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Customer service is an extremely stressful career. You’re often speaking with people when they’re at their most frustrated or vulnerable — they have a question or issue that needs to be answered yesterday. And stress takes its toll on your everyday life, causing a multitude of issues — from difficulty concentrating to trouble sleeping to increased frustration or irritability. That not only affects our well-being and quality of life, it also affects how well we work with others.
According to the American Institute of Stress, 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress. And that costs businesses money — $300 billion yearly is lost as a result of workplace stress. Work-related stress can even result in $190 billion in healthcare costs annually. And all that stress often creates employee churn. The 2019 State of Employee Communication and Engagement Study by Dynamic Signal shows that 63% of workers seriously considered quitting their jobs as a result of workplace stress.
And times are even more complicated now. The complications of having to shift to working remotely — from your home due to COVID-19 safety measures — add to the regular day-to-day stress of customer service work. And you have to do this all while balancing changes in everyday life: homeschooling children, worrying about your friends and family, and staying healthy.
Decompressing and de-stressing is an important part of any job. It has become especially important now for customer experience agents, who often have to shoulder customers’ stress while remaining positive, helpful and empathetic. Here are a few ideas on how to unplug from your customer service job for a bit so you can feel refreshed, engaged and excited for the next workday.
1. Take a deep breath. Studies show that deep breathing techniques can help slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure, inevitably calming you down. Take a few minutes between calls to practice deep breathing. Sit up straight in your chair, close your eyes and breath in slowly for a four count. Then breath out slowly for a four count. Repeat, if you have time. Too noisy in your home? Try earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones to quiet things and just breathe.
2. Get away from your desk for short periods of time. It might be difficult to step away for a long, leisurely lunch break. Customer service calls come in rapidly and require you to respond quickly. But finding just 10 minutes each day to unplug and step away from your desk can make a big difference. Head outside into nature, stretch, do some yoga in the park, or simply open a window or step onto your balcony for some fresh air. Then, engage all your senses. Notice the colors around you, the smells, the sounds.
Small escapes like this can re-energize you so you can tackle a couple hours of customer service work. This also goes for lunch. Be sure to take a real lunch break; now is not the time to hunch over the screen while devouring a sandwich as fast as you can. Working lunches are necessary sometimes, but it’s important to maintain balance. Give yourself at least 10 minutes away to eat in a location separate from your work environment.
3. Listen to your favorite playlist. Nothing can put you in a better mood than your favorite song. You likely can’t listen to music while answering calls or responding to customer emails. But you can listen to a tune or two between each major task.
Load your favorite songs onto your phone or create a new Spotify playlist or two — go with songs that relax you, energize you or even make you dance. Taking 10 minutes to sing aloud or dance in your seat can help clear your head and de-stress before your next round of customer service tasks.
4. Keep a journal. The practice of positive thinking has actually been proven to change your mood for the better. At the beginning or end of each day, take a moment to write down a positive thought or success you had. And it doesn’t have to be work-related. Did your kids, spouse or partner do something to make you smile? Did the soup you made for lunch turn out perfectly?Make note of these things and refer back to them throughout the day. Also, take note of a time a colleague or your contact center manager helped you through a situation or where there to listen. Be sure to thank them for that — a thoughtful word can go a long way to alleviate someone else’s stress too.
5. Laugh. They say laughter is the best medicine. That’s not just a trite phrase — there’s actual science behind it. Experts agree that laughing with others can release endorphins in the brain and stimulates brain activity. Over the long term, laughter can even improve your immune system and could help alleviate pain. So now is a great time to simply call a friend or set up a weekly Zoom meeting to chat with coworkers. Share one funny thing that happened to you that week or keep that cheesy “dad joke” in the wings to give your friends a chuckle.
Stress is a part of everyday life. And customer service representatives, who are often the voice behind their brands, feel that stress more than other professions. And, in these times of uncertainty, feeling less anxious, more engaged and more satisfied in your everyday job frees you up emotionally to deal with some other things that life will throw at you.
Read the story of how customer service representative Caique Augusto da Mata from Bradesco Next went above and beyond to help his customer in this infographic. And then read up on how to engage your team to improve the customer experience at your company.
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