Freaking Out Over Customers Is Not a Lifestyle

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The truth about stress is tough for many to take; it’s not talked about much. Maybe that’s because we don’t like to think we make things more complicated or dramatic than they are. But consider: People literally jump out of airplanes for fun, but are hospitalized because they had to learn new software after seven years of experience with the old software.

What does this say about the stress service agents face managing the difficult customer encounters they deal with and often dread? It indicates that stress is more about how they feel or think about things and only loosely connected to what’s actually happening. In other words, life is not stressful; it’s what we believe about life that is stressful. Add a few espressos, a teenage son or daughter, and a customer who is clearly off his meds, and now a two-hour learning curve for that software becomes the end of the world.

And, for the record, caffeine gives you focus and alertness, not screaming fits, unless your focus is on the fear of a bad result. And generally speaking, teenagers make bad decisions and can be immune to hygiene, which is only stressful if you keep thinking they should do the right thing. (They’ll do what they do even with your best guidance. And most often, they will be somewhat okay.) Neither of these things should be enough to nudge us over the top. Additionally, your customers will also have bad days, but again, that’s to be expected. Freaking out is what you do when you don’t know what to do. It’s not how you are supposed to live.

Here are four ways to think about, and gain control over, the stress you and your agents may experience:

1. Don’t succumb to drama.

What makes customer relationship management so difficult is you might get 30 calls, texts, or emails in a single day. And one out of every four is someone having the worst moment of his life.

Taking on his drama can raise your stress levels. You would think by now someone would develop something in the software for stress; is there a stress button or a panic button? Maybe a designated area of the software where I can go to help me not freak out?

I realize that this sounds unrealistic, but the actual solution can be very effective, though difficult for many to accept. The truth is, other people are not responsible for our emotions. We get to decide how we feel and determine what that looks like on a daily or hourly basis. That is not a theory—it’s reality. (However, if someone does have a panic app, please contact me immediately!)

2. Expect bad news.

After all, people love to tell it, and frankly, we love to hear it. We watch the news because it’s bad! If it’s good, there’s little need or reason to watch it. Instead, we’ll switch over to Breaking Bad, which is good, because the bad is not happening to us or anyone we know.

3. Monitor your stress level.

One thing that can make it so difficult to deal with customers when they’re having an overreacting event is our inability to relate to them. But taking a closer look will reveal you’re actually trying not to relate because you really don’t like the way they are making you feel. Once you recognize that, you’ll be less likely to separate yourself from their problems.

4. Remember: Change is mandatory, stress is optional.

Prioritizing and preparing for problems is not negative. List the potential problems your customers can have and create actions. If worry is the problem, preparation is the solution. Life is like a spinning ceiling fan: If you focus your vision on just one blade, you will feel your stress level go up as you follow that blade with your eyes. But if you watch all the blades spin, which is the natural thing to do, it has little effect on your stress level.

Sometimes we have to take a sociopathic approach to problems. Care about the solution—how you and your company will get through the situation you face—and not about the details of how bad things are or how it will affect specific situations and people in worst-case scenarios.

Garrison Wynn is a keynote speaker and best-selling author of The REAL Truth About Success and The Cow Bell Principle. He has been a contributor for The Washington Post and speaks on personal influence at conventions worldwide. He can be reached at garrison@wynnsolutons.com.

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