After graduation, I’ve worked in a call center for a short period of time. I hated the job. On every Monday, I felt like I was going to do time in a prison. On every Friday on the other hand, I felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
I hated this job for many reasons. First of all, it was incredibly stressful. The customers were shouting because they forgot to pay or thought that our product was not as good as advertised. I treated every call like a battle, struggling to survive through each conversation.
The procedures and systems we used were very complicated and I did not receive a proper training. Because of that, I was not able to handle most of the cases.
The fact that the management was crappy did not help: they mostly cared about numbers and why I was two minutes late from my brake. I did not feel like a part of a team. The only thing that mattered were calls and statistics.
When I had no calls, I had to pretend I was busy. Management was convinced that the best training came from constantly reading on procedures: hour after hour, all day long, every day. And that was the final straw that made me leave.
I’ve ended my short career in the call centre industry convinced that the role of a support agent was created by some sinister forces. I guess I wouldn’t be able to verify my opinion if not for my work in LiveChat.
LiveChat’s support team is the complete opposite of my previous experience. It consists of chilled and relaxed people, which was a thrilling and mind-opening discovery for me. It turned out that being a support doesn’t have to involve hellish torments every day. It looked like I’ve just joined a company that understand the importance of support team’s well being and its influence on customer experience!
Curious about this extraordinary environment, I’ve created a survey to find out what keeps our Support Heroes motivated and resistant to stress. The results showed that, if there is a way to charm stress, it is already implemented in our workspace.
Here’s how LiveChat kicks stress out of its customer service.
Stress vs customer satisfaction
To understand why customer service should be relieved from stress, it’s important to know why stress is so harmful for the company.
What most business owners seem to miss are the long-term effects of stress. It causes memory and concentration problems, anxiousness, frustration, decrease of motivation and, in the end, burnout.
What does this mean for customer service? Ineffective, malfunctioning customer service team that does not serve customers, but fights them instead.
A third of all customer service representatives rates their stress level as incredibly high, which means that most companies totally fail when it comes to helping their agents to cope with the pressure. This leads to the conclusion that most business owners simply do not see how big of an influence stressed staff has on the company’s good name.
Imagine a customer service team consisting of people who hate their job, feel frustrated and unmotivated. And now imagine your customers’ reaction when they call these unhappy agents. Will it be a good or bad experience? Will they get all the necessary help? Will these agents go the extra mile for the customer?
Your customers won’t care that your team is stressed. They won’t say “Gosh, Tom was really stressed out today, I think he needs holidays”. They will be furious and react like: “This company has the worst customer service ever”. It’s too easy to lose a customer because of bad support experience. It’s not worth the risk.
So how to deal with the stress in your support team? There are lots of bullshit-tips on the Internet. They suggest telling a stressed and upset person to “not take it personally”. These tips also advise to “count to 10” when feeling stressed. Like that will help with anything.
Reducing stress level in a support team means something more than superficial words of comfort. Not very revealing, I know, but it’s as simple as that. To get rid of stress, you need to create a working environment that keeps representatives motivated and caring about the job they do.
The creation of such environment is not easy, but it’s also not impossible.
Convinced that LiveChat mastered stress charming, I’ve created a survey to find out what helps our Support Heroes to master the skill of composure.
I’ve asked them how often they get stressed, what are the most stressful factors in their work and how do they rate the atmosphere and companies’ culture. I’ve also asked a few questions about the team. In the end I have gathered a lot of information and discovered what works for LiveChat in terms of stress-fighting.
In general, our Support Heroes seem to be relaxed. If they get stressed from time to time, they take it easy. As much as 83 percent of our Heroes claim they do not tend to get stressed often.
I’ve asked our support team to rate working for LiveChat on a 1-10 scale, where 1 is a sweet nap on an exotic beach and 10 is like saving a family from the fire. The results were quite impressive, especially if we keep in mind that stress level in an average customer service equals 7. Our whole support team rated working for LiveChat below 5!
LiveChat proves that the key is to be focused on several factors: intense training, supportive atmosphere, recognition and friendly company culture. All these factors, when combined together, can change an ordinary customer service team into a well-oiled, productive support machine.
1. Training and support
Training is essential to turning a regular rookie into a self-confident specialist. At LiveChat, every support newbie undergoes a one-month coaching period. At the same time as receiving all the training, he or she starts chatting with customers, but is always supervised by a more experienced colleague. This is probably why 50 percent of our representatives rated new hire training with a 9 or a 10.
The initial training in the support takes a month. But when asked how long does it take to master all the necessary skills, our Heroes say unanimously that they learn all the time. That’s why it’s so important for them to share knowledge with each other and deal with various cases as a team.
There is no need to explain that any company and its customers can benefit from a well-trained support team, but it is very important also for agents. They gain confidence, belief in their abilities and cool their blood. It is much easier for them to remain calm in case of a sticky situation.
Nothing says “we appreciate our employees” better than efforts to make their life easier. Simple “good job” is great. Additional benefits are great as well. A ticket to the cinema, fitness pass, a drink invitation. In short, anything that tells an employee that the company understands how though his or her work can be.
LiveChat makes sure that all representatives feel that they are an important part of the company. Apart from small pleasures like tons of chocolate or pizza Fridays, employees are invited to take part in bowling, laser tag or jogging marathons, where the company is paying for the fun.
This is why recognition level was rated so high: over 66 percent of our agents rated it between 8 and 10.
3. Team spirit
A friendly, collective atmosphere is the foundation of LiveChat’s working philosophy. Since LiveChat makes sure that all employees spend time together, our Support Heroes like each other and know each other very well. After all it’s easy to be a team player if you like your team!
Heroes talk, laugh, listen to music and resolve hard cases together. They know that they can count on each other, which shows in the survey. Over 58 percent of our Heroes rated helpfulness of their colleagues with a 9 or a 10.
50 percent of our support rated the way they intermingle with each other with a 10. What’s more, there was no lower rating than a 7! This result was no surprise to me. You can tell that this team likes each other and likes to spend time together after just a couple of minutes.
4. Working place
The dehumanized, modern interiors are (fortunately) no longer an indicator of a professional and efficient business environment. In other words, employees should be allowed to decorate the office the way they want. Thanks to this approach, their working place gets a homely atmosphere, which is rated very high by our support team. All our Heroes rated atmosphere in our office between 7 and 10.
What’s also important is that LiveChat’s working culture gives its employees as much freedom as possible, what helps them to feel more relaxed. They can work at the desk, if they want. If not, they can chat on the sofa, or in the kitchen while preparing a meal. Do they like it? You bet!
58 percent of our agents rated LiveChat headquarters with a 10, which means that even a king wouldn’t mind spending his time here!
LiveChat proves that a well-trained and relaxed customer service team has considerable influence on customer satisfaction. The reason for that is simple: a happy agent is more likely to remain calm in a stressful situation and will more likely help the customer in case of a problem. Our customers definitely appreciate it as our customer satisfaction level is over 95%!
Some people may say that it is easy for our agents to remain calm as they do not work in the bad customer service environment, e.g. a miss-managed call center. That’s partly true as they work on chat and not on the more stressful phone. But our agents deal with the same difficulties as any other support teams do.
They deal with customer problems, heavy workload, shift work, and yet they are still able to cope with stress.
Companies need to focus more on working environment promoting teamwork, friendly culture and training. The trick here is that people may think that employees are responsible for all these values and that if they are outgoing and chilled, they will have a friendly and relaxing atmosphere. Well, it’s only partially true. Without the support of management, it’s impossible to create a truly amazing working culture.
Employees need to know that they are valuable for the company. They need to be given a thorough training and a decent social package. They need to be appreciated for all their efforts and rewarded for achievements. That’s something that cannot be created by employees, but by the management.
Let’s say this straight: business owners are responsible for the whole company and that includes well-being of their employees. The bottom line is: you cannot expect that the experience and satisfaction of your customers will be high if stress level in your customer service team is high as well. But thanks to your support, every agent is able to turn into a Support Hero and every customer experience can turn into a good one.
You might also like the post How Teamwork Activities Help to Build a Strong Team Spirit.
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