Customer Service: Can Low Energy Cause a Bad Attitude?


We all know how important it is for anyone in a customer service position to exhibit a customer-friendly attitude. Whether on the telephone or face-to-face, customers almost instantly assess the attitude of person they are dealing with.

Most customer service organizations work hard to only hire individuals who exhibit great customer-friendly attitudes, and they often provide training, communication and other activities to reinforce the importance of customer sensitivity.

So why then do we still experience so many people in customer service position whose attitude toward customers seems to be apathetic, bored, annoyed or frustrated – or occasionally all of these at the same time?

One fundamental reason may be low energy. If you think about the typical customer service job, it can be incredibly draining and challenging, even for those with fantastic attitudes.

For telephone-bound CSRs, sitting for hours at a time is stressful and unnatural. Our bodies were not designed to be in the sitting position for hours at a time. We were designed to walk, to move, and to a large degree the flow of blood and other vital fluids in our systems depends upon physical movement.

For face-to-face CSRs, there can be many energy drainers including:

  • Rude, disrespectful customers
  • Overwhelmed by too many customers
  • Bored by not enough customers
  • Not knowing proper procedures
  • Not being informed about changes
  • Making errors because they weren’t given current information
  • Lack of control
  • Unfriendly or negative co-workers
  • Personal issues
  • Computer and other technology-related problems
  • Work environment (too hot, too cold, etc.)

When it appears that an individual CSR, or an entire customer service work group,  has an “attitude problem,” before jumping too quickly to a training or a firing/hiring solution, take some time to assess the baseline energy level of the individual(s). Here are a few indicators that your core issue may relate to their personal level of energy and physical stamina:

1. Do they sit for more than 9-0 minutes at a time without at least a 15-minute movement break? (Note: leaving one’s desk and going to the break room to SIT does not count as a “movement” break)

2. Is the individual overweight, and/or is the group predominantly overweight? This may be a sensitive issue for some organizations, but the bottom line is that being overweight is a prime indicator of low physical energy, and low energy is a cause of poor customer service attitudes. So, comfortable or not, this issue cannot be ignored.

3. Is the attitude issue more predominant in the afternoon (or toward the end of a work shift) than in the morning? Many people with energy issues tend to start their day strong, but struggle in the afternoon.

4. Do they have easy access to healthy snacks and fresh water? And do they have NO access to unhealthy vending machine “food” and sugary sodas? (Best practice: Make ONLY healthy options available onsite)

5. Is there acknowledgement that the CSR role is in fact a challenging one that requires a high level of energy and physical stamina throughout the work day? If this is not proactively understood and expressed by managers, it is not likely to be a part of the work culture.

For more tips on how to create greater Energy and Stamina for customer service representatives, Frontline Learning offers an online training module (also available on DvD video) which focuses on helping CSRs understand how physically and emotionally demanding their jobs can be, and why they need to pay special attention to their health and wellness practices.

For more tips preview this online course: Phone Skills Trainer: Energy & Stamina


Additional Tips for Greater CSR Energy and Stamina

Rehydrate Yourself

Our bodies need water to function. When you’re dehydrated, you’re depriving yourself of vital fuel, and this can affect your memory as well as your energy levels.

As soon as you feel your energy flagging, reach for a tall glass of water. The Institute of Medicine suggests that men should drink around 3 liters of fluid over the course of a day, and that women drink around 2.2 liters.

This fluid need not be water. However, if you choose another drink, be aware that its ingredients may offset the benefits of pure water. For example, caffeine can cause anxiety, while high-sugar fruit drinks may give a short-term energy boost that’s followed by deeper fatigue.

Use Light

If your office has a window, open the blinds to let in plenty of natural light.

If you don’t have access to a window, make sure that your lamps are bright enough. Lamps that emit the full spectrum of light (similar to sunlight) can make you feel more alert.

Even the light emitted by your monitor can have an impact, as increased light can suppress sleep-inducing hormones. Adjust the brightness settings on your screen to increase the amount of light given out.

You may also find that a daylight lamp boosts your energy levels. These lamps, designed for people experiencing seasonal affective disorder, are also thought to improve mental alertness.

Take a Walk

A short walk will increase the flow of oxygen to your brain.

You may also find that a change of surroundings, even for a short time, increases your energy levels. If you can, walk with a friend or colleague; this may encourage you to walk further, and can also boost your self-esteem.

Aim to walk in light surroundings to take advantage of the added effects that light has on energy levels.

Listen to Music

Think about how you feel when you listen to an upbeat, high-energy track. Your attention sharpens, you start tapping your feet, and your spirits seem to rise.

Music can have a profound effect on energy levels. Certain types of music can make you feel more energized, attentive, and awake, while other styles can make you feel calm, sleepy, angry, or tense.

The type of music most likely to raise your energy level is highly personal. You may find that classical music or jazz restores your energy, while others prefer pop or rock. When you feel your energy waning, turn on music that you enjoy.

Music can be energizing, but it can also be distracting. Think about your tasks and whether listening to music could affect your ability to complete them well.

For example, many people find that they cannot concentrate on fine detail when they’re listening to music with lyrics. Likewise, some find that they work better if they’ve set up playlists in advance, as they can avoid stopping work to choose new tracks.

Music can also be distracting for your colleagues. Use well-fitting headphones to avoid spreading your sound.

Use Your Nose 

Aromatherapy – using scents to address specific ailments or conditions – has been shown to be effective at combating fatigue. One study found that the scent of lime made participants feel more alert than those in the control group.  Your colleagues may not welcome aromatherapy in the office, however. The essential oils used can cause sensitivities, and some oils should not be used near people with diabetes, or near pregnant or nursing women.

Take a Nap

A short nap can also help you feel more alert. However, your organization may not approve of you “sleeping on the job.”  If you’re considering this, talk to your boss about whether a short afternoon nap (20 minutes or less) would be appropriate in your workplace. Ask how he or she feels about you taking a short break to nap, even if it’s in your car.

Eat Healthier Food

Your diet has a huge effect on how you feel. When you eat poor-quality foods (such as those high in fat, sugar, salt, and artificial ingredients), you don’t take in the nutrients that you need to perform at your best.

Some of these foods, such as candy bars or chips, do provide a quick burst of energy by raising your blood sugar levels. However, those levels quickly drop, often leaving you feeling even worse than you did beforehand.

Instead of eating salty or sugary snacks, aim to eat three well-balanced meals every day. You may also want to eat healthy mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. These include walnuts or almonds, low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers, fruits and vegetables, hummus, and yogurt.

Exercise Regularly

One of the best ways to boost your energy is to get regular exercise. Countless studies suggest that exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle.  Regular exercise has also been shown to increase memory and a sense of well-being.

No matter how busy you are, try to make exercise part of your daily routine. Our article on getting more exercise shows you how to fit physical activity into a jam-packed schedule.

Find Meaning

Sometimes your energy can wane when you’re working on a task that you find boring or meaningless. Routine tasks can numb your mind, and make you feel tired or lethargic. Look at the tasks that seem to sap your energy the most. These “energy vampires” are often the urgent but not important tasks that you must do regularly. Use the Urgent/Important Matrix to see how much time you’re devoting to these tasks.

Ask yourself whether you really need to accomplish these tasks; if not, see if you can cancel them, or delegate them to someone who may find them more satisfying. If you’ve lost some of your enthusiasm for your role, re-examine the purpose in what you do. This will remind you of the impact you make every day, even in small ways.

Look At Your Schedule

How you schedule tasks can also affect your energy. For example, if you’re a “morning person,” you’ll have the most energy before lunch. Your energy might drop in the afternoon and then pick up again in the early evening. If this is the case for you, schedule your hardest, most important tasks in the morning, during your peak energy time.


For more tips preview this online course: Phone Skills Trainer: Energy & Stamina


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