The number of customer service representatives is growing year by year. Especially with the current pandemic situation, remote support customer services have become even more important than before. Despite growing demands for digital service channels such as Facebook, Whatsapp, and chatbot, over 50% of consumers still prefer to contact a customer support agent via phone calls, email or live chat.
Unfortunately, increasing requests for customer support have led to a higher percentage of employee burnouts. In fact, it is reported that more than two-thirds of 7500 full-time employees have experienced burnouts at work. Some indicators of burnouts at work include frequent absence, less motivation, and losing focus easily. Moreover, unhappy employees may eventually result in high turnover rates and a cost of turnover at $10,000 per agent if customer support managers don’t tackle this problem properly.
There’re a number of reasons for extreme stress amongst customer service representatives:
- Dealing with angry customers
- Insufficient training
- Insufficient resources
- Repetitive work
- Managing a high volume of calls
- Inadequate technology and equipment
- Continuous performance monitoring
- Lack of recognition
- Lack of support
- Unsuitable work environment
In addition, much research has shown that stress can have an immense impact on our physical body and mental health if not handled appropriately. As a matter of fact, customer service workers are reported to frequently feel physically and emotionally drained after an average day at work.
What’s more, burnouts at work can directly lead to poor work performance and mental illness. For example, 13% of employees feel less confident at work due to their high stress level and 33% of staff feel less engaged with their job. All of these factors would ultimately lead to more costly personnel expenses, lower work productivity, and poorer customer service quality.
With the pandemic and the overall advancement of technology, remote work seems to be the new normal and it’s here to stay for at least another year. Offering on-site and remote assistance to your customer support staff to release their stress at work has therefore become a vital matter for many organisations. Below are ten tips to effectively reduce stress for your customer support staff and boost customer satisfaction.
1. Deep breathing
You’ve probably heard this a lot, but that only means it actually works! Many customer support agents are experiencing heavy workloads every day. 51% of employees feel physically drained after an average day’s work. Especially under situations where customer service agents are faced with angry customers, it is even more essential to keep a calm tone and try to relieve the client’s anxiety as much as possible.
Whenever you feel like your emotion is getting out of control, take a long deep breath, hold it for four seconds and then exhale. Try to repeat this exercise 2-3 times on a daily basis. This technique is simple yet powerful. When you inhale and exhale, it helps soothe your nerves, release negative energy, and effectively reduce stress.
2. Don’t take it personally
One of the biggest traits of a customer support agent is the ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes. For IT support agents, their daily job mostly involves dealing with non-IT savvy customers.
One common situation could be where customers encounter a device or machine malfunction and need instructions to solve this problem. In this case, the biggest frustration could lie in the gap between verbal communication and exact operational tasks. If there’s no specific support software available, such as AR technology, it could cause serious misunderstanding and frustrations between the two parties.
We all know that frustration could make people say something they might regret later. After all, we’re all human. In most cases, customers’ complaints are directed at the product or the company, not to the support agent as an individual.
As a support agent under these circumstances, if you are able to think from a customer’s perspective and demonstrate more empathy by telling the customer that you understand his/her difficulties, you might actually help turn an angry customer into a happy one!
3. Seek support within workplace
Humans are by nature social animals that rely on collaboration to survive and thrive. It’s possible that many service agents are experiencing the same emotions and having a hard time processing them. Customer support managers can initiate a discussion by inviting team members to share their concerns and offer suggestions.
Customer service agents can also talk to their colleagues proactively and seek out advice from other agents. Finding support within your organisation on a regular basis can greatly reduce mental exhaustion caused by work stress. Managers can schedule non-work events that bring the team together, have a candid conversation about anything, give out feedback, and connect with the team on a personal level.
4. Exercise and sweat it out
Another brilliant way to remove stress is by exercising and keeping a balanced life. Sweat all your anger, frustrations, and anxieties out of your system! Exercise has long been a top recommended method to relieve stress because our brains release endorphins that trigger positive feelings in our bodies.
Some quick exercises you can try for your lunch break include a short stroll in the park. Some companies even introduce group yoga practices and gym membership, which employees can take great advantage of. For customer service managers, organising weekly team activities could be a good idea to build team engagement and increase employee happiness.
5. Avoid multitasking
Multitasking has become the new norm for the majority of customer support representatives, as they need to juggle various live chats simultaneously. However, working under such intensive conditions regularly could deteriorate an agent’s mental health. Statistically speaking, there’s a 40% productivity drop and 50% more errors made by multitasking within customer service jobs.
As a customer support agent, you can always prioritise high-impact tasks and ask your manager for support when necessary. Managers can reduce low-impact workload and remove obstacles such as distractions or limited resources to assist your team achieve tasks more efficiently.
Through constant collaboration and communication, both customer support managers and staff will be able to feel more productive rather than destructive in the long term.
Positivity always wins! Instead of feeling irritated and helpless about the situation, think of the difficulties you encounter as an opportunity to grow and evolve. When you see yourself as a problem solver, you also switch your attitude from passive to proactive. And by solving problems for your customers, you not only make their day, but also yours. Most importantly, you can always learn something new from every task, which is the very essence of self-development.
Alternatively, you can cut out inspirational quotes or write them on a post-it. Stick them on your desk. Then, whenever you feel stressed, look at the notes, and think about your happy place. Once you’ve trained your mind to always look on the bright side, stress won’t be a hindrance for you at work but a powerful support.
7. Keep a thank-you journal
Research has shown that demonstrating gratitude helps relieve stress. When you begin to feel stressed, take some time to write down a list of things you appreciate, especially things happening at work. Writing about your supportive colleagues or friendly customers can help you relate positive emotions with your job, which indirectly adjusts your perspective at your workplace.
Focus on the present and keep you five senses engaged. This is also an exercise to help you connect better with your inner peace and self-consciousness. By shifting your cognitive mindset, you learn to focus on more important tasks at work instead of negative emotions. It helps you stay productive and motivated in the long run.
For managers in the customer service department, giving out compliments on your team’s hard work or offering bonuses for excellent performances can also motivate staff to actively take charge in their jobs and reach their personal targets.
8. Praise yourself
Often we spend too much time sulking over things we’ve done wrong instead of focussing on things we’ve done right. Customer support agents need to handle countless complaints over phone calls and emails every day. It is particularly imperative for management to instill the culture of self-praise at work so every support representative knows when to recognise their efforts and feel good about themselves.
It would also be a good exercise for every customer support agent to take five minutes and write down three to five things that he/she thinks has excelled at that day and enjoy the moment of self-growth.
9. Listen to music
They said “Music is the only salvation.” And it might just be quite true. There’s nothing more soothing than listening to your favourite music when you’re feeling down or depressed. There have been many studies demonstrating the health benefits of listening to music.
Music helps lower blood sugar, reduce heart rate, and decrease anxiety. Put on your Spotify playlist during lunch break and clear your mind from the hectic morning. Get yourself mentally ready for the afternoon to boost your work productivity with more positivity and motivation.
10. Encourage stress management
The most critical way to tackle a problem is to openly acknowledge it in the first place. That being said, customer service agents or customer support managers should both take initiatives to encourage work stress discussion on a regular basis. As mentioned, lack of recognition and support are two of the reasons that are causing stress for customer service representatives.
Hence, managers can conduct career conversations, transparent team communications, and performance discussions to pinpoint your team member’s uncertainty and insecurity. Customer support agents, on the other hand, can share your concerns, ask questions, and clarify your goals to make sure your efforts are aligned with the team’s objective.
Another useful tip for managers to effectively reduce stress for customer support staff is to implement a training programme. The programme can include promoting healthy eating habits, relaxation exercises, or team-building activities. Help your staff to maintain a work-life balance to release stress and stimulate creativity.
There are many studies showing that employee happiness has a positive correlation with their performances at work. Based on research conducted by the University of Warwick, a 12% spike in productivity was observed among happy employees.
On the contrary, unhappy employees were observed to be 10% less productive. It is strongly believed that staff with higher satisfaction with the company are more likely to contribute and go an extra mile for their firm. That’s because employees recognise their company’s organisational culture and know that they are being valued. This positive thought will in turn reflect on higher employee productivity, customer loyalty, revenue profitability, and lower staff turnover rate.
Source: London School of Economics
Moreover, having a happy customer service representative is as important as having a happy customer. According to a study, UK businesses are reported to lose an astounding £37 billion every year on poor customer service. Based on other research, 73% of consumers are reported to select a company’s product based on friendly employees or customer service representatives. This is where one happy employee can make a big difference in terms of the organisations’ sales revenue.
Source: RightNow Technologies
In the coming years, with technology advancement and external factors such as the pandemic that we are now facing, there’s no doubt that customer service will face many challenges. These challenges include:
- Selecting the right tool to communicate and resolve customer requests
- Finding a balance between live chat and AI technology or chatbot integration
- CRM system integration with ecommerce
- Effectively managing your remote customer support team
Whatever the challenges are, the ultimate goal of providing exceptional customer service remains the same for all businesses. In order to maintain high service quality, companies cannot overlook the welfare of their customer support staff. And by introducing effective stress management tips for your staff, your business may benefit from:
- Stronger company culture recognition
- Higher employee retention and acquisition
- Better work productivity
- Lower labour costs and higher revenue
- More effective communications and fewer workplace conflicts
While it’s impossible to avoid the needs for mobile workforces and remote work in the nearer future, businesses can start empowering their customer support staff with a stronger mentality and more competency to deal with challenges at work today!