Customer Experience News & Trends

If you’re part of the customer experience, you’re stressed

The people helping customers are frazzled — and it could have a negative effect on the customer experience. Here’s how to curb the stress and improve the experience.

You might think that demanding customers and unrealistic deadlines are the top issues for service professionals who are on the forefront of the customer experience.

But “71% of (their) stress is caused by their inability to do a good job because they’re restrained by rules and policies and their technology capabilities,” said Mark Miller, senior director of contact center solutions at J.D. Power, when he spoke at the recent ICMI contact center conference.

They aren’t overwhelmed by what they do for customers. They’re stressed by what they can’t do for customers.

Rules, policies and limited technology will always be a part of helping customers. But if they’re the governing factors, employees will likely struggle with stress and won’t be able to consistently deliver positive customer experiences.

To help alleviate some of the stress-causing issues, try to:

1. Schedule more training

When front-line employees are well-informed and well-trained, they have more control over the outcome of each customer interaction. They know what’s good for customers and the company, and can make educated decisions on what to do to benefit both.

The most effective training programs for front-line employees are continuing and include knowledge and skills based on current company conditions, market changes, customer feedback and updated technology. Plus, they help employees improve softer skills such as empathy and rapport-building through role playing.

2. Set attainable goals

This goes for employee expectations and personal daily to-do lists. Pushing an individual team too hard drives up stress, not productivity.

When goals are set for front-line customer service professionals, both the manager and employee want to understand their strengths and limits. Review where they’ve excelled and fallen short. That helps to set goals that are tough, but reachable so they can challenge themselves while keeping stress at bay.

3. Set an example

Everyone is a little stressed. But studies show that even joking about how stressed we are makes us more stressed. So talking about being overwhelmed or stressed to customers is off-limits.

And while it’s OK to talk about demanding days, customers and commitments with each other, leaders and employees want to avoid getting in the mindset that they’re overly stressed, which can happen by talking it up too much. Spend more time focusing on something positive — like customer praise or reaching a personal goal

One caveat: Everyone needs to blow off steam from time to time. Encourage people to do it with a trusted friend or colleague and end the conversation on what they’ll do to improve the situation.

4. Stay in control

Not everything in a customer situation is in an employee’s control. When customer care professionals feel out of control, they tend to get stressed and the experience can go south.

That’s why it’s important for managers to train and remind front-line workers what they can control — timing, their emotions and reactions, follow-up and level of expertise. When they have those things under control, the things they can’t control — technical glitches, customers’ emotions — will feel less catastrophic.

5. Listen more, talk less

Problems and challenges throughout a customer experience will be less intimidating if employees fully understand them.

They want to ask customers to explain more when a problem is reported. Or ask the boss to give more details on what’s expected when there are new or changing assignments. From there, employees want to take notes, come up with a plan to get things done and even share their ideas with customers, colleagues or the boss before moving forward.

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