Feel like customer service is getting the best of you? Now’s the time to step back, take a breath, and reflect on your strategy.
‘Customer service fatigue’ is something I’ve both experienced and observed in dozens of employees, and it’s downright dangerous for any business. Fatigue can occur for many reasons, some of which we’ll explore, but the result is always the same: demoralized, unproductive employees and a poor customer experience. At the front lines of communication, fatigued agents can become negative, provide terse replies, and ultimately affect retention and customer loyalty. Internally, this can also affect company culture, or even demoralize of the rest of your staff.
And to an extent, many business leaders are often unaware or feel ill-equipped to deal with this phenomenon in customer service, which is why we see higher turnover rates with customer service related positions. Call centers, for example, have one of the highest turnover rates of any industry.
Frankly, it’s no easy problem to fix. It takes time, dedication, and a real desire to want to build out a department that is often less glamorized than others. But, whether you’re a manager looking for ways to improve your department or an employee experiencing fatigue yourself, it can be done. It begins with a few best practices:
1. Set a Strong Foundation in Company Culture
A major element of preventing customer service fatigue is to make sure your team understands and adopts the company culture and mission. Reinforce them daily, reminding them of why they are not only working, but excelling at their job. Whether your company is connecting people to healthier food, faster internet, or providing health insurance, by making your employees feel that their work is contributing to a larger, compelling mission, you’ll insulate your business with one of the most powerful motivators of all: belief.
Ask yourself, What problem is your company solving? How are you communicating that to your team?
2. Provide variety, but derive value
Monotony is the Angel of Death. Seriously. At one point in my career, I was answering in the upwards of 300 customer service tickets each day, representing about 10 hours of time on the computer. I’d like to think I did a damn fine job while doing it, but one thing was for sure: after just a few weeks, the need to breakaway from customer requests to work on more creative projects was undeniable. Luckily, my independence allowed me to adjust my work schedule as needed. And while it took time away from communicating with customers, I ultimately returned to work refreshed and centered, making me more efficient with time and more diligent with customers.
Provide the same opportunity to your staff a few times a month. A smart manager realizes that each one of their agents has strengths in other areas besides customer service. Take the time to discover those skills and use them for your business. Maybe it’s creative writing, maybe it’s product testing and feedback. Whatever it is, by providing variety to your customer service team, you’ll enable yourself to realize more value from employees and make sure they avoid fatigue.
3. Agents are People Too. Treat them like it and be rewarded
It seems like a no brainer, but you might be surprised to learn how many executives consider their customer service agents “easily replaceable.” This type of thinking inherently devalues your perception of your employees, and if the employees knows you think this way, it will discourage them from performing at their best, increasing the likelihood of fatigue.
Here’s a quick example of this in action: Take a look at your customer service section of your office. How are they set up? Compare their setting to that of your creative department. What’s different?
Rather than tucking away your agents away and leaving them with bland desk space, like many companies do, bring them into your business and allow them make their space their own. It can be as simple as adding a unique plant to each desk. One of the best agent’s I’ve worked with performed best after he had a mini waterfall added to his desk, for example.
The point is this: don’t look at your agents only as instruments for retention and customer service. Instead, look at them as the most important person who maintains customer relationships. When you do this, even when the agent feels like they are burnt out, they will be more likely to want to push on because they trust that the rest of the team depends on them and that their work is appreciated.
Happy Agents = Happy Customers = Winning
Beyond maintaining productivity and morale, combating customer service fatigue will also provide the business with more value through your employees. Agents are a brilliant source of information, and I’ve found that only when you truly value your team does the full benefits of their individual energy reveal itself.