Mental health and customer service in the aftermath of the pandemic

"Put your oxygen mask on first, before assisting others", we hear each time we get on the airplane. But how to ensure customer support reps feel good enough to help others?

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Mental health and customer service

You don’t need a crystal ball to tell that the aftermath of the pandemic is the time for online businesses to rethink their customer care processes and adjust to the new normal. In this piece, we’ll analyze those changes and suggest attitudes a company should develop to succeed. 

As Oxford clinical psychology online platform puts it, Covid-19 has brought “extraordinary social disruption, changing every aspect of people’s working and social lives. In the wake of the virus has come a wave of psychiatric consequences, mostly prominently anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress“.

Thus, the mental health Covid effect has brought dramatic changes to people’s emotional state and the way they make decisions. Even back in 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that anxiety tripled while depression symptoms increased four times (among 5,470 surveyed people).

Reuters also proves the link between mental health and Covid-19. They research reports that depression was found in 31% of cases, anxiety in 42% of patients, insomnia in 40%, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms in 20%. 

Apart from the mentioned physical consequences of Covid-19 infections, lockdowns, social distancing, and other protective measures aggravated stress during COVID. It caused fear, uncertainty, and frustration. Fortunately, according to the New York Times, extreme psychiatric dysfunction will affect only a tiny proportion of patients.

Is this a risk for brands? Or rather an opportunity? It depends on how businesses prepare for it. Sensitive customer service will produce an outsize rise in positive brand perception and customer loyalty post-pandemic. And the other way round, inactive, indifferent, and service will lead to an equally pronounced adverse reaction. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that the share of companies with “OK” or “good” customer experience scores rose by five percentage points to 91% in 2021 from 86% in 2020. In other words, brands driven by the psychological effects of covid 19 managed to enhance their customers’ experience — many of them with the help of e-commerce customer support reps.

To accomplish similar results, online businesses leaders need to care about the customer support agents’ safety and well-being. In peril, customer care reps just won’t be able to focus on someone else’s concerns. In those uncharted waters of post-pandemic mental issues, they need to stay patient and resourceful. Here is what Accenture advises on the point:

Look after your people

1. Create community and collaboration

  • Check in daily to calibrate on the new ways of working and care for team mindsets.
  • Communicate more (the research of Qualtrics and SAP proves the point that employees who assumed managers were not good at communicating had been 23% more likely than others to experience mental health declines since the Covid-19 outbreak).

2. Modify processes

  • Introduce clear policies, procedures, and metrics so that agents could rely on them. Besides, all teams and agents will have shared goals and a clear understanding of business priorities.
  • Reflect advances in published customer-facing reports. This way, employees will be able to pause and think about their role in the company’s achievements and think about their future areas for growth.

3. Establish infrastructure

  • Ensure uninterrupted connectivity, reliable laptops for calm and productive work.
  • Provide software licensing to enable work-from-home models where employees don’t have to risk and can work safely.

Such an approach in the COVID-19 aftermaths will help gain trust from the customer support workforce and position online businesses for renewed growth once the pandemic subsides. 

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