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December 11, 2023 • Issue 23:12:01

Street SmartsSM

How to avoid customer service burnout

By Nick Cucci
Fluid Pay LLC

Most industries have times throughout the year when they experience an unusual spike in traffic for customer service teams. It might be surrounding the launch of a new product, or it could be linked to a specific timeline within an industry or widely celebrated holidays. At the end of the day, it can be really draining for those in customer service or who oversee customer service teams.

Customer service burnout can lead to lower performance levels and poor mental health for employees, which is why it is so important to navigate it correctly. So, you might ask, what is customer service burnout—and how can we avoid it? That's what this article is about.

What exactly is customer service burnout?

Customer service burnout is really just burnout that is specifically linked to customer service teams. Globally, three out of five employees experience burnout on the job (see tinyurl.com/4sz7keky).

For many teams, customer service burnout can be cyclical, happening at certain times of the year. However, it can impact teams any time they face higher levels of demand. In most cases, it gets worse in response to the tone of those needs—meaning a team responsible for navigating an influx of negative client calls is more likely to experience this form of burnout than one taking standard calls.

What does customer service burnout look like?

Every employee is different, and so is every team. Customer service burnout can influence everyone differently depending on the circumstances leading up to it and the resources available to the team. For some teams, customer service burnout might be mild and appear as general unrest or heightened frustration. For other teams, it can be a debilitating affair that impacts the morale of the team (see tinyurl.com/2az8r44k).

Common signs of customer service burnout include frustration, anxiety, depression-like symptoms, low team morale, feelings of helplessness, decreased output, more escalations and bad attitudes.

How to navigate customer service burnout

Burnout is a concern that we are learning more about each year, thanks to increased research in industrial psychology (see www.siop.org). The reality is that it can—and does—impact teams every single year, creating lasting discontent in the workplace. To effectively navigate customer service burnout, teams need the right tools and strategies, for example:

  • Be diligent about breaks: Customer service burnout is often a direct result of strenuous work. The work might be taking customer calls or processing complicated paperwork. It all comes down to the level of effort being put in, and that means breaks are crucial. Regular breaks can help teams rest and decompress, making it easier for them to get back to work comfortably (see tinyurl.com/253ye6pn).
  • Take a step back if necessary: A leading concern with customer service burnout is that it can lead to a person feeling on edge or even defeated following an unusually bad interaction. Unpleasant interactions are seen when customer service representatives navigate a higher number of customers, and they can be worsened when an employee is burned out. Encouraging staff to take a step back for even a few minutes when tensions are high can have a significant positive impact. Sometimes, we all need to pull back and compose ourselves.
  • Lean on team support: Teams are more powerful when they come together, and focusing on the team mentality can have a positive effect (see tinyurl.com/2bf6xs6t). When you remind a team that you are all in it together, the team members will automatically feel more supported. It feels less like they are against an impossible task and more like they are all navigating a big challenge as one unit.
  • Use dedicated strategies: Many recurring customer service burnout periods can be navigated by simply helping teams to improve. Creating dedicated guides for navigating common concerns and making sure that every staff member is empowered can make a huge difference. This simple change stops staff from feeling like they are winging it and helps them to feel like they are simply navigating a process, even if they are taking their 10th call on payment gateways. When they have the tools to succeed, they will feel less overwhelmed during interactions.
  • Embrace mindfulness practices:Mindfulness is a powerful tool that is becoming more popular in corporate circles, especially in industries that involve high levels of stress. Through short meditations and even stretching and yoga designed to be carried out at a desk, staff can press pause and reset, allowing them to feel rejuvenated. Changing a mindset can go a long way toward reducing burnout and offer a more positive experience for customers too!
  • Look out for each other: The true power of a team comes from solidarity, and teams that look out for each other tend to perform better. During moments when everything feels like a challenge, staff can do a lot for each other. Beyond simply remembering that everyone is working together, supportive discussions or bonding moments can help staff to blow off steam and feel supported too.
  • Celebrate each victory and positive moment: Although the lows can feel quite low when you are at elevated risk of experiencing customer service burnout, the highs can also feel quite high. After five bad calls or three botched support tickets, it is easy to focus exclusively on the bad—but this will really increase burnout levels. To combat the negative effects of those awkward calls and uncomfortable moments, encourage everyone to focus on the victories and the benefits that come with them.
  • Explore mental health support: At its core, burnout is a mental health condition, and that means it may require additional support. Mental health resources and professionals can do a lot when it comes to helping everyone to feel refreshed and ready to take on each new challenge. It is much easier to maintain and support good mental health than it is to recover it, so start early and keep it as a priority.

Push back against customer service burnout

Customer service representatives are the people responsible for connecting companies with their customers. That is an essential role. Unfortunately, a role this important can come with great challenges throughout the year. As long as teams focus on utilizing helpful resources and embracing best practices, they can feel ready to take on any challenge. With the right tools and support, high-traffic seasons can turn from dreadful to fun. end of article

Nicholas Cucci is the co-founder and COO of Fluid Pay LLC. Cucci is also a graduate of Benedictine University and a member of the Advisory Board and Anti-Fraud Technology Committee for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, as a CFE himself. Fluid Pay is the ONLY 100 percent cloud-based Level 1 PCI Payment Gateway processing transactions anywhere in the world. Contact Nick at Nick@FluidPay.com.

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