WMU News

Easing holiday stress on customer service workers

November 19, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- The high stress holidays can wreak havoc on shoppers but also hold peril for companies that rely on quality customer service. "When it's especially busy, we find that customer service providers dramatically change their communication behaviors," says Dr. Wend Z. Ford, WMU associate professor of communication. Ford is researching the effects of stress on customer service providers' communication and finds that when stressed, these providers become much less likely to make a sale or engage in courteous and personalized service practices. The most dramatic changes occur when these providers are dealing with unhappy customers. "Upset customers are more stressful to customer service providers than being very busy," she says. "But the combination of the two, such as you would have during the holidays, is just awful and unfortunately, very common." Ford has two recommendations to help relieve the stress on customer service providers. First, don't short staff. Not having enough customer service workers will not only stress out those working, but also contribute to customers' dissatisfaction. Second, make sure these employees are adequately trained and know how to meet customers' needs. "Customers will get angry when their needs aren't met the first time," says Ford. "If these workers are under stress the quality of service is affected." Media representatives may contact Ford at (616) 387-3109.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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