During my many years in the customer service industry, I’ve learned that what you see is not always what is. Now I know the last part of the preceding sentence may not be grammatically correct (I can hear my late mother saying “Where is the rest of the sentence boy?”) As a consumer, I sometimes encounter not so pleasant customer service personnel. Unlike a lot of consumers, I’ve had an “inside view” of one ingredient that can cause an employee to sometimes interact with customers in a not so customer friendly manner – stress. I know a lot of customer service managers may say there is never a reason or excuse to be rude or indifferent to a customer and I agree. In reality, I also know that employee stress can contribute to some unpleasant customer experiences. What is seen (or heard) is an employee that did not provide the best possible service to the customer. What is often unseen are internal company or personal issues that customer service personnel endure while attempting to provide a positive customer service experience. Let’s look at possible contributors to employee stress and how your customer is impacted.
1. Inadequate training – In order for employees to effectively deliver great customer service, they must receive the proper product/service knowledge training. When employees are ill-equipped to service the customer, a rise in the stress level for both the employee and the customer are sure to follow. In my opinion, most customer service personnel want to provide a great customer service experience. A comprehensive training program is necessary to insure they have the proper tools to do so. As an inadequately trained employee repeatedly encounters customers, a sense of frustration sets in which will eventually become evident to the customer via body language or voice inflections. Refrain from sabotaging employees by providing adequate training. Customer interactions are often longer than necessary when being serviced by an improperly trained employee. It’s important to remember that your customer’s time is valuable.
2. Unrealistic workload – This is one contributor that is often chalked up to both company growth and workforce reduction. When employees are overloaded for extended periods, the customer suffers via a hurried interaction, missed deadlines and multiple errors. This can mean the customer has to contact the company multiple times to get the proper service. If the interaction is face to face, oftentimes it’s necessary to get management involved in order to properly address the customer’s needs. The employee often gets an unfair performance review as the workload and performance standards are imbalanced. An employee’s stress level is sure to rise when he/she is held to an unrealistic performance standard. Once again the employee becomes frustrated when asked to perform for extended periods under these conditions and a service level decline is sure to follow. I’ve often witnessed tenured employees choose to take their skills elsewhere rather than enduring an imbalanced work environment. The customer suffers as a result due to now having to interact with less tenured employees.
3. Fear – Now this contributor has no place in an organization seeking to provide great customer service. Fear is a paralyzer. It usually takes form via threats in regards to meeting performance goals; an unwillingness to allow the employees to have a voice or retaliation when one voices opinions other than the message management wishes to be heard. Fearful employees are rarely at their best when servicing customers. Fear can cause one to not think clearly or exercise good problem solving skills. Organizational fear impacts your customer via the loss of employee brain power. The creation of a customer focused organization is highly improbable as fear tends to greatly reduce one’s creative abilities. An organization seeking to improve its customer service experience must first seek to totally eradicate this unhealthy stress contributor. A fear filled environment is not conducive to idea sharing and team building. Most employees chose not to remain in a fear driven organization. Stress from such an environment usually causes tenured personnel to voice their opinion by choosing to work elsewhere.
Unhealthy stress is not good for employees. Customers are eventually impacted when contributors to unhealthy stress go unaddressed. Check your organization for evidence of unhealthy stress contributors. The long-term success of your employees and your organization is at stake.