The Hidden Impact on your Customer Facing Teams
Bushfires. Coronavirus. Global Recession. Mass layoffs. Daily updates on social distancing. Industries disappearing. Queues at Centrelink.
It’s rough. Could get rougher. Could? Let me change that to probably will.
For the industries who still have sales teams or even teams who speak with customers or clients, there is a hidden stress that we as employers and leaders must keep an eye on. One of my clients was telling me about a senior sales person who was responding to a customer’s situation with layoffs beyond the situation….On further exploration, it seems his wife had been laid off, kids are home from school, and he’s worried about his own job security…clearly there’s more going on than just the customer’s situation.
In addition to wanting to be there for customers, our sales people are facing their own set of insecurities, fears and feelings. Add to that foundation the above stressors, and if we don’t pay attention, we’ll have more to deal with than just a diminished customer base – it’ll be a diminished sales/service team that has no more capacity for the customers that are left.
Here’s what to watch for:
- Survivor Guilt
- Unresourceful belief systems
- Disconnection from others
ONE: Survivor Guilt:
“Survivor guilt (or survivor’s guilt; also called survivor syndrome or survivor’s syndrome and survivor disorder or survivor’s disorder) is a mental condition that occurs when a person believes they have done something wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not, often feeling self-guilt” – Wikipedia.
With thousands more applying to Centrelink each day, it stands to reason that when speaking with a customer who is going through something like this, that there is a level of guilt over the inequity and lack of control this situation presents. Why them and not me (but at the same time being grateful it’s not me). This inner turmoil may be percolating at the unconscious level but according to US online forum: “Psychology Today” symptoms to be vigilant when observing and listening to our colleagues and team members include:
Having difficulty sleeping
Feeling immobilized, numb, and/or disconnected
Having an intense sense of fear
Experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, and palpitations
Having suicidal thoughts
Survival guilt isn’t logical. Not that that stops some from experiencing it deeply.
Provide access to professional counselling services and engage your HR department to support team members with breaks, support and forums to unpack their feelings safely. Check in regularly with each team member and listen to any indicators that the above is going on for them: sometimes the clues will be in what isn’t said, just as much as what is said.
TWO: Unresourceful Belief Systems
When people have limited centres of control, they feel helpless, and in turn, fearful. With so much going on that lies outside of someone’s circle of control (ie. In the circle of concern), a person with an unresourceful belief system will feel overwhelmed, disempowered and stuck like a rabbit in the proverbial headlights.
As leaders, we can support our team members to expand their circle of control by encouraging them to focus on what lies within that like:
Their amount and quality of sleep they get
The way they respond
Their levels of preparation and planning
Exercise, diet, meditation and laughter
Knowledge, skill development, learning, study
Activity levels and activity focus
When their capacity, their internal resources expand, they are able to have a more realistic perspective over what they can’t control but are concerned about, and refocus to the things they can directly impact.
Leaders: be vigilant. With people working from home, it’s easy for them to begin to feel disconnected from their peers and colleagues. Build in daily structures to help them share wins, insights that work, learnings, jokes, music and inspiring customer stories with each other. Encourage a combination of text based group chats, video based coffee catch ups in the morning, Friday after work drinks on Zoom, individual check ins with your team members and weekly team meetings. Having structured opportunities to catch up are critical any time, but never more so than now.
Customers and team members will remember how we treat them during these times. Make yourself a promise to behave in a way that will make you proud in years to come as you look back on this time.