Workplace Stress: Customer Service, a Rare Sighting?

Robert and Avery at All Canadian Eyeglass Repair.

I was on a mission. I wanted to write about an excellent customer service experience. But it seemed as if I'd have more luck sighting the mythical Sasquatch than I would finding a post-worthy encounter. Ding, dang, dong! One, two, three customer service experiences that could have been better - a lot better.

Then, my sunglasses broke. As a result, I had a blog post. Oh, the lengths I'll go for one!

So, off to All-Canadian Eyeglass Repair I went. They'll also take mail-in repair requests. I've been to this family business on two other occasions. They take on difficult repair jobs for eyeglasses, often when others tell you that your glasses are beyond hope. I first went there about fifteen years ago with a pair of titanium-framed glasses that had broken across the bridge. All the optical shops I visited told me that titanium was irreparable. But it wasn't for All-Canadian Eyeglass Repair!

More than what meets the eye

This may be one of the few places you can go to get your eyeglasses fixed, regardless of the scope of damage. But in addition to remarkable repair jobs and the availability of coffee, there is something else brewing here.

As I sat and waited for my glasses to be repaired - yes, it was speedy service - I had the opportunity to observe the interactions of staff and customers. It was both a pleasure and an honour to behold. I watched as each customer was genuinely greeted with warmth. There was no faking that. Time was taken to listen to the customer's tale of woe, then the repair process and cost was carefully explained to the customer.

Eyeglasses weren't the only thing being restored. Every customer seemed to leave with a smile on their face and I think I even detected a skip or two in some steps.

A doctorate in customer service?

I didn't ask, but I'm pretty sure that neither Robert nor Avery have their doctorates in customer service. The principles of good customer service are pretty straight-forward, as you can see on Jodi Beuder's website. She has published a downloadable list of the Top 10 Customer Service Skills. If I used this as a marking sheet, I'd give All-Canadian Eyeglass Repair a 10/10.

What gets in the way?

In one word - stress.

Did you know that each one of the items on Jodi's list can be dirtied by un-transformed stress?

  • Attitude
  • Attentiveness
  • Affirmative Listening
  • Awareness
  • Empathy
  • Integrity
  • Patience
  • Resourcefulness
  • Responsibility
  • Promptness

Like a deformed ten-tentacled octopus, stress can put a strangle-hold on these skills.

How you think and feel affects the quality of your heart rhythms. This in turn affects the type of signals that go to your brain via your autonomic nervous system. Will you be poised for flight, fight or freeze? Or are you operating from a coherent state - one where you are able to exercise good emotional management?

Without tools and techniques to treat the cause of your stress and not just the symptoms, you become less resilient. It may seem that more and more things are getting to you - your bounce-back-ability seems to have bounded off and left you feeling predominantly angry, depressed, fearful, frustrated, sad, worried, unsatisfied, or...

You may feel as if you have nothing left - neither for yourself, nor for your friends and family and certainly not for your colleagues, clients and customers. Your ability to offer quality customer service becomes brittle, like the plastic on my sun-beaten sunglasses.

How to polish your customer service skills

Some people are naturals at diffusing their stress and maintaining their equilibrium. It's as if they can make withdrawals from their bank of inner resources that enables them to effectively handle what comes their way. They regularly restore their resilience - by doing things that they love - things that honour their values and allow them to add to their bank of inner resources.

When you address and undress your stress with tools and techniques that improve your heart rate variability, you begin to observe subtle and not-so-subtle changes in how you move about in the world. The state of your emotional, mental and physical health and well-being improves.

It doesn't take a doctorate in customer service to provide a good experience, one that leaves the customer feeling good about the interaction. There's that F-word - feelings. If you think they don't have a place in business, you may wish to reframe that.

Feelings matter - both yours and the customers and clients you serve. Avery and Robert proved it with their interactions with their customers. When you start paying attention, you can feel the different energies at work. Positive or negative, you pick up on them, often before you notice anything else. Have you ever entered a room and felt like you've just been hit by a blast of icy, Arctic air? You may not have witnessed the big argument, but you certainly feel the remnants of it. Similarly, you may enter a workplace and instantly feel comfortable and at ease. What type of environment are your clients and customers entering? How do you want them to feel?

Here's why feelings matter

How you think and feels affects what happens in your body, physiologically. If you soak in negative thoughts and emotions for extended periods of time, you affect the biochemical flow that occurs in your body. Different chemicals have different effects. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is vital to health, but too much of it and you impair cortical facilitation. The very thing that gets in the way of you operating at your best. The thing that hampers you from effectively implementing Jodi's customer service skills.

When you balance your nervous system, your ability to communicate improves. Your demeanor changes - you transmit a different energy to those around you. You also sharpen your intuition, which enables you to say and do the right things at the right time. A pretty important skill when you are dealing with Jack and Jill Public, wouldn't you agree?

On the same brain/heart wave

Recall a time when you were interacting well with someone. The conversation flowed. You knew what the other person was going to say, even before they said it. That's the power of a synced up heart, brain and body. It feels great when it occurs, doesn't it? Effortless. Joyful. Smooth. Those are just some of the words my clients have shared with me over the years, when they regularly address and undress their stress. 

My Twitter friend Liz Kislik has written a compelling post entitled Why Service Requires "I" Contact. All-Canadian "I"glass Repair - yup!

For the record, it has happened more than once; I find myself writing a post or article on a similar theme as some of my colleagues and associates. Synced up brain and heart waves, at work.

Your turn: How do your clients and customers feel when they enter your building? What subtle messages are you conveying, either in person or on the phone? Is your environment a sea of serenity or a whirlpool of stress?

Contact me find out how to transform your workplace, one heartbeat at a time.

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3 Replies to “Workplace Stress: Customer Service, a Rare Sighting?”

  1. Ah yes, if only the f-word always meant feelings–extending concern and wanting to help even when personal stress is beating at you. I keep quoting a woman who cleaned for me but gave me the best advice ever: “Feeling down? Do something to help someone else.”

  2. Good morning Marianna, I have two words… WOW and THANKS!!Your blog is so well written and I really enjoyed it.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, working with family does have it’s stresses. We do have our moments. Avery has this amazing gift of the points you wrote about. I used to love being out front with my customers, it was what I loved about my job the most. Fortunately Avery and Robert are now carrying the torch.

    Most businesses start out “Mom and Pop” and it’s been my observation that when they grow and get busier that personal touch seems to gradually slip away. I think that people love family businesses because it touches that experience of simpler times, something most long for in this crazy world we inhabit. Maybe without realizing it themselves. When they find it, it just makes them feel connected again.

    Please accept our deepest gratitude for your kindness.

    Kindest Regards,
    All Canadian Eyeglass Repair
    5692 Imperial St.
    Burnaby, BC
    V5J 1G2

  3. A wonderful story and great tips, Marianna. “Every customer seemed to leave with a smile on his/her face.” The way it always should be – and not just for the sake of the customer.

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