Stress is a huge barrier to customer team performance. Natalie Calvert, director of CX High Performance explains how to alleviate stress in your customer service teams.

How to reduce customer team stress

How to reduce customer team stress

You want your teams to reach new performance targets. AND deliver great customer experiences, acquire new customers while retaining your existing ones? Yet, sometimes no matter how hard you try, it just doesn’t happen.

And sometimes the dreaded stress word creeps in and things just don’t go as planned.

In a very challenging, intensive and repetitive role, real-life issues to do with home, health and happiness can sometimes take over and become 'larger than life', or perhaps someone has a genuine life issue going on.

The CX employee can be the most vulnerable to stress caused by the customer, the workplace or life events (and sometimes all three!) which can, if not supported properly, lead to stress and Mental Health (MH) issues, so this raises two key questions: 

What do managers need to look out for?

What do managers need to do?

I have faced this question with nearly every team I have ever met - and often there are people who need ‘extra’ support – as a leader my job is to SPOT ISSUES EARLY ON, prevent further issues in the workplace and provide the ‘extra’.

I have also learnt that even though I can never get it right 100% of the time – I have to try.

Prevention and early intervention is vital

Before I post further I must say that I am not a mental health expert - nor do I claim to be – I am intending to give very practical advice.

If you / your colleagues or team are experiencing stress issues (which is highly likely at some point) it is vital you involve your senior leaders/HR colleagues. At the bottom of this article I have added info on where you can get further information and help.

Stop customer teams becoming overwhelmed by stress

Stop customer teams becoming overwhelmed by stress

Recently I launched our new organisation CX HIGH PERFORMANCE and initially it might seem rather strange to be writing an article about stress issues – however, after over 25+ years of leading and working with teams, I know that before teams can reach High Performance they have to be fit. Fit for purpose.

Over 1 million people are employed in the Customer Contact sector – MIND report that ONE IN FOUR people (that includes leaders) will suffer from stress and mental health issues EACH year. MH issues are not a sign of failure, they are a fact of life.

The signs of possible stress issues in CX organisations and what managers can do

Mental health is an important part of everyday life in the contact centre, in the branch or retail store - in every customer facing role.

According to the CIPD ‘mental health issues have a significant impact on employee well-being and are a major cause of long-term absence from work.

Employers are encouraged to promote good mental health practices and provide support for those employees who are struggling with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression'.

Key Contributing Factors

According to the HSE there are some main issues where working in Contact Centres can contribute more to stress and Mental Health issues (especially a 50+ seat centre):

- High workload and increased workloads
- Unclear on roles
- Employees cannot make full use of their skills
- Staff have conflicting role demands
- Performance is often or rarely managed
- Work environment

21 Signs to Look Out For

- Increased absence
- Increased customer complaints
- Increased colleague complaints
- Reduction in contact quality
- Increased error rates
- Alcohol/substance abuse
- Change in performance – often a decline
- Arriving late / leaving early
- Irritability
- Concentration levels change
- Loss of self-confidence
- Loss of sense of humour
- More introvert or extrovert
- More colds / run down
- Tired at work
- Personal appearance changes
- Weight loss or gain
- Home issues being overly discussed at work
- Work/life balance shifts
- Reduced engagement and team working
- Social media comments

Action To Take

If you see one or two of these signs it may or may not be a stress or mental health issue, however, it is undoubtedly worth a check-in with the person and a discussion with the manager.

9 Ways A Manager Can Help CX Staff Cope with Stress

  1. Start a conversation – a cup of tea always helps
  2. Check that regular breaks are happening
  3. Do a 'stress checker' amongst your frontline teams and their managers
  4. Understand that stress is both a physical, environmental and biological issue
  5. Learn how to build resilience in your teams
  6. Communicate - build a buddy scheme peer to peer, let people know what’s available
  7. Check the environment is still healthy, well-lit and clean
  8. Examine the type of customer contacts which cause most stress and seek either to:
    - Reskill and upskill for better contact management
    - Redistribute to a specialist team
    - Change workflow procedure/protocols to outside-in not inside-out thinking
    - Check the root cause and ‘eliminate’ these where possible
  9. Performance is a key area (in most contact centres Performance Management still means a HR conversation!) Some areas to consider regarding performance are:
    - Are you fairly measuring productivity and/or performance?
    - Are your business goals, job descriptions and key performance indicators aligned to purpose?
    - Do people actually know what success looks like?
    - Can people have control of their work and results?
    - Is the culture 'command and control' or 'engaged and empowered'?
    - How do you track and feedback performance to teams and individuals?
    - How is success rewarded – is it for the top or mid base of employees?
    - Are people fully skilled and equipped to deliver?
    - How are your Team Managers engaging and connecting with their staff?
    Have a mental health policy as part of your wellbeing strategy – and please include prevention interventions.

2+1 things to do today

  1. Skip a level and check in with your team
  2. Start thinking about the ‘Extra’ you can provide - a team booster, motivation session, team tea might be a start point
Share this article on CX staff stress

Remember it is important to act.

Provide Support to CX Managers, teams and individuals

Prevention and early intervention are best.

Sources of information and references

CIPD mental health factsheet
Health & Safety Executive: Psychosocial risk factors in call centres
Heads together.co.uk 
Mental Health Foundation

I lead the team at CX HIGH PERFORMANCE.  Let me share with you our brilliant case studies and regular updates.  CONTACT US AND CLICK ON THE BUTTON BELOW TO RECEIVE REGULAR UPDATES.