We need our employees to act nice (display positive emotions) when interacting with customers. But at what costs are we asking our people to act nice? Is organizational control of emotional displays inherently stressful? Results vary but in some research, employees who were required to hide negative emotions reported more emotional exhaustion, burnout, and other physical symptoms of stress. How do we keep this from spiraling out of control?
I believe one of the best ways to address this dilemma is to manage differently. First, let's acknowledge the stress, communicate with our agents that we know they might want to lash out at times, and tell them we understand the customer is not always right.
Second, say things differently. Look at the following words and consider their impact: hide, control, rules, required. When we use these words, we are starting off in a hole that we will be forever trying to climb out of. Consider words that better communicate the role that positive emotions play in the call center job. It's not about hiding; it is about looking at the situation, the customer, and the self in a different way. It's not about organizational control - it's about self control. It's not rules, it's guidelines for which there will always be exceptions.
Finally, we are responsible for: (1) hiring persons who understand that the display of positive emotion is important albeit, at times, difficult; (2) teaching them various coping skills for dealing with "problem" customers and situations; and (3) educating them on how to better recognize and deal with their internal emotional conflicts. If we do that, then I believe we can lower the level of employee burnout and stress.