Telephone Customer Service Stress Management

Ways to Manage Stress and Burnout for Telephone Customer Service Representatives

 
Anyone who has worked in customer service knows that stress comes with the job. It might as well be part of the job description, but not all companies prepare their employees with ways to manage stress. Telephone customer service employees may have it the worst, because body language is no longer a factor, so the words and tone of voice that are used have to be very measured. Customers calling customer service typically have a problem that needs to be solved, and many times are unhappy about it before they are connected to a representative. A whitepaper from the National Institutes of Health posits that this “is stressful not only because of the inherent conflict, but because as soon as you’re done there’s another customer waiting.” After a particularly difficult interaction, a representative may not have the appropriate amount of time to recover before having to answer another potentially angry customer.

COVID-19 has only exacerbated what was an already stressful job, making it that much more important for customer service representatives to learn ways to manage stress

 

COVID-19 has only exacerbated what was an already stressful job, making it that much more important for customer service representatives to learn ways to manage stress. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, “In just two weeks, the average company in our study saw the percentage of calls scored as “difficult” more than double from a typical level of 10% to more than 20%. Issues related to the pandemic — from unexpected travel cancellations to appeals for bill payment extensions and disputes over insurance coverage — dramatically increased the level of customer emotion and anxiety in service calls, making a job that is hard for reps on a normal day far more challenging.” As you can imagine, these increased stress levels can very quickly lead to burnout among telephone customer service representatives. We can all agree these employees are stressed, but today we’ll discuss some ways to manage stress.
 
People attempt to manage stress in many different ways; some healthy, and some not so healthy. Some unhealthy responses to stress include negative self-criticism, nail-biting, becoming aggressive or violent, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, unhealthy eating habits (eating too much or too little), drinking too much coffee, withdrawing from those close to you, and drug use. Instead of turning to any of these negative responses to stress, try to find healthy ways to manage stress.
 

Healthy Stress Management Techniques:

 

  • Ignore personal attacks: Customers are often not rational when they are angry, and often take out that anger on the representative who is trying to assist them. It’s not personal, and realizing that their anger is not truly directed at you can help reduce stress.
  • Prepare yourself mentally: Know when you start your shift that you are entering into potentially stressful conversations. Be prepared for repeat issues that you deal with on a regular basis, and have solutions and specific responses ready. Prepare yourself to empathize with the customer, who, as mentioned above, is frustrated not by you personally, but by some aspect of the company you represent. Think of each call as an opportunity to improve someones day by solving their problem.
  • Prepare yourself physically: It’s common knowledge that getting enough sleep is one of the best ways to manage stress, but how important is it? According to the American Psychological Association, “Sleep is so crucial that even slight sleep deprivation or poor sleep can affect memory, judgment and mood,” and “adults who sleep fewer than eight hours a night report higher stress levels than those who sleep at least eight hours a night.” In addition to getting enough sleep, WebMD states that “a healthy diet can help counter the impact of stress by shoring up the immune system and lowering blood pressure.”
  • Keep a diary of things that make you happy: You can look back at past successes, things that made you smile or laugh, or positive things that are external to the stress of the current situation. Focusing on gratitude and thankfulness reduces stress.
  • Breathing techniques: According to Greatist, “Controlled breathing exercises can help keep your mind and body in shape, by helping to lower blood pressure, promote feelings of calm and relaxation, and relieve stress.”
  • Take a walk: Harvard Health shows that physical exercise is one of the most natural ways to manage stress. “The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.”

 

For more ways to manage stress, read our article on the Five Buckets Principle® of Stress Management. Care Plus Solutions is always there when you need us. Our wellness and work-life solutions can assist employers when it comes to managing the stress level of their workforce, along with many other benefits.

 

Care Plus Solutions is America’s first EAP and is headquartered in New York and has offices in New Jersey. Over the course of the company’s 46 year history, their brand has remained firmly rooted in the rich history of the EAP field, never losing sight of the fundamental purpose of the EAP; delivering personal and quality services to those in need. It is fair to say that Care Plus Solutions is the gold standard in the field of Employee Assistance.

 

Sources:
Dealing With Customer Service Stress. https://www.ors.od.nih.gov/sr/dohs/Documents/Dealing%20with%20Customer%20Service%20Stress.pdf
Supporting Customer Service Through the Coronavirus Crisis (2020). https://hbr.org/2020/04/supporting-customer-service-through-the-coronavirus-crisis
Stress and Sleep (2013). https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep
Foods That Help Tame Stress (2019). https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-diet-for-stress-management#:~:text=Stress%2DBusting%20Foods%3A%20How%20They%20Work&text=Other%20foods%20can%20cut%20levels,system%20and%20lowering%20blood%20pressure.
6 Breathing Exercises That Can Help You Relax in 10 Minutes or Less (2015). https://greatist.com/happiness/breathing-exercises-relax#Why-controlled-breathing?
Exercising to relax (2020). https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax

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