Being a customer support agent has to be one of the most stressful jobs in the world, even during normal times. Dealing with issues and problems all day every day is draining. And customers are sometimes at their worst when they connect with agents. The agent is expected to remain calm, cool, and collected while the customer vents, ultimately providing a level-headed solution.
On the other hand, we’ve all had run-ins with customer support agents who were anything but calm, cool, and collected. Many customers can recount a time they dealt with a surly, ill-tempered agent who not only didn’t solve their problem but potentially turned them off to that brand permanently.
Consumers might also tell you about the time an empathetic customer support agent went above and beyond to solve their problem, securing a customer for life. Most consumers make a direct correlation between a brand’s value and its customer service. Providing your agents with tools to keep them emotionally grounded in their jobs traces a direct line to customer happiness.
You may not think of mindfulness as one of those tools, but in fact, it’s a highly effective way to support your customer service agents in their moods and, consequently, their jobs.
What does mindfulness have to do with customer support?
The word mindfulness might conjure up an image of the Buddha or the Dalai Lama. But you don’t have to aspire to spiritual nirvana to benefit from everyday mindfulness techniques.
According to mindful.org, mindfulness is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
This type of mindset can serve customer support agents well in their work. Given the tools and techniques to stay grounded, calm, and present in each moment — not getting thrown off by riled-up or riotous customers — they feel better, and they perform better.
One study conducted by Canadian researchers from the University of Quebec found that when call center workers listened to a 10-minute guided meditation every morning, the satisfaction of the company’s clients increased. These types of meditations are easily available and often free. Apps such as Insight Timer, Headspace, Calm, and Buddhify all offer short mindfulness sessions on demand. (Check out Healthline’s Best Meditation Apps of 2019 for more suggestions and reviews.)
Even short mindfulness exercises, performed regularly, can give contact center employees more agency over their emotions, mental state, and ability to control anger and irritation. But for leaders in charge of customer service organizations, there are other ways to create more headspace for employees, too. Read on for a few ideas.
Empower them in their work
Supporting employees in getting satisfaction out of their jobs is one way to improve their mindset and mood. Customer support agents who are empowered to make decisions on their own are typically happier.
If they can solve a customer’s problem without having to escalate communication, even better. For instance, giving agents the ability to offer real-time refunds or discounts doesn’t just boost customer satisfaction. It makes for happier employees with accountability over their actions.
The customer service platform you choose also impacts how empowered and therefore content your agents are with their jobs. For instance, with Helpshift’s Agent Desktop, agents can manage customer conversations over time, with customer info and interaction history displayed in a continuous thread. Agents always have the details at their disposal to make decisions in the moment. They also have instant access to knowledge base articles to help them solve customer problems and answer questions.
Encourage a culture of compassion
The general public has been experiencing a surge of compassion for essential workers lately. Never has appreciation for workers from healthcare to the grocery store been deeper. But customer service agents sometimes get left out of the love, especially when customers feel frustrated because they have to wait on hold or can’t reach a representative when they want.
At the same time, your contact center employees may be operating under extreme conditions right now. Perhaps you’ve had to transition your team to remote work in the wake of COVID-19. Maybe you even have agents out sick right now, putting more pressure on the reduced crew.
Communicating the stress and pressure your contact centers are under to the general public is one way to cultivate more compassion. Of course, you have to be mindful (ahem) of the message you’re sending, too. You don’t want to give the impression that your company is flailing. But finding ways to share humanity in your marketing copy is critical at this time.
It might be as simple as a blanket email to all your customers saying “We are grateful for our contact center workers who are operating under extreme pressure right now and bravely showing up for work. Please join us in extending compassion to them at this time.”
Not every customer will get the hint, but if some do, you’ve made your contact center employees’ lives a little easier.
Acknowledge how much you appreciate them
Being a customer support agent can be a thankless role. Don’t let it be. As a manager or leader of an organization, your mindfulness mission is to be aware of how much work your team is doing. Thank them with whatever means you have: verbally, with time off, or with bonuses, for instance.
A contact center abuzz with calls and clicks isn’t necessarily the environment you picture when you think of mindfulness. But in the center of any storm there’s always the potential for calm. Having more peaceful customer support agents within your organization translates directly to improved customer experience and your bottom line. It’s also just a great way to give back right now.