All jobs present their own stresses and difficulties.
Undoubtedly one of the most stressful jobs around is in customer service. In fact, customer service jobs are the third most stressful when compared to other occupational categories.
Although it’s ultimately a rewarding job, advisors deal with people from all walks of life and can often encounter difficult customers. Different sectors can pose different challenges; for example, advisors may experience more customer frustration in the energy sector than in the mobile phone industry.
Here, customer service expert Kura shares tips on how you can support your customer service team when things get stressful.
Allow your people to take a breather
Contact centres, or even in-house customer service departments, can operate at breakneck speed. Once an advisor has finished one call and written up their notes, they’re straight onto the next one. If they’ve dealt with an especially difficult customer on their last call, they don’t get much opportunity to recalibrate before their next call. This can lead to a dip in concentration and an increase in errors.
Allocating time to your advisors throughout the day to take short breaks can help them to de-stress after a difficult call. Designating a set amount of time, which can be taken in blocks throughout the day, can remove potential stress that employees might feel by taking unscheduled time away from their desks.
Designate a support contact
Sometimes, when dealing with a stressful situation, employees need to talk to someone. Whether for advice or to get the issue off their chest, having an outlet is an important way to relieve stress. Many customer service departments and contact centres will have escalation routes for customers who wish to take matters further, and the same should apply to your people.
It’s important for employees to feel like they can confide in their managers, so creating a culture of openness and honesty is important. Many businesses now have mental health first-aiders – a designated point of contact for employees who need emotional support. As of 2019, almost half a million people had trained as mental health first-aiders in the UK, with 160,000 of those training in 2019 alone.
Additionally, investing in an employee assistance programme is a great way to support your people. Julie McIntosh, Chief Cultural Officer at Kura, comments: “We made the decision to partner with PAM Assist to give our people confidential access to mental health professionals 24/7. Our people-focused culture means all managers and team leaders are equipped to support their team members, but we recognise that confidential support suits many people better. Having multiple options available means you can support all employees.”
Provide training on coping mechanisms
Some stressful situations are unavoidable in customer service. Giving your employees the tools and support they need to cope with it is essential. Different methods will work for different people, so it’s important to train your employees on a range of stress management techniques. This will allow them to implement the ones that work best for them.
Breathing exercises are proven to reduce in-the-moment stress, so running sessions on these techniques can help your employees to put them into practice. Supporting employees in managing their workload can also be helpful – workload issues were revealed to be the biggest cause of work-related anxiety, stress, and depression in a recent HSE analysis.
Eliminate as many stressors as you can
It’s impossible to eliminate all sources of stress from a workplace. But there are definitely some you can remove or at least improve. Understanding the biggest causes of anxiety for your employees will help you to address the most important areas first.
If your people are struggling with a mile-long call queue every day, you might be understaffed. If your business can’t afford to hire the right number of employees to plug those gaps, customer service outsourcing can help.
If employees are struggling to cope with difficult customers on the phone, switching them to digital channels like live chat, email, and Facebook can help to reduce their stress levels while still offering support to customers. Employees with dependents could benefit from flexible working hours that will allow them to carry out their care duties without the worry of it crossing into work time and vice versa.
Check in with your people often
Sometimes, a stressed employee is easy to spot. But others may mask their feelings. It’s important to check in with your people and their well-being regularly. Many people don’t feel comfortable approaching managers with personal matters but are more likely to open up when encouraged.
Julie comments further: “We make sure to hold weekly well-being check-ins with all our employees at Kura. We’ve had great feedback on this because people can address their concerns with their manager without having to raise the issues themselves.
“When carrying out well-being check-ins, it’s important to do it in a way that best suits each individual. Some prefer video calls because it’s a low-pressure environment to them, while others benefit from leaving the four walls of the office and heading to a coffee shop as it’s a less formal environment.”
Research has shown that customer service jobs are amongst the most stressful, but they’re also some of the most rewarding roles available. Being able to help others helps employees to feel happy and accomplished. But on the occasion when it gets stressful, it’s important that your employees know how to cope. Business leaders should be actively addressing actionable concerns, while your people need tools and support to be able to deal with the day-to-day stresses that can come with the job.