Supporting your support team

Matthew Brown

Your customers aren't the only ones who need support. Every one of your employees needs the ability to do their jobs well, and they rely on the company to make that happen. Without this support, employees can experience work-related stress that affects their performance, leads to more absenteeism and can cause agents to leave your business for another company.

"Absent employees cost businesses $150 billion annually."

How employee stress affects your business
We all know that workplace stress is bad, but it also directly affects your bottom line. Data compiled by Eastern Kentucky University found businesses pay $300 billion each year in health care costs and missed days resulting from workplace stress. Absenteeism costs businesses $150 billion annually, and healthcare costs for stressed employees are 46 percent higher than those for people who are more relaxed at work.

Workplace stress doesn't just cost money - it can also cost you your best employees. Sixty percent of workers said they'd prefer to choose a new career instead of staying in their current position with its level of stress. Meanwhile, 42 percent have already changed employers for this very reason.

How stress affects your customer support
As Time noted, persistent stress among doctors leads to employee burnout, resulting in unprofessional behavior, a greater likelihood of error, and decreasing customer satisfaction. The same is true of any profession, including customer support. Stress makes people angry, snappish, and forgetful - all negative qualities for agents. Businesses need to assist their support teams by helping them reduce stress, allowing them to work more effectively and maintain a positive attitude. To do so, they must:

Reduce and improve workloads
Eastern Kentucky University found workloads were the dominant cause of stress among employees. It's easy to imagine this being the case with support agents, especially if they are bombarded by simple queries over and over again.

To help agents with their workload, businesses should use ticket deflection and self-service support tools to reduce the number of incoming tickets, thereby keeping agent workloads to a minimum. Ticket deflection picks up on keywords in a customer's query as they type and suggests related wiki pages, FAQs, and other self-service support options. Customers find solutions on their own and agents are free to spend time addressing other questions that are generally more difficult. This solution can be especially valuable in the business-to-business (B2B) industry where access to information is important to keep operations running smoothly. In addition, customers can use support portals to check the status of their open tickets instead of contacting reps directly.

Reducing Employee Stress
Your agents need support to keep workplace stress to a minimum.

Provide the opportunity to learn new things
According to a Deloitte survey, millennials who believe their leaderships skills aren't being developed are more likely to leave a company. This trait isn't just limited to one generation, however. Everyone wants a job where they can learn new things and advance in their career. People feel overlooked when they don't get these opportunities, which leads to frustration and stress.

One way to support agent growth is to abandon the tiered structure for a more open, collaborative customer support environment. This allows employees to learn all aspects of support, not just the level they're confined to. In the case of agents, this includes letting more junior agents stay with a ticket as it is a passed on to a more senior agent so they can learn the correct answer to hopefully solve a similar problem in the future. Furthermore, providing access to live chat between agents, a central knowledge base and inter-office communication networks lets agents seek solutions on their own or collaborate with others for elusive answers.

"Employees need the right technology, software, and data to succeed."

Give them the tools they need
PeopleHR, a company that helps businesses get the best out of their Human Resources teams, explained that basic equipment isn't enough to help people do their jobs well. Employees need the right technology, software, and data to succeed.

In customer support terms, this means giving them robust software that can perform a variety of tasks and integrates well with other common business applications. Syncing information between marketing, sales, and customer support reduces redundant data entry and ensures everyone has access to the same information. Additionally, software that lets agents take and share notes gives everyone access to the same information in real time.

Agents working in the B2B sector also need customer support software that gives them a complete overview of their customers at the company level. Working in the B2B industry can be stressful due to advanced issues and multiple contacts per customer, so preparing your agents with as much information and as many tools as possible helps to reduce their level of stress.

Workplace stress leads to poor performance and frustrated customers. It also costs your business money through absenteeism and high turnover. Assisting your agents by providing the right customer support software, improving workloads, and allowing them to learn new things reduces stress and contributes to a happy and successful work environment. 

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