10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Burnout in Customer Support

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Each day for a customer support rep is a new start, and though the cases are different, the typical workflow remains mostly consistent from day to day.

However, support reps can go through some challenging periods of time -- the sales team popped out a bunch of fresh new customers at the end of the month who need some help, your company just launched a sparkly new product, new laws are passed and customers are worried about compliance, or maybe, everything is just broken.

On their own, these hills are typically easily-conquered by a stellar team, but sometimes, things pile up, and reps can find themselves working through a tough backlog. Crushing the existing tickets while continuing to take on new ones can wear down on stamina, and the danger of burnout becomes more of a worry than it usually can be.

As a support rep, or as a customer support manager, it's vital to keep yourself or your team fresh and bright-eyed, so you can deliver the best service possible throughout the day, the quarter, and your career in customer support as a whole. Burnout happens, and it's okay if it does.

But while you can make strategies to tackle burnout once you begin to feel it creeping in, it's best to set yourself up to prevent it in the first place. Here are 10 practices you can add to your daily routine that will help you beat back that burnout and continue to crush it for your customers and for your company.

10 Strategies for Avoiding Burnout in Customer Support

1. Know when to close the computer.

One of the great things about customer support is that, once you leave the office or walk away from your home office, you can turn your work brain off. While some cases may take some additional digging or some crisis work, know when to let a case mellow. If you're constantly in your cases, what you've tried and what you haven't will blur together, and you can increase the likelihood of missing something. Revisiting the case again the next morning with fresh eyes and a rested mind can do wonders -- and the customer can wait.

Odds are, they don't want to be thinking about their to-do list after hours, either. Additionally, remove email notifications from coming through on your phone and mute Slack during off hours. You won't be tempted to peek, and fewer notifications will help you feel less busy.

When you do set aside some time to get away, prepare before vacations by making it easy for a few team members watch your cases -- close what you can, make notes, delegate, and when you're off, be off. Don't be the rep who brings your laptop on vacation.

2. Chunk your day into manageable pieces.

Support days can be long, and thinking about hitting case quota for the day while looking at all your follow up from the day before can be daunting. Split your day into hour-long, or half-hour long sections and set small goals for each of them. Taking one case every half hour sounds a lot easier than taking 14 in seven hours. It also helps you pace yourself so you're not front-loading or back-loading your day.

When you plan your day out each morning, make sure to give yourself some follow up time that's not your lunch break. This allows you to power through those responses without worrying about anything new coming in. Whittling down your inbox can do wonders to your sanity, and will help you prioritize cases as new information rolls in.

3. Set a distant, but attainable goal for the future.

In addition to setting small daily or weekly goals, setting a professional goal for yourself is going to be paramount in any position you have, and it's no different in support.

Whether you're gunning for a position in Product after a year, or looking hit a certain yearly metric, make a plan and write it down. Setting your sights on something a little beyond your current role will help motivate you to get through the grind. It will also show motivation and company-mindedness, which look really good come the time to move up or make a lateral movement in a new department.

Not setting a goal like this can increase the likelihood of early burnout, because you're preoccupied with where you are now. It also helps you stay adaptable and aware of what's happening in your organization. It's extremely difficult to drive a car when staring at the hood, and work is the same.

Keep an eye on the horizon, and you'll be ready for any changes that come your way.

4. Take time to yourself, at work and at home.

Customer support requires a lot of mental and emotional presence throughout the day, especially on the phone. All that constant extroversion can wear you down, so make sure you take time to be quiet and be in a quiet environment. Giving yourself tiny breaks throughout the day can help you take a mental power nap, and help motivate you toward your next task. Go outside and take a lap around the block after a tough call with a customer, or stop by a friend's desk for a quick chat.

After a long day at work, unwind. Watch an episode of your favorite show while you wait for the oven to preheat, or read a good book before bed -- give yourself something mindless and fun.

5. Spend time with your coworkers off the clock.

Make an effort to get to know the people in your office, or at your company if you work remotely, and make plans to hang out outside of work. In customer support, your coworkers are your lifeline, and forming relationships with them that aren't just about cases will help you feel more grounded in the office, and help you get excited to come into work. Even the occasional gripe about a tough case over a beer is great way to share knowledge and get fresh perspective (on work and on life).

It also helps fill the need for face-to-face interaction in the workplace. Sometimes, it's easy to plug in your headphones and crank out email after email, but talking with another person in person will help you stay present and emotionally intelligent.

6. Fight off monotony by switching up your schedule.

If you can, work from home once a week, or just one morning a week to give yourself that extra hour of sleep you so desperately need and help you stay relaxed on calls. Switching up the environment like this will also help your workflow stay limber and efficient, and keep your week from getting boring.

That goes for off the clock too. Go to a new part of town, take a new route home, or read a new book. Even if it's just the bare minimum, it will trick your brain from thinking your day is going to be predictable, and will keep yourself wondering "what will happen next" during off hours instead of "what will the customer say next." If you need some help deciding what workflow structure works best for you, find out what motivates you first, and customize from there.

7. Take on side projects -- personal or professional.

Once you feel ready for additional responsibilities, take up a project you feel passionate about at the company. This will help you get your foot in the door to other departments, while adding a new, fresh element to your day that you get to control. Having something that you feel is personal to you, like planning an event, writing a blog post, or mentoring new team hires will help you feel a new sense of belonging and will help you step outside of your day-to-day.

Speaking of, working on something that's just for you can be a great way to stop your passions from atrophying. Work on that novel piece by piece, complete a puzzle, paint, or do whatever else makes you happy. And completing a good-sized project outside of work will help you feel well-rounded., too.

8. Take care of your mind and body.

The life of a customer support rep can get a bit stagnant due to a lot of desk work and sitting. This can be bad for your physical health, which can then affect how you feel mentally. Headaches, backaches, and lethargy are all big symptoms of desk jobs in general. Taking time to move and stretch will do wonders for your posture, which will keep that discomfort from creeping in. Try a standing desk, or maybe an exercise ball instead of a chair. There are even a few cool balance boards to use while you stand at your desk (if you're coordinated).

You can also hit the gym. We know, we know -- sometimes you're just too busy. Whether it be going to biweekly boxing classes with some friends from work, cutting your commute in half via a bike, or even just taking a walk, exercising keeps your mind sharp. It's also just a great way to blow off steam.

9. Reward yourself.

Whether it be budgeting a little out each month for a nice dinner, or a new shirt, or even letting yourself take a Friday off now and then, make sure you let yourself have little things that you can earn. Self-care isn't vanity or laziness, and denying yourself the little things over time can make you feel like you can't get a win.

This can also come in the forms of language. Telling yourself you're doing well, writing down things you thought you did well that day, and placing sticky notes by your desk will help you keep a positive mindset. You can even jot down a few of these motivational customer service quotes to keep you going throughout the day.

And if you do something you would compliment a teammate for doing, compliment yourself. Make sure you're always treating yourself with the same respect and positivity you bring to your teammates.

10. Keep a record of every piece of positive feedback you get.

Last, but certainly not least, keep your positive feedback. Make a "brag journal" where you can paste in your positive feedback from customers, coworkers, and managers. You can add personal feedback as well.

Make sure to take a look at it every once and a while to remind yourself that you can do this and have been doing this for some time now. It can also remind you that customers are people too, and they really do appreciate the work you do to help their business. You're literally helping their company be successful, which is very cool.

This is also a great thing to have on hand for moving up in the company, when discussing compensation, or for performance reviews. If you have it ready, you don't need to go digging through your cases for examples of when you did some killer work for your customers -- you can just put it right where you need it to go.

Whether it be all of these or one of these, make sure to start implementing early on. This will prevent burnout from coming in by setting you up with a rock-solid workflow that can stand the test of time. It'll also help you have some fun, too. But, if you do start feeling burnt out at work, talk about it! These things happen to everyone. Partner with your more senior teammates, or even your manager, right away to come up with a strategy that makes the most sense for you, and is best for your customer and your team. Don't worry -- you got this.

To learn more about developing your customer support career, check out these customer support resources.

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