What are the hidden costs experienced by teams and their leaders in tough economic conditions?
Experience tells us, through our work in both the public and private sectors, of the very real and impactful consequences for those directly serving the public. When Government budgets are cut and the cost of living soar – the public gets squeezed, and so do those serving them.
Organisations are reporting and experiencing more anxious, upset and abusive customers. From our work within areas such as the police service and housing associations, we know how tough this is for front-line teams and their leaders.
Two core challenges
Abusive and aggressive customers will react because of two key aspects.
- Their nervous system is fizzing with sensations, feelings and emotions, especially fear. While their inner dialogue will be a mix of blame, attack and justification
- Their inability to balance their nervous system and productively regulate their emotions
It’s similar if not the same for staff, except they are in a role of responsibility to keep the lid on their emotions and curtail their nervous system’s fight, flight and freeze response.
When they are unable to do this consistently and to a high level, the following happens
- Stress levels become too much – Wellbeing takes a nose dive
- Staff become physically, emotionally and psychologically drained
- Staff sickness increase
- Staff feel unsupported by leadership (as the culture falls into one of ‘keep battling on’)
- Staff look for other work opportunities
- Attrition increases
- Hiring and retaining the best talent becomes a long-term issue
Consequences like these put even more pressure on the day-to-day operation. Replacing or recruiting additional staff isn’t always possible. For those on the front line, it can reinforce the beliefs (about leadership) that they don’t care and the only way through is to battle on or leave.
Redressing the two fundamental aspects (above) is essential. Staff and leaders must first know how to balance and re-balance their nervous systems.
Second, to be able to work with/regulate their own emotions and then, empathically manage the wide range of emotions presented by customers.
This is serious work that requires the right tools for the job. These skills are not often taught in standard customer experience training.
We have seen this happen time and again in the Police sector. It’s the one place many would expect these skills to be the first to be taught, and also to the highest standard. Sadly, that is the exception, not the norm, having worked with more than one-third of the UK police to improve the quality of their customer experience.
Anyone, facing abusive, threatening and desperate customers, first has to masterfully manage their own system. Masterfully meaning, really understanding our nervous and emotional systems and how we can function at optimum.
The next step is to be able to help the customer regulate theirs. Through empathic listening and communication. While at the same time, the day-to-day operation will need to enable systems of support that include regular feedback, praise and coaching.
Contact us at any time for a no-obligation chat about our customer experience work, in highly pressured and extreme customer situations.