Does anyone else feel that customer service isn’t what it used to be? Think about it. There’s an uptick in negative interactions and unreasonable service expectations in the era of low staffing and supply issues. But let’s delve deeper and uncover a silent enemy we rarely discuss. Yep, I’m talking about second-hand stress.

Why Is This Happening?

Have you experienced that overwhelming feeling when interacting with an angry customer? Whether you’re a hotel receptionist, a cashier, or a call center agent, this “stress-dumping” phenomenon is all too familiar. Their stress increases your stress – building higher with every interaction.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Our brains are fascinating, and the reason for the second-hand stress reaction is embedded in our neurons. Picture this: our neurons mimic emotions we see in others. So, when customers offload their stress onto us, our brains, especially if you’re empathetic (like many in frontline roles), take it all in. Sounds exhausting, right? Be kind to yourself; it’s not you—it’s science.

Taking Charge: My Guide to Combatting Second-Hand Stress

So, how can you ride this emotional roller coaster without feeling dizzy at the end of each day? 

Here are some actionable steps:

  1. Recognize Stress Signs: It’s like when the music swells in a movie, signaling something’s about to happen. Look for your emotional and physical cues and cues from the other person.
  2. Reframe the Interaction: Your reaction is a natural response to the situation; don’t beat yourself up! Validate your client’s experience. Ask clarifying questions and set boundaries for your involvement.
  3. Modify Your Response: Don’t let their stress dictate your behavior. Understand where they’re coming from, lower your cortisol levels, and maintain your calm.
  4. Reflect Calmness: Think of yourself as a serene lake. Let nothing ripple your surface.
  5. Focus on the Solution: Be the captain of your ship. Steer towards solutions.
  6. Return to Equilibrium: Post-interaction, it’s spa time for the mind. Do what allows you to disconnect from the source of stress and decompress. BORDER Collie Link

Managers, Lend Me Your Ears!

If you’re overseeing frontline teams, your plate is doubly full. Here are some nuggets of wisdom:

  • Value and Recognition: Think of your team as plants. Regularly shower them with appreciation and watch them flourish.
  • Equip with Training: Knowledge is power. Equip them.
  • Proactive Conversations: Check in with your team. Remember, each member has a story.
  • Foster a Transition Space: Create a bridge between work and home. A calm one.

Your Role in This

Words, my friends, are magic. As one lovely person told me after a talk, just a simple “Thank you for your help!” can be the rainbow after a stormy interaction. So, let’s sprinkle kindness like confetti.

No matter which customer service branch you hail from (or if you’re just an empathetic listener), know that second-hand stress is real, but so are the tools to combat it. Let’s face this challenge together, with actionable steps and a whole lot of empathy. Because every one of you matters. Give yourself the gift of less stress. 🌟

(Do you want more insights? Check out my White Paper on Stress Dumping and delve deeper with my Keynotes and Employee Trainings!)


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