Is Oxytocin Customer Heaven? Part 3 of Neuro-Chemical Customer Service

In this third and final series on what happens on the inside of customers we look at Oxytocin and the role it plays in customer and staff behaviour.

Specifically, how it helps us to balance and sooth

  • The overdrive response we discussed in part 1
  • The stress response we discussed in part 2

Let’s begin by considering this question:

Would you like your customers to feel safe, trust and connected when dealing with your organisation?

I’m guessing you said ‘yes’ as these feelings have a proven affect on creating a successful service brand. Great brands need high advocacy and affiliation to stay great.

If you want customer advocacy and affiliation you need Oxytocin. The early signs from research indicate its importance in how we can help manage our internal and external customers.

What is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter released by the pituitary gland – that acts as a hormone – and as an antidote within the stress response. It’s released in the body when we feel safe and connected and tells the brain, “Everything is all right.”

So we need to orchestrate Oxytocin to positively affect relationships, behaviour and customer engagement. Essential when consider the stressors that customers and colleagues face.

As Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal reports Oxytocin is triggered when we receive compassionate and empathic support and pro-social contact.

While other psychologists and researchers have found the human brain naturally produces Oxytocin during breast-feeding, orgasm, hugs, snuggling, holding hands, partner dance, massage, bodywork, prayer, generosity, gratitude, empathy, compassion and forgiveness.

Researchers Bakermans-Kranenburg and Van Lizendoorn found Oxytocin is essential for us to build trust and make meaningful connections with customers, colleagues and strangers.

We are a species that has evolved as hyper-social creatures and Oxytocin helps us navigate our world of complex social relationships by rewarding positive/pro social behaviour with feelings of contentment and soothed-relaxation.

Oxytocin plays a major role within

  • Compassion, empathy and trust building
  • It’s a natural anti-inflammatory, relaxing the blood vessels during stress. Literally regenerating heart cells from stress-induced damage.
  • When we reach out to others under stress, to seek or give support we release this hormone; the stress response becomes healthier and we recover faster.

So all in all it’s pretty cool eh?

Oxytocin and Trust

Dr Paul Zak of Claremont Graduate University found that Oxytocin increases a person’s likelihood to trust strangers and would increase their support/generosity by up to 80%.

Oxytocin and Relationships

While Ditzen and colleagues showed how Oxytocin in couple relationships reduces stress levels. Even when participants focused on topics considered stressful that had consistently triggered conflict between them in the past.

They measured the presence of stress hormones within their bodies while they purposefully elevated Oxytocin. They found that Oxytocin improved positive communication between couples and is related to a decrease in the presence of Cortisol, (Discussed in last weeks post)

While according to Grewen, partners with higher naturally occurring Oxytocin rates also score higher on measures of partner support.

Oxytocin and Memories

Guastella’s research showed that people who received Oxytocin are more likely to recognize and recall happy faces. Oxytocin can impact how we perceive the world and might allow us to recognize and appreciate positive thoughts and experiences that we normally overlook.

Isn’t your organisation interested in creating positive customer memories?

So What Does This Mean to Us?

The question is – How can we take greater advantage of naturally occurring Oxytocin and maximize its release in our own bodies?

It’s known that it is found only in mammals and needs stimulation to be released. This is why we need a conscious effort to increase our pro-social contact; a purposeful motivation that will help us benefit from Oxytocin.

There are a variety of ways in which we can help stimulate Oxytocin for ourselves, our customers and colleagues and they include

  • Empathy: Using the right balance of empathic language – empathic bridging to someone else’s emotional difficulties
  • Compassion (Including acts of forgiveness, gratitude and generosity) – An inner and outer motivation to want ourselves and others to be happy and free of suffering.
  • Physical Stimuli – Hugs, snuggling, holding hands, partner dance, massage and bodywork. Some of which are better fulfilled outside of work!
  • Positive intention and imagery about our connection with others

Can We Use Social Media?

According to Wellsphere, studies have revealed the use of social media can facilitate the release of Oxytocin, even though physical touch stimulates the most potent release, because just by thinking about someone who loves you or someone you deeply care for is enough to activate the release of Oxytocin.

Once again our inner motivation to positively connect (pro-social contact) with others is essential.

One psychologist found that after only 20 seconds of hugging a romantic partner; can achieve a spike in Oxytocin levels, as well as a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and Cortisol levels.

While researchers at the University of Sydney found that a single session of slow breathing is sufficient for controlling physiological arousal in anticipation of psychosocial stress. It appears that Oxytocin has many links to our body, our breath, and nurturing activities such as Yoga, mindfulness, generating feelings of warmth, positive imagery and meditation.

Something that even the tough world of the military are starting to recognise.

The U.S. Marine Corps is studying how to make its troops resilient through meditative practices, yoga-type stretching and exercises based on mindfulness.

Facing a record suicide rate and thousands of veterans seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress, the military has been searching for ways to reduce strains on service members burdened with more than a decade of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marine Corps officials are testing a series of brain calming exercises called “Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training”, that they believe could enhance the performance of troops, who are under mounting pressures from long deployments and looming budget cuts expected to slim down forces. The final results are due in the next few months.

Tests are carried out in mock up Afghan villages in which soldiers are subjected to high impact threats and extreme stressors while using mindfulness training to sooth their system. If it can work in the battlefield it can work in the corporate world.

Conscious Awareness – Oxytocin and the Body

As you can see consciously utilising Oxytocin is a mechanism for handling stress and improving personal resilience, performance and relationships.

It also helps sooth our customers; by helping them think, “Everything is going to be ok” and increases their positive associations with us and their memories – While elevating their trust, co-operation and generosity.

How many of these attributes would you like in your customer experience?

Consider the learning we’ve shared in part 1 and part 2 of this series; that our health, well being, stress, relationships, happiness and performance all rely on our conscious awareness of what is happening in our body and brain.

To quickly sooth both the stress and the overdrive response we rely mostly on our body as physical stimuli give us the greatest spike in Oxytocin. Slowly, we as a species are realising how we use our body and other pro-social contact to positively affect and changes our brain’s reactions.

At important times and when we find ourselves under pressure as we fall victim to our very fast acting stress/anxiety response.

Go after what creates meaning in your life and consciously use practises such as breathing, yoga, touch, empathy and compassion to consciously trigger Oxytocin to handle the rigours of modern living and an ever changing business world.

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