A sign saying Self Care with a banner across focusing on frontline service staff

Ways to Prioritize Self Care for the Service Frontline

We can love what we do and still need to practice self care to address our mental health.

In providing customer care to your customers through frontline services (social media platforms, LIVE chat, phone, in-person), you will engage every day – answering questions, correcting misinformation, listening to concerns, passing on feedback, etc. This is all in an effort to grow as a trusted resource and build relationships with your customers.

Take Self Care Seriously

But, as with any frontline communications role that involves engaging directly with a customer, it’s not always easy. Whether it’s a recent announcement, progress on a project, delivery of a service, explanations on why a company decision was made… some topics can be met with resistance, and sometimes that’s putting it mildly. Your responses could be considered “not enough”, or “too much” in areas that are sensitive or “completely wrong” all together. And on social media, it’s quite common for people to express their displeasure to you far more extremely than they ever would face-to-face.

It is absolutely important as an organization to provide accessibility for your audience and to regularly engage with past, present and future customers. It’s hard to build a brand and customer relationships if you aren’t there to have a relationship with.

But it can add up. On Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, your blog, your LIVE chat, your inbox, etc… you can get 100s (and far more) of messages a day. Sure there are some messages of curiosity, kudos, and sharing but a lot of it is going to be frustration and conflict.

And though you may practice patience, empathy and a customer-first approach, it can be hard on a person’s mental health being challenged or “attacked” as the front-line contact to that displeasure. Psychology Today did an article on this, stating a study “found that when customer service representatives receive a heightened number of angry or abusive calls it impacts them psychologically and emotionally.”

Here are a few self care tips that I’ve found work during some of those times:

In the Moment:

  • Breathe – stop, close your eyes, place your hands on your lap and take a deep breath. A good pause can really help you through a challenging moment.
  • Move – get up and stretch. Just taking that brief pause from the conversation you’re having or the response you are drafting can help reset yourself and calm our nerves.
  • Take a walk – around the block, to the end of your driveway or to the closest park and back. Just get away from your screen for a little bit and remove yourself from the situation. A quick fresh start.
  • Understand it’s not about you – though it’s not a single fix, it does help to not take what is said personally. As the front line, you are a representative of an organization they are frustrated at. It’s not about you, it’s about the concern.
  • Talk it out with your coworkers – you are on a team for a reason so support each other. Communicating your frustrations with your co-workers and getting their input, dividing up the displeasure, can really help share the load. You are not alone.
  • Know where the “line” is – sometimes the line between frustration and inappropriateness can be crossed. This can lead to abusive, profane, racist, etc. language and is beyond what you should tolerate. If someone has clearly crossed the line, let them know their communications/language is unacceptable. Then share your moderation policy if the interaction is online (you really should have a moderation policy). Seek support from your supervisor if you have further questions and concerns if the matter continues. Again, you are not alone in this.

In Lifestyle:

  • Sleep – if you’re not sleeping well or for a healthy amount of time (7-9 hours), you’ll not be setting yourself up to succeed. You’re too tired for that.
  • Meditation – take 10 minutes a day to focus on mindfulness and enjoy huge benefits to the rest of your day. It works and science backs it up.
  • Regular Exercise – similar to sleep, it helps release stress and provides energy for your day (add healthy food to this)
  • Reading – escapism can be a beautiful thing. Whether it’s to take you to another place or time, or help you to think differently, reading is a great way to relax and be present.
  • Nature – get outside. That fresh air and change of environment can help with building connections to things that don’t stress you out.

For more ideas on how to handle stress, I put together a blog with some of the best ideas my community had to address this issue.

How do you handle yourself and self care after stressful interactions with the public or stakeholders? How did these ideas work for you? Let me know below.

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