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Mental health and wellbeing in Customer Service

23 Dec 2019

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By Angie Carr, Disability Consultant and Training Specialist, Remploy

With one in four of us struggling with poor mental health in any one year, it’s hard not to see how this mental ill health epidemic is taking its toll on society both emotionally and financially.

The financial cost on the quality of life and to society is estimated at £41.8bn. Mental ill health affects all areas of society. Serving customers on a daily basis means that we will naturally come into contact with people who are not well. And this can be challenging to your wellbeing in many ways.

We all have mental health

The first thing to understand is that we all have ‘mental health’. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not so good. How we see the world, can change in good times and bad. Because of this, we can fall into negative ways of thinking often referred to as ‘thinking distortions’. These are negative thinking patterns that can change our reactions to situations from having a positive reaction to a negative one.

How does our mood affect the way we feel about the service we receive? It has a huge impact on our feelings and reactions. You can receive exactly the same service in the same way, but you could feel differently about this because of those negative thinking distortions I referred to earlier.

For example, finding out your usual snack from your favourite coffee shop is out of stock. Depending on our thinking patterns, this can affect how you see the situation. If we are in a good positive pattern, we could see it as an opportunity to try a new snack. However, if we are already in a negative pattern, this can lead to a very negative reaction eg. complaining that this is not acceptable, how can they do this to you and thinking that I never get what I want etc.

The situation is the same, but the reaction can be very different.

Spotting the signs

When we have the knowledge and understanding of how a customer may be feeling, we can diffuse difficult situations. This ensures that all of our customers get the best possible service.

Working in a customer service role means that we need to be able to spot the signs of a customer being unwell and positively manage the situation. We also need to keep ourselves and other staff well. Recent statistics highlight the importance of managing our own health and wellbeing, as well as our customers. With sickness absence costing as much as £522 per employee, per year, a healthy workforce is critical to the success of any organisation (CIPD, 2016).

A survey of 2,000 workers by the Mental Health Foundation in October 2017, revealed that 38 per cent of British workers wouldn’t talk openly about a mental health problem, in case it affected their job prospects and security.

A further 17 per cent were worried they would face negative judgement from colleagues. 45 per cent would rather make up an excuse such as a stomach ache or back problems for absence, if they needed to take time off work for mental health reasons.

Worryingly, 20 per cent said they’ve seen the label of mental health misused against co-workers. 11 per cent have been victims of abuse at work as a direct result of a mental health issue.

There is good news though, through the help and support available for companies and individuals. Although we can’t change challenging customers, we can look at how we are affected by them and the issues they bring.

Looking for help?

We offer a variety of services to help maintain and promote positive mental health and wellbeing. This includes upskilling, and building the confidence of your line managers, as well as protecting the mental health of your customers. We also deliver the fully funded Access to Work Mental Health Support Service for both employers and employees, funded by the Department for Work and Pensions. You can find out more by following one of the links above or by getting in touch.

About Angie
Angie is a dedicated and impassioned disability advocate and trainer who relishes developing and delivering disability and wellbeing training sessions. With 24 years experience, she has worked as a Disability Employment Advisor with Jobcentre Plus and, since 2006, a broad range of roles for Remploy, giving her a robust background within the disability and welfare to work arena.