3 Ideas to Help Customer Service Employees Work Through Burnout

Stressful day at work

The twentieth of May marks 16 years that I’ve been in business for myself, doing the things I’ve dreamt about, the things I love – training, writing, designing curriculum. I love where I am and what I do; yet recently I have experienced burnout.

Guilt was my first response to burnout. How dare I feel bored, disinterested and un-creative. So many people would be happy to be where I am; I should be grateful. I’m my own boss. A typical workday for me includes dining at a highly recommended local restaurant, perhaps a walking tour of a historic city in the south, shopping for shoes in Toronto’s fashion district or meeting beautiful spirited Native Americans in Milbank, South Dakota. All this is after a well-received training session or keynote.

I am grateful, actually, and yet, I was experiencing burnout. I wonder if your employees have ever been where I am just now emerging from – the brink of burnout. Maybe you, too, have felt unmotivated at work. I’ve addressed, really still addressing, my burnout by doing 3 things. These 3 things, I believe, can help your employees (or you), out of a rut when they feel burned out or simply un-motivated.

1. Don’t allow customer service employees to spend more than 80% of their time on the phones

Smiling Telephone Operator

Most contact center agents spend most all of their workday seated in front of their computers, headsets on, taking calls or waiting for calls. Can you imagine how draining this must be? Imagine spending your entire day in conference calls, escalated calls with customers and returning calls! Now imagine doing this every single day. Not a happy thought. Get your employees off of the phones and involved in other things no less than 20% of their workday.

Your employees could, for example, spend 10 – 20% of their workday working behind the scenes for customers – follow-up calls, research, responding to emails, etc. This time away from the phones would help your company deliver a better customer experience and it would take a lot of pressure off of your people. But there are other ways to get employees off of the phones for part of their day. Let employees attend meetings, perhaps in your place, from time to time. Maybe you train employees to handle social media inquiries and that way they can still do customer service work, just away from the phones. Are there projects that your employees can be a part of? Get creative and find ways to get your employees off of the phones at least 20% of their workday.

2. Encourage employees to take “replenishing” breaks

Afternoon on the patio.jpg

One of my clients allows employees to step away for 10-minute massages as often as they need – during breaks, lunch, after work. While I was delivering a training session here in Tulsa, I noticed a small group of men playing basketball outside of the training facility. The owner of the company told me the outdoor basketball court was put in to encourage physical fitness, but the friendly games are so much more than fitness. He explained, “Employees bond, have fun, and come back energized – or go home feeling accomplished. We encourage people to use the court anytime they like.”

A replenishing break doesn’t have to be a big deal like a massage or basketball. For me, it’s going to the patio with a book and a healthy snack. Encourage your employees to get out of the workspace for breaks, maybe even take in a little sunshine, walk to a coffee shop, or sit and read. It’s amazing what a few minutes of replenishment will do for an employee’s attitude.

3. Have employees identify what drains their energy

customer satisfaction survey

We all have aspects of our jobs that we love, or once loved, and then there are aspects of our work that drain our energy. If we can pinpoint energy drains and do less of those things, instead focusing on what gives us happiness, we’ll be more motivated. Ask your employees what tasks/interactions/situations drain them. Have them also talk about what they still love about their work. Is it possible to get your employees doing more of what they love? Are there draining tasks that can be improved upon?

When I managed a call center, nearly all of my employees hated the contact management system we used at the time. It was slow and functionality was far behind what we truly needed. I couldn’t change our software overnight, so here’s what I did. I created a task force of 4 customer service agents. I gave them the task of researching the best contact management systems. I guided them in doing research, reading reviews, testing products, speaking with customers of products to get honest feedback. The mere assignment of the task of looking into a new system was a genuine motivator. It took nearly a year before a decision was made and the budget allowed the purchase, but the motivation level kicked up right away. Even those not on the task force were motivated because they saw action being taken to remove a big energy drain in their job.

The Bottom Line:

Try to get your customer service employees off of the phone at least 20% of their day. Encourage breaks that fuel energy and identify what drains employees’ energy. When you do, you’ll keep burnout at bay.

Now you can get even more ideas for motivating employees, specifically how to motivate employees working in customer service. View or download for my high energy video, How to Motivate Customer Service Employees. It’s loaded with practical ideas to resist burnout and fire-up customer service employees.