Customer Service
Practicing Safe Stress At Work
By Gail Howerton
Jun 24, 2002 - 3:01:00 PM

People like doing business with people who like doing business. It's a simple truth that we like to associate with friendly, upbeat, positive-energy types of people in our personal lives. Customers choose professional services in much the same way. If we have any question of that; just think how we choose to do business with an organization and why we choose to stop doing business with them. Research has shown that we can control 96% of why people stop doing business with us and that 96% is primarily based on service. We also know that attitude flows down the chain of command from the highest supervisor down to the front-line and out to the customers. If the higher management is stressed out and not treating the workers according to the basic rules of ethical behavior, then the workforce also becomes stressed out and tends to take it out on the clients.

Putting some energy into our training and our service efforts not only increases the knowledge of workers; it also helps recruit and retain customers. The golden rule applies here - all levels of the organization need to serve each other (internal customers) and those coming in the front door (external customers) just as we would like to be served. We are similar to bovines in that contented cows give more milk...contented workers produce more. When workers feel valued and treaded fairly; they are more likely to treat customers similarly. If they work for an organization that is not congruent with their work ethics and values; then they are more likely to treat internal and external customers with disregard, or seek other employment.

Creating a workplace that is a liberation of talent, rather than a restraint by rule takes support from all levels and backed by management. Managers must understand that their job is to break down the barriers to quality service so the front-line can perform better. Empowerment to the front-line is critical since they are closest to the customer and can sense the needs and wants of those they serve first-hand. The front line is the bottom line in the organization and they can make or break the image of the company in the customer's eyes.

When the customer-contact people are having fun, feeling appreciated, and enjoying their job, it shows through their attitude in person and their demeanor over the phone. Studies have shown that a sense of humor is a critical element in selecting new hires and that humor in the workplace and mixing fun with effectiveness on the job decreases absenteeism, turnover, stress, and sickness as it increases productivity, morale, teamwork, creativity, and longevity. With one in four American workers contracting some type of anxiety/stress-related disease and a workforce which swallows 15 tons of aspirin per day; there are ways to combat this disabling affliction in organizations.

Some tips on practicing safe stress at work include: organizing to energize your space by using a color-coded file system, color-coding your calendar to help balance personal and professional life in one place, or adapting color therapy and Feng Shui practices to enhance the energy flow of the office. Studies have shown that the eye sees colors before it sees words, so using color to help organize things saves time and personal energy. Different colors in your environment also have a psychological as well as a physiological effect on you. Arrange your workspace in accordance with your brain operating system preference for the best results and less stress: left-brainers tend to store things vertically and behind closed doors while right-brainers tend to store things horizontally and in plain view.....called piles. Some workers have toys or playful items at their desks to bring who they are to what they do, or try coordinating pot-luck meals or other creative outings for staff meetings (i.e. - without chairs, near a swimming pool, in a park, in the back of a pick-up truck). By creating an open environment; employees are more apt to be open to each other and to customers. Business these days is all about building communicative relationships and serving others in the best way possible.

Your organization can capitalize on the ideas from their internal customers (each other) or the external customers brought back by the front-line. Perhaps the idea was raised as a complaint which should be seen as gift from an 'unpaid consultant'. They are telling you exactly what is needed to serve them better and perhaps give you an edge on your competition now that you've tweaked that point of service to their satisfaction. Send them a "thank you for caring" card as well as responding to their suggestion. Recognize the employee who fixed the matter or somehow announce that there has been an improvement because of the efforts of an employee. You can use this point as a marketing tool to establish rapport with your clients and set you apart from your competitors who may not yet know this secret to better service.

Communication, recognition, and reward are critical to creating an energizing, enthusiastic, and enjoyable workplace. Using timely, small awards goes a long way in creating goodwill for internal and external customers. Pocket Praise cards telling an employee you couldn't have done it without them, a thank you note to a client for calling you, a follow-up phone call to see if the work was satisfactory, or reward cards for an hour off or a free vending machine snack all go a long way to energize the efforts of your workforce. Celebrate and make a big deal out of the little things to make the little things a big deal, then you will find your organization not only doing things right, but doing the right thing by putting energy into your efforts and employees to energize the workplace.

Gail Howerton, MA, CLP (Certified Leisure Professional - an authentic credential!) is the CEO (Chief Energizing Officer) at Fun*cilitators with a degree in Recreation and a Masters in Experiential Education. She has dedicated over 20 years promoting the benefits of peak performance through safe stress, by facilitating fun and effectiveness in keynotes and workshops. Author of Hit Any Key To Energize Your Life. Contact Gail at 410-956-2112 [email protected] or


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