- The annual cost to Canadian companies due to stress-related disorders is $12 billion. Absenteeism due to stress has increased by over 300% since 1995. (Statistics Canada)
- 40% of job turnover is due to stress. (American Institute of Stress)
- Over 50% of lost work days are stress related which keeps about 1 million people per day from attending work. (Occupational Health & Safety/National Council on Compensation Injuries – USA)
Looking at the above statistics, I have to wonder “How many customers have been lost because of stress in the workplace? What is that financial implication?”
Stressed out leaders are not able to serve their employees to the best of their ability. They become impatient; their focus on task completion gets in the way of relationship development. Employees who do not feel well-served don’t provide the same level of service as employees who do feel well-served. Lack of training, unclear expectations, heavy workloads, demanding customers and negative co-workers are potential stress triggers. People who have not learned how to identify their own stress triggers and manage their stress response simply do not provide the same high level of service as people who have. Some people become impatient; others withdraw; others seem to become incapable of making any kind of decision and customer service suffers.
It doesn’t end there. Many stressed out employees bring their stress home with them. Their stress strains personal relationships, increasing stress outside of work which they then bring back to work. It’s an ugly cycle that needs to be addressed.
What can you do to reduce the stress levels at your workplace?
First, start with your own well-being. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not able to take care of anyone else either.
- Listen and respond to your own warning signs. Vowing to “plow on through” isn’t helpful. When you feel stress starting to build, pause and take a moment to assess the situation. Take a deep breath, go for a walk, close the door, anything that provides you an opportunity to remove yourself mentally and/or physically from the situation even if just for a few moments. That time will put you back in control of your response, as opposed to reacting instinctively.
- Ask yourself “What do I have control over in this situation?” Sometimes the only thing you have control over is your response. That is still control. Sometimes, when you really think about it, you have more control than you think. Is there something you can alter to make the situation less stressful now or in the future? Are you holding on to a task or an action out of habit, a false sense of duty or responsibility? Are there tasks and responsibilities you can delegate?
- Ask for help. Who is in your support network? Who can you go to for assistance, for guidance, for support? Go to them!
Learning how to manage your own stress response is important. The next step is to take a look around to see what you can do to help others. You can’t choose their stress response for them, but you can do your part to reduce stressful situations.
- Know how others respond to stress. If you know a co-worker’s response to stress is to panic, frustration and eventually anger, you will be able to identify the warning signs and offer assistance before stress levels get to the point where another co-worker or customer is the recipient of a snippy remark or comment.
- Take a look at their workload. Do they really have too much on their plate or do they need help with prioritizing and time management? If there is too much, can something be taken off and assigned to someone else? Perhaps they are taking too long to complete some tasks because of insufficient training. Helping them manage their workload helps you as well.
- Be clear about expectations. One cause of stress is unclear expectations. Does your team clearly understand what is expected of them? Are the expectations realistic? Discuss this with your team. Ask questions and ask for their ideas and suggestions. Listen carefully and closely to what they have to say.
- Have some fun. Knowing that fun and laughter is just around the corner makes stressful situations easier to manager. Look for ways to bring fun and laughter into your workplace.
Working in a customer service role can be stressful. Each customer comes to your business with their own unique set of expectations and some of those expectations can be difficult to manage. Customer service professionals are expected to be bright, to be cheerful, to be knowledgeable at all times and that is difficult to do when stressed out.
What are some other ways leaders can help their team manage stress?
“Customer Service from the Inside Out” is a series of workshops for leaders looking to create work environments where customer service flourishes and includes a session on stress management.