The primary factors contributing to customer support team burnout, and what you can do to alleviate these pressures to retain employees and promote positive workplace culture.
Your customer support team members are your agency’s quiet heroes.
They keep your customers around and bear the brunt of everyone else’s mistakes.
Research shows that customer support is psychologically taxing. People who provide a high level of emotional support to others can develop compassion fatigue. This can cause them to disengage, leading to anxiety and increased levels of fatigue, which significantly decreases their job performance.
It also affects your agency. Your customer support team is helping your agency thrive. They manage customer relationships so that billable employees can prioritize their billable projects.
When customer support agents leave, it costs your company money and time to onboard the next employees. Having fewer hands on deck can detract from your other employees’ billable hours and create staggering losses for your entire agency.
Here’s how you can stop your customer support team members from burning out and prevent their churning before it happens.
Problem: Multitasking overload
Your customer support team is the interface between your agency and your customers.
They spend their days on customer calls, adjusting pricing plans, emailing customers about their websites, and responding to customer service tickets.
When there are so many people to accommodate, it’s easy for your customer support team to feel that they’re spread too thin without ever really investing in one task or customer. Add in competing priorities, and you fragment your customer support team’s attention, leaving them feeling like they never have the satisfaction of completing a job.
While multitasking used to be a standard part of most job descriptions, research has discovered that it’s actually counterproductive to peak performance. A 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that 2-3 minute interruptions–even as simple as flipping between tabs or screens–doubled the number of errors participants made in an assigned task. The more people tried to do at once, the more they became distracted.
Other studies have found that multitasking doesn’t just make you more prone to errors, it creates mental blocks that make you anxious. The result is that the energy you expend as you multitask can reduce productivity by 40%.
Couple that mental strain with the demands of any customer service job, and you’ve created a recipe for stress, exhaustion, burnout, and high turnover.
Solution: Encourage monotasking
If your customer support team falls into the multitasking trap, encourage them to start monotasking–that is, producing their best work by focusing on one thing at a time.
Monotasking is easier said than done, especially when customer support teams are trying to manage multiple situations simultaneously. Here’s how you can help your team start monotasking:
- Let your team members specialize. Instead of having your entire team handle any problem that comes their way, allow certain team members to be responsible for specific customer queries. This will give your team more ownership over their work and make it easier for each team member to meet their customers’ needs.
- Keep separate to-do’s for each customer. Instead of keeping an overall to-do list, organizing separate ones for each customer will help to clearly track progress and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
Minimizing your customer support team’s interruptions means they can stay focused on tackling one task at a time–and funnel their energy into productive work instead of frustration.
Problem: Each day is too unpredictable
Your customer support team needs to have a good sense of their schedule each day. But that’s easier said than done, because part of the job description is to communicate with customers as soon as queries arise.
Maybe your star team member is super focused on her research for Customer A–meanwhile, she can see urgent messages from Customer B popping up in her inbox. When she spends all day navigating these competing demands, she feels less and less in control of her own day.
Effective time management is an issue facing many customer support teams–73% of support professionals at large call it their “greatest challenge at work.” The result is that day in and day out, your customer support team feels like their workload is out of their control.
Not knowing what’s in store each day can cause a lot of anxiety and exhaustion that builds up over time until your employees reach a tipping point when they can’t take it anymore and leave.
Solution: Schedule the unpredictable
Your employees will spend less time on the edge of their seats if they know what their day will look like–even if they don’t know exactly what they’ll be doing.
Here’s how to nip the “unpredictability” problem in the bud:
- Communicate early and often. The sooner that your team knows about product changes or shifting deadlines, the more they can plan ahead. A stable schedule makes it easier to deal with unpredictable changes that could veer their days off track, so don’t delay important conversations.
- Schedule time locks for each customer. This means setting aside time to get all your work done for a specific customer. This might mean designating time for adjusting customer payment plans, relaying messages back to your agency’s relevant team, making customer calls, or catching up on emails. It could look something like this:
- Motivate your team to track time using the time tracking feature in Teamwork Projects. Not only do those working billable hours find this tool helpful, but it can also help individual customer support agents figure out how long it takes to complete certain tasks. When people see exactly how they spend their time, they can spot patterns — like spending too much time helping one customer while others are waiting — and make more effective choices.
Problem: Customer support can be a thankless job
Your customer support team members are the middlemen communicating between your customers and your back-end team at all hours of the day. They know which customers are on track and who’s waiting on what, and they relay back all communication between your agency’s creatives and your customers.
Being on the receiving end of communication all day long and crafting the right responses to keep these relationships alive is hard work, but it’s likely overlooked.
Customer support can feel like a thankless job at times. A lack of appreciation can only go so far until your employees feel like their work isn’t valuable, and quit.
Solution: Support your support team
In the midst of a busy day, it’s easy to focus only on the tasks ahead of you. Taking a step back and making time for small gestures of appreciation can have a positive impact on many aspects of your business, including employee morale and productivity.
Hearing positive feedback at work satisfies a psychological need and is proven to be 5.6X more powerful than negative feedback. Thanking your customer support team–even once a day–can create stronger connections and loyalty.
Here are simple ways you can show your appreciation for your customer service team:
- Just say thank you. Employees can give their colleagues in customer support shout-outs in team and agency-wide meetings and in 1:1s. Additionally, customer support staff can support each other by calling out instances when they see their colleagues doing great work.
- All-hands support. Here at Teamwork.com, each team member, no matter what department they work in, spends one day every two months working in customer support. All-hands support is an excellent way for your whole company to gain firsthand insight into customer experience, while also reminding everyone how demanding the support job can be.
Prevent burnout once and for all
Customer support often means prioritizing client satisfaction, but this comes at a very high price if your own employees suffer. Giving your team members support with their schedules, permission to handle one job at a time and some much needed appreciation can go a long way to improving morale and curbing high turnover rates.