Reducing Stress for Improved Customer Service

“Stress should be a powerful driving force, not an obstacle”. – Bill Phillips

Anyone working in customer service will tell you, without hesitation, that their job probably tops those that are stressful by nature. Dealing with other people, especially those that have the ability (and right) to complain is comparable probably to all of the herculean tasks put together. As the day progresses for a customer service professional, reports indicate rise in anxiousness, irritability, inability to make decisions and even anger, all leading to lowered service levels. It is imperative, therefore, that companies put in place measures to reduce stress for improved customer service. Stress management training, managers capable of handling rough situations, adequate staffing levels, reasonable work hours interspersed with breaks, good compensation and benefits and a structured reward and recognition system are some of the ways that companies can help to reduce stress for their representatives. Calm and in control personnel would be better equipped to provide improved customer service and take the ‘daily grind’ in their stride.

In addition, if companies want improved customer service, they must ensure that at the time of hiring they recruit people with proven capability to manage stress and remain calm under pressure. Such individual characteristics are extremely critical for a person working in customer service – teaching these traits through training alone does not suffice. Rather they can be built through experience and a person must have the inherent qualities of calmness and helpfulness in order to cope with the demanding job of customer service. The other responsibility a company has towards improved customer service is providing a working environment that enables employees to feel safe, secure and taken care of. This would translate to job security, manageable workloads, clear direction and career paths, flexible working hours and clearly laid down expectations and goals. Reducing stress in the work environment would lead to happier representative who would provide improved customer service.

Customer service representatives also have a responsibility towards themselves for reducing stress such that they can provide improved customer service. When anger and irritation overwhelm, they take control and the person is unable to make sound decisions. In the case of customers, their annoyance is a result of something the company did to upset them and hence their anger is not directed to an individual but to the company. One of the critical aspects of improved customer service is for the representatives to allow customers to vent – irrespective of how frustrated and irate they may be. Of course, abusiveness must not be tolerated and the customer must be asked to refrain from it. Under no circumstance is it acceptable for a customer service person to retaliate or lose their cool. This is possibly one of the reasons that reducing stress is so crucial for customer service representatives.

For their own sanity, customer service representatives should receive coaching on how to remain detached and unaffected by angry customers. The fact is that customers are angry because of what the company may have done and hence taking their words personally will only serve to increase stress. In the endeavour towards improved customer service, representatives must focus only on the words of the customer to ascertain the reason for their ire. Most often customers have a valid and genuine reason to be highly irate. As a customer service representative the job is to focus on the complaint and find the best possible solutions.

It is in the best interest of a company and its service representatives to keep stress at bay. Customers want to feel valued and know that their needs and expectations will be met – however, when this does not happen, customers become disillusioned and would like to be heard. Improved customer service is about reducing stress for them by listening attentively to them and displaying empathy. Apologizing for their discomfort and offering quick and effective solutions to the problem would allow them to know that your company understands them and is willing to resolve the issue in whatever manner necessary. Such a feeling makes customers happy and they are more than willing to cooperate and accept solutions. Happy customers are a great way to reduce stress leading to improved customer service.

Customer service is a high-stress job and therefore it becomes imperative that the representatives remain energetic and refreshed. A company must ensure that there is adequate staff and manageable workloads such that each member is able to take regular breaks in order to unwind and regain their energy. Ensure that the service representatives have time to eat their meal, walk around or even step out of the building for a few minutes in order to relax. Research has proved that people who are able to unwind post a particularly stressful situation, are more productive post their break. Heightened stress and no time for release would over time, cause serious health problems along with lowered productivity and a dramatic fall in customer service.

Promoting cohesion and cooperation between team members and teams is a great way for reducing stress and works well for improved customer service. Helpful and cheerful co-workers act like stress busters, which in turn would enable each person to work to their optimum. When the people one works with are willing to pitch in, even the most stressful and irate customers become easily manageable. Spot recognition for positive behaviour would further encourage the representatives to help each other to deal calmly with highly-strung customers and or internal situations that may cause stress.

The fact is that workplace stress exists and can be debilitating for those unable to cope with it. Within the realm of customer service, stress is as certain as are customers and their issues and it would be best to acknowledge it. Companies have a responsibility to help their service representatives in any way possible to reduce stress since improved customer service is the only way to attract and keep customers. Without customers there would be no business – it is a circle. Some very large and successful companies can serve as a benchmark of how happy employees make for sustained and improved customer service – the customers of these companies are hugely loyal and highly profitable. Their employees always seem happy and ready to do whatever it takes to increase the success and profits of the company.

Many companies also encourage their service representatives in particular to make lifestyle changes. They help them to achieve a work-life balance by ensuring that they do not need to work from home or even stay in the office for long hours. They support them in personal endeavours – giving up smoking, reducing weight or any other personal problem that could be adding to their stress. The employees and service representatives in particular must receive adequate recognition of their efforts, be afforded time-off and vacations and have access to open and supportive communication with their managers and leaders.

Stress is present however it is each person’s responsibility within the company to work towards reducing stress. Happier employees are able to perform better and provide improved customer service to every customer that connects with their company through the service representatives. Banishing stress from work may not be possible – however reducing it is in each person’s control.

Learn about a new approach to better customer service!

Interactive Guides for Superior Customer Service

Create interactive decision trees for customer service management, cold call scripts or self-service. Improve sales performance metrics and customer delight across your call centers.

Interactive Decision Tree