I was intrigued by Arianna Huffington’s announcement last week that she is leaving the Huffington Post to concentrate on her new health and wellness startup.
Her new company, Thrive Global, is a corporate and consumer platform aimed at reducing stress, exhaustion and burnout and putting an end to the idea that burnout is a necessary price of success.
“Stress and burnout are a global pandemic, costing businesses hundreds of billions of dollars per year – 300 billion in the U.S. alone. But as the latest science has shown there is no tradeoff between living a well-rounded life and high performance. In fact our performance actually improves when we make our health and well being a priority,” according to a press release announcing Thrive Global’s founding.
In our customer experience consultancy, we see employee stress and burnout as barriers to providing an exceptional customer experience. If Huffington succeeds in transforming the way that companies view stress and performance, she could also help make it easier for companies to improve customer experiences.
Our research has shown that there are 20 emotions that drive customer experience. At the high end are positive emotions like happiness and feeling cared for that lead to long-term value. At the low end are negative emotions like frustration, stress, irritation and neglect that destroy value.
The thing about emotions is that they are contagious. Research has shown that both positive and negative emotions pass easily from one person to another – even over phone calls and social media, and even when neither party is aware it is happening.
If your customer service representatives or sales associates are feeling stressed, frustrated or burned out, they are likely to transmit those negative feelings to everyone they come in contact with, including coworkers and customers. When customers “catch” negative emotions, they feel them too, and those negative emotions can diminish both short-term spending and long-term value.
My friends told me a story at dinner last night that perfectly illustrates this. They went to lunch at a restaurant next to a local marina, ordered their food, and then sat waiting for it for an hour. When my friend politely told the waitress how long it had been, she snapped at them. “It hasn’t been an hour,” she said. “It’s only been 20 minutes.”
The waitress’s stress and anger spilled onto them, they didn’t enjoy their food, and they won’t be going back!
A less stressed waitress might have done a lot of things to soften the effect of a long wait. She could have checked in often, apologized, explained and brought free drinks. But this level of customer service is difficult to pull off if you’re working in a high pressure environment where you feel unsupported and overwhelmed.
Our customer experience consultancy recognizes that employee attitudes are a key component of a successful customer experience. If employees are engaged and happy and believe in the company’s mission and goals, they will transmit positive feelings to customers. For this reason, it is important to design an employee experience as well as a customer experience.
In our employee engagement course, we teach employers how to build rational and emotional bonds with employees that will help them become more committed to the organization and its customers. As part of the course, we talk about building processes and practices that optimize customer experiences andsupport the employees.
Arianna Huffington isn’t the first person to recognize the negative effects of stress on employees. But with her high profile, funding, and track record founding and running a major media organization, she may be poised to change the way companies think about it.
When was the last time a stressed employee wrecked your experience? Did you feel stressed too? Let’s talk about it in the comments box below.
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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX