Working with customers day in and day out is exhausting, especially so with customer service. The mantra that “the customer is always right” doesn’t hold much water when your workday includes an irrational (and yes, entitled) customer who demands the company break policy to appease their problematic, one-time purchase of an insignificant product.
Your customer service team is your first line of defense against problematic customer experiences. In an era when social customer service is as much proactive as responsive, customer agents have their plates full. The last thing we want is an overworked, exhausted agent becoming terse or negative when we know they can do better.
We want our customer service agents rested and fresh. Here are seven ways you can prevent customer service fatigue or burnout.
1. Promote your company’s culture.
Contextualize your company’s services as a broader mission to fulfill customers’ needs, whether by encouraging healthier lifestyles, making difficult tasks easier or adding humor to their day. Intangible motivators like these elevate the everyday office into something a little higher. Agents who feel they’re genuinely performing a service for customers (as opposed to a transactional relationship with their employer) sustain higher performance for longer.
2. Create a stimulating workplace.
You get what you put in. The archetypical customer service call center environment — rows of agents in headsets in front of laptops — will produce mundane customer experiences. Stimulate your employees’ creativity with a little feng shui. Reorganize the office; encourage agents to decorate their space with personal effects; put art on the walls and plants in the sunlight. Environmental factors like air temperature or noise impact employees’ performance.
3. Give agents the right software tools.
Companies that are serious about omnichannel strategies for the customer experience should invest in a helpdesk solution highly rated for its ticket management, reporting, and user experience. Ticket management improves the department’s workflow: it provides insight for department optimization by promoting the times of day most tickets arise, which channels, which issues, which languages and so forth — and the user experience ensures your agents will adopt it. A solution that augments their workflow goes a long way to mitigating the effects of fatigue after dealing with customers all day.
4. Encourage collaboration.
Some healthy competition doesn’t hurt, but agent performance is measured by more than number of cases resolved. Encourage agents to consult an experienced colleague, preferably within the helpdesk when the subject passes beyond their expertise. Customer service is a team sport: collaboration reduces ticket resolution time, improves the likelihood of a positive outcome, and disperses the stress of a difficult case. Not to mention that helping one another, and positive interactions in general, does wonders for the mood.
5. Reduce ticket volume.
Nothing helps an overworked agent by reducing their workload, right? Some helpdesks offer tools that allow your team to build resources that can reduce common cases for the whole department. Here’s what to look for:
• Customer self-service portal. Building a knowledge base of how-to articles, beginner’s guides, troubleshooting guides, and instructional videos encourages customers to help themselves before requesting aid. If some customers still contact agents with common cases, agents can link to these articles to speed up the resolution process. Certain helpdesks also allow internal knowledge bases for agents’ own reference. Zendesk offers plenty of features for customer self-service.
• Ticket routing rules. To ensure timely responses, most helpdesks incorporate round robin or rule-based ticket routing so agents are assigned cases based on availability, experience, or relationship to the customer or organization. This distributes workload evenly (and/or fairly) so agents are able to handle cases at a rate commensurate to their ability. Happyfox does this well.
• Community Forums. Businesses with an engaged customer base can build community forums with subforums dedicated to particular products or services. Customer service team members can moderate forums and subforums, ‘sticky’ specific posts for common issues or complaints for visibility or elevate certain posts into tickets. Customers helping one another further alleviates workload on your team. Kayako allows users to build community forums.
6. Train users in workflow management.
An issue facing any CRM-related business solution is low user adoption, which impairs the quality of data and often arises from poor onboarding and unfamiliarity with the interface or available tools. Here are common features that helpdesks offer to improve agents’ workflow:
• Canned responses. Many helpdesks offer canned responses (occasionally known by other names) that allow agents to respond to common service requests with a click rather than a prolonged response. While it’s recommended to personalize replies whenever possible, canned responses can still type out the bulk of a preformatted reply and save the agent considerable time. Desk.com lets users create canned responses.
• Macros. Macros — also known by other names, like Sequences — refer to a series of steps within the helpdesk that can be combined and automated to a single click. These entail helpdesk-specific actions, such as changing ticket properties (status, category, assignment), sending notifications, or creating tasks. This further reduces time spent on routine software tasks. Zoho Desk offers a fair amount of customization in their macros.
• Ticket escalation. Certain cases require managerial attention or someone outside the customer service department. While person-to-person collaboration helps improve the local atmosphere, high-volume case management often can’t afford agents to remove themselves from their console. Ticket escalation allows agents to notify relevant parties without leaving the console when a particular case requires additional research, help, or approval. Freshdesk offers considerable variability in their ticket escalation rules.
7. Encourage breaks.
Quality over quantity. Monotony will kill your agents’ motivation, focus, and workflow. Customer service departments can be more restricted in work hours (especially for businesses providing 24/7 availability), and we tire from constant, uninterrupted work. Granting agents flexibility and encouraging them to take periodic breaks improves their engagement and produces better ticket resolution outcomes. Or, simply show them pictures of cute animals. Optimally, do both.
A great part of preventing customer service burnout is by implementing environmental changes, management policies, and technology solutions. In short — be kind and work smarter. Technology exists to make our work easier. If you need a good helpdesk, check out a few vendors on our helpdesk comparison page.