Part 2 – Neuro-Chemical Customer Service

How Cortisol Damages your Customer Experience

In the last article we looked at the role that Dopamine plays in our brains and customer behaviour. That it helps customers to remember peak moments in your service experience.

In this second article we understand Cortisol – Its role and consequences to the success of your business.

Cortisol is an important hormone in the body, secreted by the adrenal glands and involved in functions including

  • Regulation of blood pressure
  • Immune function
  • Inflammatory response

All three of which are important for the well being of both your external and internal customers.

Although stress isn’t the only reason that Cortisol is secreted into the bloodstream, it has been termed “the stress hormone” because it’s also secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, along with Adrenalin.

It’s responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. Small increases of Cortisol have some positive effects such as a quick burst of energy for survival reasons.

While Cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important that the body’s relaxation response is activated so the body’s functions can return to normal following a stressful event.

Using Cortisol Wisely

This is the key customer service requirement, ensuring we can help customers and staffs return healthily from the stress response – Something we’ll discuss in part three.

In our current high-stressor culture, the body’s stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal, resulting in a state of chronic stress.

We often underestimate how close to fight/flight we are – as we are subject to anxiety in situations such as

  • Handling customer emotions and complaints
  • Hearing about the latest company change or re-organisation
  • Bonus, financial, recognition and promotion restrictions that clash with our needs
  • Targets that feel impossible
  • Working way more hours than in our contract

Higher and more prolonged levels of Cortisol in the bloodstream have been shown to have negative effects, which certainly affect our work such as:

  • Impaired cognitive performance
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body – slowed wound healing and other health consequences
  • Increased abdominal fat, (associated with a greater amount of health problems)
  • Including heart attacks, strokes, diabetes etc
  • Increased sickness and absenteeism (and associated costs)

To keep Cortisol levels healthy and under control, the body’s soothing and relaxation system should be activated after the fight or flight response occurs.

We can learn to access this system and relax our body through various approaches (see next week’s article) as well as making lifestyle changes in order to keep our body from reacting to stress in the first place.

As you’ve guessed, this is imperative for any organisation that truly desires resilience – To maintain staff and performance resilience that directly maintains the quality of its customer and employee experience.

For leading, ethical organisations these are essential if you, your teams and your experience are to be at the top of their game.



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