Agent burnout undermining customer service progress

Why it's the worst possible time for service staff burnout


New research reveals that it is a particularly dangerous time for agent burnout to be on the rise. 

25th Jan 2022

New research reveals that the link between business performance and customer service is stronger than ever – so it's a particularly perilous time for agent burnout to also start peaking. 

The 2022 global Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report surveyed customers, agents, customer service leaders, and business leaders from across 21 countries, with further data gathered from more than 97,500 Zendesk customers who participated in the company’s Benchmark programme

Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed (74%) reported a direct link between customer service and business performance, with over half (57%) estimating that customer service has a positive impact on business growth.

Sure enough, the report also reveals that more than two-thirds of consumers worldwide (70%) admit to making purchase decisions based on the quality of customer service they receive, with 90% of them saying they are willing to spend more with companies who personalise the customer service experience.

However, despite this growing connection, customers don't feel that companies are putting sufficient emphasis on service with almost half of customers (48%) feeling customer service is an afterthought for businesses.

Part of the problem may be the present state of the service workforce, with staff burnout a growing issue after the gruelling last two years.  During the lockdown, cases of abuse by customers directed at staff soared as anxiety and frustration boiled over into verbal - and even in some cases physical - attacks. 

The UK’s largest grocery chain Co-Op, for instance, reported 133 cases of abuse by customers in just one day during lockdown. The situation quickly got so bad that new research by USDAW found that one in six retail employees were suffering abuse on a daily basis. USDAW found that 61% of employees working in retail reported verbal abuse during the pandemic with a third threatened by customers, while The British Retail Consortium reported that threats to cough and spit at staff became a regular feature of being a key worker.

And there are other issues contributing to the unhappy state of service staff, with only 17% of UK agents are extremely satisfied with the quality of training they receive, according to Zendesk. 

These issues of dissatisfaction and burnout are supported by MaxContact – the UK's fastest growing contact centre tech specialists – whose findings reveal as follows:

  • 72% of customer-facing workers say they are burnt out or will be imminently.

  • 63% say their company thinks the end-customer experience is more important than their wellbeing.

  • 88% say their responsibilities have grown since the coronavirus crisis started, without pay rise or promotion.

Matthias Göhler, EMEA Chief Technology Officer at Zendesk stated that the Report shows that there are “clear gaps between expectations and actual delivery of service…customers are noticing this gap, and they're making purchase decisions based on the service they receive.”

While Göhler’s claims are irrefutable, it is clear that in order to address the imbalance and be able to provide better customer service, organisations and their leaders need to start by providing guidance and support to deal with the issue of agent burnout.

Providing a supportive, nurturing work environment for customer service agents is essential to enabling them to provide top class customer support. If organisations do not act quickly in protecting their employees against burnout, they will undoubtedly fall victim to ‘The Great Resignation’ trend predicted for 2022.

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