How to Support Customer Service Agents in Times of Stress


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Working in customer service is one of the most stressful jobs you can have, so it’s no wonder that so many customer service agents eventually have to deal with burnout. How can you support your customer service team in these times of heightened stress? How can you decrease employee turnover while simultaneously boosting performance?

Provide Helpful Resources

First, make sure you provide helpful resources that can help your customer service agents experience less stress and more effectively manage the stress they do feel.

These are some of your best options:

  • Stress awareness and coping strategies. Circulate reading materials, helpful articles, and other resources that promote stress awareness and healthy coping strategies. What is stress? When do people feel stressed? What are the most important effects of stress to acknowledge? And what can employees do to control or manage their stress when they experience it in the moment?
  • Health benefits. If possible, you can offer health benefits to your employees that can subsidize the cost of therapy and other forms of mental health help. If you do this, make sure it’s relatively easy for your employees to take advantage of this plan. For example, if you offer Cigna healthcare, you can help your employees find a Cigna therapist when they need one to help manage their stress.
  • HR reps. Make sure you have HR representatives available to patiently listen to employee grievances, handle formal complaints, and resolve interpersonal disputes. If employees feel comfortable talking to HR, they’ll have a consistent outlet for relieving some of their stress.
  • Breakrooms and recreation. It’s also important to create a workplace environment that provides plenty of opportunities for breaks, relaxation, and destressing. Creating and furnishing a breakroom is a great place to start.

Offer Flexibility

Most jobs instantly become less stressful when they offer more flexibility. If your employees have more freedom and autonomy in their positions, they’ll have an easier time managing whatever stress they experience. As a simple example, you could give employees the freedom to set their own schedules or work remotely, so they can work at a time and in a place conducive to lower stress.

Encourage Breaks and Time Off

Everyone needs time off at least occasionally, but many employers discourage breaks and vacations, encouraging their employees to push themselves to their limits. It’s usually better if you actively encourage employees to take frequent breaks, take occasional days off, and take vacations at least once a year. If you make this the norm in your office, your customer service reps will eventually find their stress much easier to manage.

Train and Foster Better Leaders

Within an organization, stress tends to flow from the top down. If you have a stern, unfair leader in place, all of your customer service agents are going to be disproportionately stressed. If you have a kind, motivating, and encouraging leader in place, your customer service agents will feel stronger and more resilient in the face of whatever stress they feel when dealing with customers.

Accordingly, you should invest significant time and effort into training and fostering better leaders on your customer service team. Focus on promoting and encouraging leaders who genuinely care about their teams and are capable of diffusing tension.

Recognize Signs of Stress

Workplace stress is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to take over your life. If you notice your employees showing signs of heightened stress, it’s a good idea to step in and talk to them about what they’re experiencing.

These are some of the most important signs of stress to recognize:

  • Visible tiredness or lack of energy. Stressed employees will often show signs of visible tiredness or lack of energy. They may be slow or lethargic, and in some cases, they may appear weak or sickly.
  • Irritability. Stress also leads to irritability. If you notice one of your employees experiencing mood swings or getting angry over little things, it’s probably a sign that they’re under high levels of stress.
  • Lack of engagement. Overly stressed employees may also be less likely to engage. They may struggle to get their work done, or they may socially withdraw.
  • Memory issues. Some people start to experience memory issues when stressed as well. Are your employees spacing out or forgetting things?

Consider Rotating Responsibilities

Are there other responsibilities that your customer service agents can handle? For representatives who are especially stressed, it may be viable to rotate responsibilities, even if it’s only a temporary measure. Stepping away from the customer service role for a few days might be exactly what they need to feel reenergized.

There’s no way to completely eliminate the effects of stress in a customer service role. But with better leadership, better coping strategies, and more available resources, you can prevent stress from devastating your team.

Larry Alton
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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