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How to avoid burning out at a customer support job

by Max Al Farakh · Nov 28 2016

As I said multiple times, customer support is a very stressful job. The best thing you can do for your productivity is to take care of your mental health. I believe this is the hardest part about the job and I struggle a lot with this.

I wanted to share a couple of tips in this post, which the Jitbit support team and I use to deal with frustration and to avoid burning out.

Accept that tickets will never be over

Some days, no matter how much you work, you won't be able to achieve the "inbox zero." You reply to one email and two new ones come in. This is frustrating and hard to deal with. You just feel helpless at moments like these.

The completionist in me tries really hard to reply to every ticket in the queue before the work day is over, but the best thing to do is to resist this urge. Having zero tickets in the inbox may be the best feeling in the world, but it shouldn't be your ultimate goal. The only thing you need to do is to provide the best possible support to your customers, even if it takes them a bit longer to get a reply from you.

You can only reply to so many tickets per day without sacrificing the quality. Stop chasing the elusive "inbox zero" and focus on the things that matter.

Transfer a difficult ticket to someone else

Dealing with a difficult customer? Don't know the answer to the ticket? First, remember not to take it personally. It's never about you. Second, if you can't deal with a ticket, it might be a good idea to transfer it to someone else.

Sometimes getting a fresh pair of eyes on an issue works wonders. When one of us gets stuck or frustrated with a support ticket, we ask someone else from the team to take over the ticket. It saves a lot of time for everyone and keeps you sane.

Take breaks

I feel like the biggest reason for burnouts is a constant feeling of being helpless and overwhelmed. Taking breaks goes hand in hand with accepting that your job is never over. No matter how hard you work, there will always be stuff left to do. What is the best thing to do when you start feeling overwhelmed? That's right -- take a break.

A great rule of thumb is a 5-minute break every 30 minutes. Try to take extended breaks every couple of hours. Check out the Pomodoro time management technique -- it works very well for me no matter what type of work I do.

Stop worrying about things that are out of your control

In customer support (and in life) many things are out of your control. For example, you can't fix bugs in your product yourself -- that's not your job. Is customer getting frustrated about the bug? Nudge your developers and move on. There is no point in stressing out about it -- you've already done what you could.

Every time you start worrying about something ask yourself if there is anything you can do to solve it. If there is nothing you can do, just take a break and move on to the next tickets.

Make it easy for yourself

The best way to keep yourself sane is... not answering any tickets at all. Invest in building your knowledge base -- think about what you can add to the help section after resolving each ticket. This is especially useful if your helpdesk software suggests articles from the knowledge base while users are writing tickets (Jitbit does wink-wink). So in many cases, customers will get their answer before submitting a ticket.

Another ticketing system software feature you may want to look into is "canned responses." You can save frequent answers to canned responses to save you some time typing the same thing over and over again. For example, we have a canned response about not providing phone support and our reasoning behind it. We get asked about phone support a lot and we can reply with a couple of clicks.

To recap, here are my tips for dealing with frustration and avoiding burning out:

  1. Support tickets will never end. There will always be more stuff to do. Accept it and stop chasing the "inbox zero."
  2. Ask for help from your colleagues. Transfer difficult tickets to them.
  3. Take frequent breaks and manage your time.
  4. Do what you can and stop worrying about things you cannot do.
  5. Utilize your help desk software properly. Knowledge base and Canned Responses are your best investment.