11 Ways to Keep COVID Stress Out of Customer Interactions

Currently, due to the coronavirus pandemic, a labor shortage problem and many sources of pandemic-related stress for both workers and customers are reportedly causing unusual tensions that are impacting the service environment throughout the U.S. business sector. Business owners in liquid waste handling industries are certainly not exempt from these serious issues. Below are some recommendations for managing interactions in customer service to help maintain a positive customer experience and protect employees from potential abuses by over-stressed customers.

COVID-Related Decline in Working Conditions

The past year and a half of COVID-19-related mal-effects on businesses have brought stress levels in both large and small companies nationwide to new highs. Employees bring their personal pandemic-related stress to work. In a recent survey of 1,000 professionals, nearly 40% percent reported that they have experienced toxicity in workplace communications since the beginning of the quarantine!

Severe stress levels can manifest in an ugly deterioration of psychological, emotional, and physical working conditions. The resultant decline in workplace civility can naturally be expected to filter into interactions with customers. When unhealthy communications impact customer satisfaction scores, even the most carefully built service culture, and ultimately the business brand can begin to implode.

11 Ways to Help Your Team Provide a Positive Influence on Customers

The effects of pandemic-induced workplace stress can overpower the best efforts of customer service teams to conceal growing frustrations and anxiety.

Below are 11 suggestions for protecting morale and helping your team manage against the potentially toxic impacts of it on your business.

Use these simple methods to help your service employees stay positive during this difficult time and consistently deliver the quality of professional performance that inspires people to become loyal repeat customers:

1. Be open about the stress problem.

People on your team have their own problems, in addition to their roles in solving problems for your customers and your business. Beyond the usual stressors of work and family responsibilities, they’re coping with the strain of navigating through life amid a deadly pandemic and the economic and lifestyle impacts it has had on the country, their community, and their family. Of course, you cannot fix the pandemic or the difficulties it is causing for them. But, just acknowledging what they’re going through can go far in helping them feel less stressed at your workplace.

2. Show you care for your staff members.

Little gestures can make a big difference in someone’s frame of mind during a rough day. Maybe you can start providing a few fun distractions from the circumstances, like cookies and lemonade on Tuesdays, and/or short walks outdoors on Thursdays. Just think of some small ways that will be popular with your team, and use those to help show people you care.

3. Recognize the sounds of stress.

Identify the sounds of unhealthy communication in your work environment. Toxic interactions are characterized by the use of words and comments that are condescending, ostracizing, passive-aggressive, bullying, excluding, insulting, or otherwise degrading. Unacceptable communications also include sexually explicit or suggestive verbal or written comments, discriminatory, or racist.

4. Monitor customer interactions with employees.

There are various tools available for measuring the quality of customer interactions. These range from simple feedback tools like SurveyMonkey all the way to in-house surveillance. More in the middle of the spectrum of solutions are programs like Chorus or Gong. With these, you and your team can gain helpful insights into the nature of toxic communications as well as examples of excellent handling. Just let your employees know in advance what you plan to do, and manage oversight of the examinations with care.

5. Protect workers from toxic treatment.

People who work directly with customers know what it’s like to deal with difficult personalities sometimes. Finding ways to get along with challenging people is a life skill that adults must develop to get along well with coworkers and deal with the public. Provide your employees with appropriate tools for dealing with difficult people. Practice responses and procedures for de-escalating in encounters with irate customers, and for exiting from situations that become abusive. Make sure you’ve done what it takes to ensure that your workers know they are empowered to have boundaries and that you will stand behind them.

6. Provide for pressure release.

When circumstances are over the top, sometimes the most effective way to help everyone involved is just to recognize the ridiculousness of the situation. Try accepting it for what it is. Embrace the absurdity of it, and laugh about it as a group. If there’s a problem that forces your team to field a barrage of complaints from angry customers, then the best approach may be to just let it happen. Set the example of letting the challenges just wash over you, and help the team members take comfort in knowing you’re all in it together.

7. Enforce the rules promptly.

When you see or hear a case of bad behavior by an employee towards a customer, address it immediately and privately. The stressed worker may not even be aware of his/her problematic behavior. Be specific in your criticism and help the employee understand the broader impact of that kind of interaction to the customer, the community, the business, its workers, and their families. Take a strong stand against repeated behavior, to make clear that when customers are rude, the ugly treatment must not be reciprocated by your team — zero exceptions.

8. Make downtime opportunities.

Recall the stories of those businesses whose employees became so overworked and stressed without relief for prolonged periods. Those episodes did not end well for the growing businesses that collapsed under the strain of overburdened, fatigued employees. Plan downtime opportunities to allow people to recharge and come back fresh to face the ongoing challenges. If necessary, even call in help from other departments or locations, or, bring in temporary help from external resources, if possible.

9. Make the most of positive occurrences.

As you remain vigilant in catching toxic interactions and decisively dealing with those, be just as aware of the good things that are happening around you. Keep an eye out for people setting great examples, modeling great teamsmanship, and quality service practices. Catch workers going the extra distance to be kind and helpful to their coworkers or customers, especially when they’re dealing with difficult people or other challenging circumstances. Celebrate those instances as wins for the team, the business, and the community.

10. Set the tone for your team.

As the leader of your team, it’s your role to demonstrate the kinds of communications and behaviors that you want your prospects and customers to experience when dealing with your employees. Exhibit a positive, upbeat, compassionate manner toward workers. Use kind ways of expressing yourself. This sets the example of how you want your workers to behave and speak with your customers.

11. Cultivate consistent attitudes among your employees.

Establish a group commitment to healthy communication as a cornerstone for building an enduring workplace culture. Get all your management team on board to promote the kinds of tone and behaviors you want to cultivate among your staff inside and outside the workplace. Codify these as your company’s policy, and distribute simple guidelines for meeting a few basic expectations. This will help root positivity into your business’s culture and build its brand.
Leadership in the COVID-19 Business Environment

Stress-related to the global coronavirus pandemic is recognizable throughout the country in toxic communications. This threat to business health has been affecting customers, salespeople, and customer service employees everywhere. Do what it takes to minimize its negative impact on your workers and your liquid waste handling business’s future.

Consistently model the communications and behavioral qualities you want your employees to emulate. Stop unhealthy interactions from spreading in your workplace. Protect your workers from toxic behavior toward them from stressed-out customers. Build-in opportunities for decompression and rest. Celebrate the good things. Cultivate a mode of interacting that is realistic and positive, even inspiring, and codify the positive business communications culture and brand you want your employees to build with you.


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