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How to Recognize, Reduce, and Repair Customer Service Burnout

Keeping Staff | December 7th, 2021

It’s normal to feel stressed at work as a result of a tight deadline, needy client, or grueling schedule. But this type of stress is typically short-lived. if you’re constantly under an excessive amount of stress, however, you could suffer from burnout. 

Burnout is described as a state of mental, physical, and/or emotional exhaustion caused by prolonged or repeated stress. Burnout involves more than just feeling tired. It can make you feel overwhelmed, helpless, and angry. It can also affect your motivation, productivity, and performance at work.

The effects of burnout can affect other aspects of your life, including your personal relationships with your loved ones. If left untreated, burnout can even put you at a greater risk of getting sick or developing diabetes, heart disease, and other serious conditions.

Sadly, many people who work in customer service experience burnout, which is why it’s so important to learn what you can do to protect your team. Here’s how to recognize, reduce, and repair customer service burnout:

Burned out employee

Why is customer service burnout so common?

There are a number of reasons why people who work in customer service are more likely to experience burnout, including:

  • They often talk to angry or upset customers. A customer service representative’s job is to help customers resolve their problems. This means that customer service representatives often deal with customers that are angry, frustrated, or upset about their issue. Being confronted with these negative emotions for hours every day can be emotionally draining and lead to burnout.
  • They are usually more empathetic than others. A good customer service representative must be able to show empathy to others. Being empathetic makes it easier to connect with customers. But it can also put representatives at a greater risk of burnout since they may end up taking on customers’ emotions throughout the day.
  • The work never ends. There is a seemingly endless stream of customer support requests to deal with, so customer service representatives may feel like they will never be able to catch up or finish their work. They may feel like they are constantly treading water just to stay afloat.
  • They may not be recognized for their hard work. Many companies greatly undervalue the contributions of their customer service team. Having their work go unnoticed can put them at a greater risk of burnout.
  • They may feel like they always need to be “on.” Customers can contact your company at all hours, so your customer service representatives may feel the need to always be “on.” This can lead to long hours, which puts them at a greater risk of suffering from burnout.

How to spot the signs of customer service burnout

There’s no way for you to help your customer service team recover from burnout if you don’t know how to spot the signs of it. Here are some of the signs of customer service burnout you should watch out for:

  • More errors than usual. If someone on your team is making more mistakes than they usually do, this could indicate that they feel overwhelmed and are struggling to manage their workload, which are signs of burnout.
  • Disengagement. Is a customer service representative skipping team-building events? Are they doodling in their notebook during meetings? If an employee starts to disengage, this could indicate they are suffering from burnout.
  • Decrease in productivity. Burnout can negatively impact motivation and energy levels, so if someone is suffering from burnout, their productivity may sharply decline.
  • Negativity. Is a customer service representative suddenly expressing a negative outlook on life? If you constantly hear them complaining when they are usually optimistic, this could be a sign of burnout.
  • Physical changes. Someone who is experiencing burnout may gain or lose weight, suffer from headaches, have bad posture, or look physically exhausted. 
  • Irritability. If a customer service representative suddenly starts lashing out at their co-workers or arguing with customers, it could be more than just a bad day. This could be a sign of burnout.
  • Loss of enjoyment. Someone with burnout may show up late in the morning and leave right when the clock hits 5 p.m. because they want to spend as little time as possible at work.

These are some of the many signs of customer service burnout. It’s important to note that every case of burnout is unique, so some people may suffer from all of the symptoms, whereas others may only experience a few.

Burned out customer service worker

How to prevent customer service burnout

There’s no way to completely eliminate the risk of customer service burnout. However, there are some steps that managers can take to reduce the risk of customer service burnout for their team. Here’s what to do:

  • Communicate openly and honestly with your team. Tell your team to come to you if they are starting to feel overwhelmed or exhausted as a result of their workload. They should feel safe communicating with you and should never feel as if they will suffer negative consequences for sharing their feelings.
  • Ask for feedback. Encourage your team to provide feedback on what’s working and what’s not. This ensures you stay in the loop about challenges your team is facing that could lead to burnout. It also makes it easier for you to identify ways to improve processes or working conditions that could benefit your team.
  • Provide adequate resources. Burnout often affects teams that aren’t provided with the resources they need to perform their job duties. To prevent burnout, make sure your team has all of the tools, training, and other resources they need to work efficiently. This may mean hiring additional help for your team if the volume of requests increases significantly.
  • Advocate for your team. Fight for your team to ensure they are compensated fairly and recognized for their hard work outside of the customer service department.
  • Be flexible. Letting your team work flexible hours or work from home if necessary can help them achieve a better work-life balance, which can reduce their risk of burnout.
  • Set realistic expectations. People who are under pressure to meet unrealistic expectations are at a greater risk of suffering from burnout. To protect your team, make sure the expectations you set for them are realistic and achievable.

Stressed lady

How to recover from customer service burnout

Even if you make an effort to prevent it, burnout can still affect your customer service team. If someone starts to exhibit the signs of burnout--or if they confide in you that they are suffering from it--it’s important to know what you can do to help. Follow these tips:

  • Provide relief right away. Find out what you can do to help. This may mean delegating some of their work to others, allowing them to take time off, or just letting them vent to you.
  • Figure out what caused it. Talk to your employee about why they have been under so much stress at work. Then, ask for their help in addressing the issues that caused their burnout.
  • Validate their feelings. Let them know you understand why they feel the way they do. 
  • Tell your employees to put themselves first. Productivity should never come at the expense of your employees’ wellbeing. Make sure they know that you truly want them to prioritize their own wellbeing. 

Burnout is a serious condition that could affect your entire customer service team. But by learning how to recognize, reduce, and repair burnout, you can protect your team from this state of exhaustion.