Impact of Employee Stress on Customers and Business

“There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.” – Jack Welch

We spoke about respecting the time of customers and making it easier for them to do business with your company, by affording them self-service options. For your own company and employees too such tools do have a beneficial and relaxing effect. Considering that an average employee would spend about 47 hours per week at their workplace, which is a substantial amount of time spent outside their homes and amongst relative strangers. This on its own is ample reason for stress and conflict, and there is enough evidence to prove the negative effects of employee stress on customers and business. If companies do not pay attention to the work environment and on the reasons that could cause stress among their workforce, they could be putting themselves right in the path of decline and destruction.

Employees content with several issues – ranging from boring and routine tasks, office gossip and politics, annoying co-workers, frenetic deadlines, difficult bosses, breakdown of office systems, and other such seemingly minor irritants. However, when seen in conjunction and the requirement to deal with them almost daily, the compounded effect could have disastrous results on the sanity, health, and morale of employees. Not just problems in the office, some employees could face personal, family, and health issues – and a lack of sensitivity to their issues could elevate their stress, directly affecting customers and business in a negative manner. Whether mandated by law or not, it would make good business sense to care for one’s employees and ensure their physical and mental well-being.

We know that employees are the backbone of any company and unless they work with happiness and to their full potential, it would be hard for a company to stay competitive. True, a company can replace unproductive employees – however, doing so often breaks connectivity between the company and its customers, causing damage to the business. It would be better for companies to realize the impact of employee stress on customers and business, and instead act appropriately to keep conflicts, unrealistic expectations, and stress at bay. Stressed employees have lowered productivity, tend to become ill more often, take an increasing number of days off, react negatively to their co-workers and customers. All these facts are corroborated by research – stats show that in US alone, nearly half of the total working days (approximately 550 million working days) are lost to absenteeism resulting from stress at the workplace. This in turn translates to losses of over $3.5million in annual costs for large companies – surely, this is not the way to make money!

Given these facts and figures, it would be critical for companies to understand the impact of employee stress on customers and their business, and do whatever they can to reduce stress levels for those people that are imperative for success. It is obvious, that employees, who feel stressed and uncared for, are unlikely to stay in a positive and good mood, which in turn would reflect in the way they interact with the company’s customers. When customers are treated poorly, it can spell doom for any company. There is far too much pressure on any company to succeed, competition is increasing with each passing day, and the market seems to be shrinking – in such a scenario, it would be self-defeating to have a workforce that is stressed, irritable, and has low productivity. It is therefore becoming increasingly urgent that the leaders and managers of companies are trained and properly equipped to not only manage stress, but also ‘read’ the early signs and proactively do away with the reasons that could elevate stress and conflicts.

For example – a normally attentive and placid worker may suddenly behave aggressively, become argumentative and quarrelsome. These obvious changes in behaviour are clear signs of underlying stress, and it would be beneficial for the manager to address the issues in private with the person. Not understanding or addressing the reasons for such dramatic changes, could lead to negative effects, which in turn could affect the business and bottom line of the company. Before trying to prevent the impact of employee stress on customers and the business, it would be necessary for employers to understand the causes. Most often, employees that believe they are being treated unfairly, or that the compensation they receive for their job is inadequate, especially if their job responsibilities may have changed and increased, are more inclined to feel annoyed and stressed. To make matters worse, some companies do not even have avenues / forums for employees to express their concerns. This can add to pent up feelings and lead employees to stress, which they would most likely vent through lowered productivity and impassionate and apathetic service to customers. Slovenly treatment to customers is a sure shot way to get customers to take their business elsewhere.

Another impact of employee stress is rude and abrasive behaviour with co-workers and other team members. With many people engaging in such behaviour, the whole environment becomes counter-productive, resulting in poor quality products and customer service. Employees end up doing the bare minimum in their jobs, are not inclined to contribute to the company’s growth, are unwilling to help their co-workers, and could either eventually leave or worse still stay on in the system and continue to have a negative effect on customers and business. Managing and understanding the impact of employee stress on customers and business should ideally be one of the top KPIs for any manager and leader. It should be their job to identify potential areas of conflict, recognize behaviours arising out of stress, and be confident enough to deal with every kind of conflict in order to manage and alleviate stress.

It is the duty of every company to ensure that each employee has a manageable workload, is suitably compensated, has a chance to receive reward or recognition for outstanding performance, help employees deal with change and personal issues, provide help to sort out conflict issues between co-workers, and other such responsibilities that would keep stress away. Keeping employees happy does not only benefit them, the company stands to gain a lot more through an energized and productive workforce, which also cares about its customers.

Every individual has a different threshold of pain and has a unique way of dealing with stress. It is imperative for a company to be able to identify whether its employees are experiencing stress, for what reasons, and whether they would be able to cope and overcome it on their own. We have mentioned in the past that in order to understand whether methods and practices are working, they must be monitored, tracked, and analysed. This holds true for the well-being and health of a company’s workforce. Unless a company is monitoring the behaviour of its employees, it would be tough to understand why employees behave a certain way or why there is a sudden dip in their positive attributes, which in turn would mean inability to tackle stress at the very start. There is no doubt that there is significant impact of employee stress on customers and business. Companies that choose to ignore this fact could face serious problems – both financially and in market reputation. It would be better to make a conscious effort to create a happy, congenial, and productive work environment, which in turn would affect employees in a positive manner, encouraging them to work for the success of the customers and the business.

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