Wednesday, 16 April 2014

How Mindfulness Can Cure Stress

By Jo Ellen Grzyb

Eeek!! I’m too stressed to do anything about being stressed.

You are probably too busy to read this

No seriously, when we run Stress Management courses we ask people to look at what gets chucked out of their day when they’re under too much pressure.

Stress and Mindfulness

And it’s usually all the things that could help them become less stressed. Stands to reason, if you've got too much to do you probably will jettison the couple of hours in the garden losing yourself in potting soil or the calming walk in a local park or the get together with chums to watch a film or the footie or the yoga class, the kick-boxing class, the gym.

Not only do these things get ditched at the stressed drop of a hat, they often get replaced by bad food, lots of chocolate, alcohol, late hours and lack of sleep.

People also get wrapped up in things that happened in the past or they worry about what might happen in the future. Brains whirl around the hamster wheel of circular thinking which in most cases simply adds to the stress, not eases it.

Because the brain is chattering away and the body is being undermined at the same time, those quiet moments of peace and restfulness become increasingly elusive.


We cover a lot of issues on our Stress Management course and one significant subject is ‘mindfulness’. And what a big topic that is. We’re not recommending that people take up Buddhism or even that they meditate an hour every day (which really does a heap of good to help manage stress); what we are interested in is how mindfulness keeps people present and aware.  

The more present and aware you are, the less likely you are to keep repeating patterns that increases your stress (including those late hours and bad food). Mindfulness allows you to see what’s going on, to turn the knob down on all the noise and chatter, to help you make choices that are based on insight rather than panic.

About 20 years ago, I joined a meditation group at a friend’s house with the great Peter Matthiessen, who died recently. He had many wise things to say in his writings and here is something he told The Guardian in 2002:    
“Zen is really just a reminder to stay alive and be awake. We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past. Zen practice is about appreciating life in the moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past. And there is no reality apart from the here and now.”
You don’t need to practice Zen to be mindful, aware and in the present moment. The more you can do that, the more you will be able to manage the pressure and stress that can wear you down to a nub.

Impact Factory runs Stress Management Open Courses in London which can help you start managing pressure effectively. Find the next Stress Management Course >

Watch: TED Talk How to make stress your friend

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Why Customer Service is More Important Than Ever

Social Media and Customer Service

Once upon a time, not too long ago, if you complained to a shop, a call centre, a repairman, and energy company, you might also have complained to your friends and family about how rubbish they were and that was generally about it.  

If you got really frustrated you might escalate it to write to the head of the organisation or even write a letter in the local or national press.

For the most part, that complaint stayed in a little bubble that might or might not get resolved.

It’s all completely different now. The advent and ubiquity of social media now means that not only might you complain to the organisation and moan to your friends and family but you can also tell the world.

With Twitter, Facebook, GooglePlus, Instagram, WhatsApp and whatever else is being invented as you read this, you can let anyone who chooses to read your posts know exactly what you think and feel.  

The power of the consumer is increasing exponentially, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Companies have to be aware that their customers deserve excellent customer service and if they don’t get it, they will let the world know of their disappointment (not to mention rage and frustration!).

On the other hand, this kind of public venting is unregulated and therefore anyone can say anything they want whether it’s truthful or not (e.g. someone on a personal vendetta bent on revenge, someone who’s a chronic complainer who collects evidence against real or perceived misdemeanours and of course troll sites). These public forums can have a serious impact on organisations and can be devastating to individuals who are in most cases doing the best they know how.

What seems to be common is that because the ‘human element’ is absent, complainers often feel compelled to let rip and say things they would be unlikely to say face to face or even on the phone. The level of anonymity afforded by social media gives people permission to chuck out all social graces, courtesy and politeness to be replaced in many cases with bile, venom and even death threats. 

We work with a number of call centres and most recently ran a Customer Service course for New Call Telecom as part of a Channel 4 documentary series to be broadcast later this year called Serving the Nation

Typical of many contact centres, the agents at New Call were a great bunch of people who genuinely care about their customers and who take the constant attacks quite personally. They feel it very deeply when customers often complain on Facebook or through other social media even before they've picked up the phone to make a formal complaint. Not only that, the agents pointed out to us that people were often very quick at using social media to pounce and criticise and yet completely ignore social media when their problem is resolved well or when they themselves made a mistake. Broadcasting to the world your gripe seems to be a lot easier than broadcasting your praise.

Nonetheless, social media is now part of the equation and can’t be ignored. And although there are lots of things companies can do to use social media to promote themselves, for us the best possible way to manage how organisations are viewed through social media is to offer the best possible customer service. This way companies build a reputation for responsiveness, courtesy, a passion to resolve issues and of course, most important of all, that the people at the end of the phone are real human beings not script-reading automatons.

And we’re all looking forward to Serving the Nation and seeing how complaining and customer service is ‘served up’.

Find the next Customer Service Course in London or talk to us about tailored customer service training.

Read about Impact Factory's tailored customer service training with New Call Telecom.