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The great resignation has led to worker shortages across every industry, but especially customer service, where churn is historically common and creeping ever higher. This makes it more pressing now than ever before for brands to be conscious of customer service burnout.
[ Read more: Agent Churn – The Costs of Losing Agents and How To Stop It ]
Let’s look at what burnout is, why it’s on the rise for support agents, and how managers can proactively prevent or spot existing signs of customer service burnout.
What Is Employee Burnout?
Burnout is the feeling of exhaustion employees experience when they’ve been overworked. Ultimately, burnout can lead to a lack of productivity and churn.
Preventing and eliminating burnout is key to having fulfilled employees as well as continued customer experience success down the line.
The Realities of Customer Service Burnout
Burnout in customer service is common, which is why it’s such a churn-prone field. Career Explorer found in a survey that service reps ranked their position in the bottom 2% of all careers when it comes to happiness.
But what makes customer services such a hotbed for burnout? Largely, it’s due to the constant negativity agents have to shoulder from complaints coupled with the demand to constantly be “on.” This can be compounded by a workplace culture that doesn’t prioritize employee health. Orlando Health’s VP of customer experience Ken Kozielski puts it best:
“It’s the loss of engagement that happens when the job experience and the sense of purpose that brought them there are no longer aligned. It results in a loss of discretionary effort, customer empathy, and ultimately attrition.”
Customer Support Hero Resources to Empower Your Team
How to Prevent Employee Burnout
When employee burnout signs arise, managers can intercept them through open communication, boosted collaboration, and opportunities to explore other roles.
1. Open communication
By articulating the mental health tools and resources at your employees’ disposal, they should feel comfortable reaching out for help. At the same time, as a manager, you should also be able to identify symptoms of burnout, like anxiety, bursts of anger, or depression, that spill into the customer service environment and indicate when it’s your turn to step in and direct agents toward help.
2. Boosted collaboration
Break down the silos so your team actually feels like a team. This means enabling collaborative work processes through technology, team-building exercises, and even extracurricular events that help staff bond and create connections that make the workday less burnout-inducing and more productive.
3. Opportunities to explore other roles
Give your agents the ability to try out different roles and tasks that don’t typically fall under their job descriptions. This can take the form of shadowing other departments, spending flex time in new areas, or pursuing other creative ventures. Opening up these new possibilities provides employees with insight into how they can align themselves with future opportunities at your company.
How to Fix Employee Burnout
When customer service burnout does occur, here are the best ways to fix it:
1. Conduct regular pulse surveys
Before you can address your service team’s burnout, you need to be able to measure it. An employee burnout survey can help you identify the current rate of your team’s burnout, along with the root causes. You’ll also ensure your team members feel valued and heard by conducting regular pulse surveys and taking action on the results.
Collect feedback from your agents on their post-holiday stress levels, burnout rate, and overall peak season experience if you haven’t already. With this information, you can more accurately create short-term and long-term plans for addressing and combating burnout. It can also give you ideas on how to prep for the next holiday season so that you can be proactive in your burnout prevention efforts.
2. Alleviate pressure
Working in customer service is stressful as is, but even more so during times like the pre- and post-holiday rush when support query volumes spike. As the ticket queue increases, so do customer wait times — which will likely result in more frustrated customers and lower CSAT.
Deploying AI and automation capabilities can help you tackle this domino effect and reduce pressure on agents. While humans have a ticket capacity, AI does not. The right tool has autoscaling capabilities for hypergrowth, seasonal peaks, and daily fluctuations — creating elasticity when needed most. Whether it’s a typical busy workday or one of the busiest times of the year, AI and automation can help alleviate your support team’s stress without sacrificing the quality of service delivered.
3. Reduce repetition
It’s draining for humans to tend to the same task repeatedly, yet nearly 90% of an agent’s time is spent repeating the same answers to the same questions.
Imagine how much time and repetitive strain you could save your agents by reducing the number of return order tickets they have to tend to. While you can’t eliminate return requests (without angering a lot of customers), you can leverage tools like AI and automation to handle high volumes of routine issues.
With AI taking on mundane transactional tickets, human agents can put their time and energy towards solving more particular customer queries and providing meaningful experiences. Agents will feel more accomplished and less bored, and will be less susceptible to burnout when they are able to partake in more rewarding service interactions.
4. Offer direct support
Provide one-on-ones, regular management meet-ups, and other discussion opportunities to make sure employees feel heard and free to speak their minds about how they’re feeling. Even the atmosphere of trust and understanding can help alleviate burnout while providing boots-on-the-ground insight into how to make your workplace more suitable given the pressures of customer service.
As a brand like JOANN demonstrates, this approach creates what they’ve called a “happy place,” which spills over from a positive internal organization into a better customer culture, as well.
5. Give time off
In addition to personal and vacation days, recognize when employees need some extra space to cool off after a tough period. The taxing nature of service roles can impact performance, so encourage everyone to take advantage of time off or even implement short days, like summer Fridays. Remember, your agents are not just walking KPIs, and they need time to decompress.
6. Create a flexible work plan
Providing a flexible work plan can be a huge burden lift for employees. This can entail a hybrid work-from-home/in-office balance that best fits their needs, a reduction of hours to accommodate out-of-work responsibilities, or even a split between different departments as agents explore new roles within the company.
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Get Ahead of Burnout Now
Customer service burnout can snowball to multiple employees if it goes unaddressed. A Gallup study found that burned out employees cost companies an average of $3,400 for every $10,000 in salary due to lower productivity. These costs prove how important it is to invest in your support center workplace and empower agents to feel more confident in their day-to-day work.