caller. This sets the tone of the interaction from the beginning and it’s for the agent to turn the interaction around.
What Are the Common Causes of Burnout in Customer Service Agents?
There are a myriad of factors that can contribute to burnout among customer service agents and we’ve gathered some of the most common causes below.
- Frustrated Customers: Customer support means dealing with consumers directly and any problems they might have with a retailer. These interactions can often be encounters with individuals that are already angry and frustrated. Employees that exhibit signs of burnout can then take that frustration out on customers causing an all-around negative experience from both ends.
- Inefficient Technology: The agent’s job can be made more difficult if burdened by inefficient technology. Outdated tools and software can increase frustration for agents by making their tasks harder to accomplish. Poor technology can lead to handling queries more frustrating for both employees and customers.
- Repetitive Nature of Work: The queue for agents can seem endless. It is not uncommon for agents to perform the same tasks repeatedly, which can lead them to become unmotivated due to the repetitive nature of their daily tasks.
- Poor Workplace Culture: Customer support can oftentimes be undervalued in an organization. This can manifest itself in several ways, including agents being underpaid, under-resourced or removed from making strategic decisions. It is extremely important to have a positive and encouraging work environment in order to avoid high employee turnover. Promoting a healthy work-life balance as well as paying employees their worth including incentives and bonuses can help keep your team happy.
What Are the Warning Signs You Might Be Experiencing Burnout?
We’ve highlighted some of the most frequent warning signs of burnout among customer support agents below. If you are an agent and are experiencing any of the signs listed, it’s possible that you are becoming burnt out if you are not already.
- Absenteeism: If an agent starts missing work unannounced, it is a cause for concern. While planned absence is helpful for maintaining a good work-life balance, frequent unplanned absenteeism indicates an agent might need time away from work.
- Decrease in Energy: Exhaustion and physical fatigue are some of the most apparent signs of burnout. This can manifest itself in different ways. For example, an agent might be unusually quiet in meetings or lack the energy required for important calls.
- Lack of Participation: Look for agents who no longer participate in group activities like team competitions, offsite meetings or non-work social events. Stress and disengagement are frequently linked.
If any of the above sounds familiar to you or any agents on your team, it might be time to start practicing better self-care.
What Is Self-Care?
According to Everyday Health, self-care means “taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, you can be well, you can do your job, you can help and care for others, and you can do all the things you need to and want to accomplish in a day.” Anyone can practice self-care any time, any place by practicing things like meditation, exercising, and even journaling.
Self-care can vary from person to person and can come in many forms. This can include taking a day to yourself and doing absolutely nothing or ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant and laying down to watch your favorite movie. Self-care can be very critical for one’s well being and can even be linked to positive health outcomes like reduced stress, improved immune system, increased productivity and even higher self-esteem.
Think of it as the comprehensive approach to improving all aspects of your health. For support agents, it is crucial to maintain self-care as it enables you to provide superior support experiences for customers.
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7 Tips for Agent Self-Care
Below are our tips for agent self-care. If you find yourself struggling with any of the burnout warning signs mentioned above, try integrating some of the self-care strategies below to begin working toward a solution.
- Protect Your Time
Taking breaks throughout your day is a good way to recharge your batteries and refocus your mind. If permissible, try to take a five to ten minute break every hour. It’s important to take some time away from not just your work computer, but also from personal devices during these quick breaks. Scrolling through your social feeds may not be the most effective way to reset. More effective ways could involve taking a walk outside or making yourself an energizing snack.
- Ask For Help
This might seem obvious, but be sure to express your feelings of burnout to your manager. The more you can tell them what will help you, the better chance you have of receiving support. Consider asking your manager for time away from the support queue or a variety of tasks that are not already in your day-to-day responsibilities.
- Practice Relaxation Techniques
Breathing, relaxation, and mindfulness practices are proven to help with stress. While these might not be your sole long-term solution, they can be useful coping mechanisms. There are a range of meditation apps available for your smartphone that can help you get started.
- Create a Productive Workspace
Whether you work remotely from home or have returned to the physical office, having a workspace that fosters productivity is vital. A cluttered or messy desk could make you feel buried and overwhelmed. Not having a dedicated desk in your home office could lead to distractions if you find yourself working from the couch or bed. We recommend removing anything that does not contribute to a productive work environment.
Exercise is another way to reduce stress as it is proven to provide relief from mental exhaustion and help reset cognitive function. Self-care does not require Olympian displays of athleticism, but getting 30 minutes of aerobic exercise could make a difference. If you have the opportunity to break up your work day with some physical activity, it can contribute to your overall mental and physical wellness.
- Celebrate Milestones
The day-to-day responsibilities of a support agent involve constantly attending to the needs of other individuals. It is important to celebrate your own successes. Whenever you receive positive feedback from a customer you’ve helped, take the time to celebrate it.
- Upgrade Your Tools
While not entirely under the control of most agents, it is important to be vocal with your department leadership if you believe you are working with inadequate or outdated tools. There are now many options available that can make agents’ day-to-day lives much easier.
Moving to an omnichannel platform with a 360-degree view of the customer can dramatically improve workplace efficiency and productivity. 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, automating your CX strategy with intelligent automation and chatbots can reduce call volume by cutting down on manual work and routing simpler problems away from agents.
Want to learn how Kustomer can help you deliver a modern customer experience? Request a demo here.