Contact centers have some of the highest employee turnover rates than any other industry. And is it any wonder? It’s no secret that working with the public can be stressful. Customer service agents witness the best and worst in people each day.
As a frontline customer support agent, your mandate is to provide excellent service in any given situation, but that can be tough when you’re repeatedly exposed to irate customers. Over time, these highly emotional interactions can cause serious customer service burnout.
Dealing with irritable, frustrated customers is part of the job, but how you handle these situations can be what separates you as a professional in your field. If you find ways to deal with stress and let emotive interactions simply roll off your back, your job as a customer service professional will become easier and more enjoyable.
Learning to recognize when stress is occurring is the first step in developing a coping strategy. If you feel yourself becoming upset, anxious, indecisive or unfocused while dealing with a problematic customer, it’s a sure sign your stress is rising. You can reduce your stress level significantly if you anticipate, plan and prepare for how you will deal with these situations.
There are verbal (or written) and non-verbal cues that can anger customers and further escalate the situation. When you’re dealing with a tense encounter avoid:
Remind yourself that you, not the customer, are in control of the situation. By using tactful responses, you can help reduce the customer’s frustration. Begin by letting the customer vent if they need to, and then use a positive spin on what could be interpreted as negative statements.
Negative: “That’s against company policy.”
Positive: “That’s not usually something we would do because… however, we can do this instead…”
Negative: “What you should have done is…”
Positive: “In case this happens again, it might help to…”
Negative: “I can’t,” “I won’t” or “We don’t.”
Positive: “Let me see what I can do.”
No matter how annoyed your customer is, try not to take anything personally. After all, the customer likely has a legitimate reason for being upset—even if their attitude is less than desirable. In customer support, your job is to see past their behaviour and find out what went wrong. See their complaint for what it is and focus on fixing it.
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No matter how skilled you are at dealing with the public, there are times when it’s hard not to let an emotionally charged situation get to you. By following the tips below, you will gain the fuel you need to better handle difficult customers and feel more centered throughout your day.
Stress can be made worse by immediately moving on to the next chat or call and not allowing yourself a moment to just breathe. If you’ve dealt with a particularly difficult person, take 20-seconds to regroup before getting back into customer service mode. Deep breathing is an excellent way to clear the mind and calm emotions quickly.
4×4 Deep Breathing:
To provide the best support possible to your customers, you need to refresh your mind and recharge your batteries. That means unplugging for a bit. Leave your desk, if permitted, and go for a brisk walk outside. Try listening to music in your car or having lunch at a nearby park. Whatever you choose, the change of scenery will do you good and help boost your mood through the rest of the day.
Consuming too many caffeinated beverages can make some people irritable and more susceptible to stress. How much is too much? That depends on your personal tolerance to caffeine. Dry mouth, shaky hands, jittery sensations and being confrontational are all signs that you many have had too much. Try opting for water, natural juice or decaffeinated beverages instead.
Try to deal with each customer as they come and don’t dwell on the last. Regardless of the outcome, remember that you are a professional and accept that you did your best. When you’re at home, make time for things you enjoy. Take up some fun hobbies outside of work so that you can relieve your mind of the day’s events.
If you have a hard time letting go of something negative, try writing down what’s bothering you. What do you wish had been done differently? How could you handle it better next time? If there are any necessary actions to be taken (such as bringing it up with your manager) write down what you want to say and how you will approach the situation. Coping with work stress is much easier once you’ve written down your worries. You will likely feel better and be able to move on with your day.
Countless studies have shown that laughing has an enormously positive effect on our ability to cope with stress. Try finding ways to add humour to your work environment. If permitted, hang funny photos, greeting cards or comic strips in your cubicle or office. At home, keep funny movies, books or albums on hand for when you need a good laugh. An evening out at a local comedy club or doing other fun activities with friends is also a great way to laugh and unwind.
Regular physical activity provides incredible benefits to our overall well-being. It relieves tension, anxiety, depression and anger, and creates those feel-good sensations that you need to re-balance your mind. If you’re capable of doing so, working out is an excellent way to blow off some steam at the end of the day.
Some stress-busting ideas that may help:
If you must work overtime, try not to overdo it. If you feel overworked, let your boss know so he/she can lighten your workload. If you haven’t taken a day off or had a vacation in a long while, book some time off. The time away from work is revitalizing and helps you appreciate it when you get back.
Most of your colleagues and supervisors have experienced similar situations and can likely offer some strategies to help you deal with it and let it go. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, try reaching out to others in your department and share your concerns. The camaraderie alone will help reduce stress.
It may be your job to provide support to others, but you need to be cared for too. And that starts with self-care. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy food and drinking plenty of water are essential to your health. These three simple elements are the most important when it comes to minimizing job-related stress and will provide you with the strength you need to overcome it when it occurs.