You just got home from work. You drop your keys near the door and head toward the kitchen when, suddenly—you hear something wailing. Your phone. You cower in a corner and wait. After an eternity, the caller gives up. The howling brick is once again silent; you switch that ringer off for good measure.
Maybe you were afraid of what the person was calling to say, or how they might say it. Maybe you were scared of how you would respond. One thing’s for sure: if you work in a role where you have to take calls, it’s likely that you feel some of the above on a regular basis.
Telephone apprehension can reach phobic levels, triggering parched mouth, sweaty palms, and even panic attacks. This condition may be on the rise, as younger generations are less accustomed to unedited, on-the-fly exchanges. Moreover, when we are on calls, we are also usually multitasking: messaging co-workers for answers, taking notes, trying to ignore open-office chatter. When agents become stressed by their environment, customers do too.
Working with customers requires being available. That said, we can be smart about the signaling we include in a work environment and ensure that admins and agents alike have the energy to bring their A-game to support interactions. Here are some tips.
If we feel unsteady, no external organizers or acts of efficiency will keep a phone call from triggering that fight-or-flight feeling. If you are feeling anxious, taking a stroll around the block can help you unwind. Apps such as Calm and Headspace offer guided meditations to help you find some stillness. If your workplace offers yoga or has a meditation room, use those resources—they can help halt that racing brain and get you back to neutral. Closing your eyes in a bathroom stall or stairwell for five minutes can also do the trick. Gallup has found that employees who are engaged and have high well-being are 27% more likely to report excellent performance in their job and 45% more likely to report high levels of adaptability in the presence of change.
Practice and prepare
Confidence is a superpower when it comes to handling ambiguity. If you have a call coming up that’s making you nervous, gather information, clarify expectations over email, and plan out and practice what you are going to say ahead of time. Doing this will help settle doubts around saying the right things or blanking out entirely. It's likely to affect your overall sense of feeling good, too, which in turn benefits work: Economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12 percent increase in productivity.
Use intelligent tools and streamline the workflow
Choose tools that have clean, clear, intuitive, and versatile workflow designs. You should feel guided and empowered. For example, using an integrated omnichannel solution will make it easier for users to determine their availability; helping your team turn off when they need to will help them better focus when they are on.
If you are an admin or a manager, spend some time as an agent on your team to understand how you can help, in addition to asking agents for their input. If you are an agent, get to know the product you are using and talk to your manager about tweaking settings to improve your flow.
“Confidence is a superpower.”
- Faith Hanna
Take it a step further and consider if agents should be on one or two channels at a time instead of all of them at once. Or see how your can structure their workday so that they can anticipate what’s coming next. If your agents know what to expect, they will be able to tend to customers with greater precision—that can translate into quicker, happier solutions.
Review and minimize the stressors
Ask your team to consider powering off when you are together, but start by doing so yourself: Take lunch away from your desk, turn off your phone, leave your computer behind when you meet for a 1:1, and give people your full attention when you are having a conversation. Who knows what you’ve been missing while talking and texting and Slacking and walking at the same time?
Relying on an physical agenda, notebook, or the digital equivalent to write down what needs to be done will permit you to let go of what isn’t imminent so you can center on a more pressing matter. As soon as you release that item onto a planner or calendar, you are free to focus on what’s in front of you.
By creating or allowing zones where people are relieved from the onslaught of digital notifications, you and your agents can get the necessary respite from interactions—so they keep the “smooth” in smooth operator.
Learn more about how an omnichannel support strategy can help your customers