Customer Service

Customer Service is Emotional Labor

Rosina Reistetter

As a customer service representative, you might face the same problem hundred times a day, but you still have to listen to each person and each call. You are required to be polite, professional, patient, and smiling at all times, regardless of your true emotions. You feel much higher fatigue than doing other physical work in same load.

Human energy consumption, can be classified by the purpose of use, is divided into three types: Physical Labor, Mental Labor and Emotional Labor. Physical work and mental work are easily understood by the general public. Customer service is a perfect example of " Emotional Labor ".

1. What is "Emotional Labor"?

"Emotional Labor" is a term used by the Arlie R. Hochschild, a sociologist in the United States, proposed that emotional management can also cause the consumption of human energy.

Psychologists have done an experiment: two groups of subjects were asked to stay in the same room, one group ate radish, the other group ate cookies; then the subjects were asked to take a mathematical problem-solving test, the results found that the performance of the latter is significantly better than the former. This was because the subjects who ate radish were tempted by the aroma of the cookies and spent extra energy to control their desire to eat, resulting in less energy reserves for the brain to use when solving the problem.

When the difference between "Displayed Emotion" and real "Felt Emotion" is greater, the more energy people need to consume in " Emotional Labor " will also be higher.

2. How to balance " Emotional Labor "

There are two ways for people to deal with "emotional labor" as follows.

1) Surface Acting

Pretend to show the needed emotions, but do not adjust their real emotional feelings.

2) Deep Acting

Adjusting one's perception of the event, and then naturally producing the desired emotion.

Because the first way is too much energy consumed, it will seriously crowd out the energy needed by the physical/mental body, so it cannot be used by the individual for a long time. Therefore, the second method is recommended.

The second way, that is ABC model, the psychologist Albert Ellis proposed that “our emotions and behaviors (C: Consequences) are not directly determined by life events (A: Activating Events), but rather by the way these events are cognitively processed and evaluated (B: Beliefs)”. In short, negative emotional/behavioral disorders are not directly caused by the Activating Event, but by the individual's incorrect perceptions/thoughts about the event.

Therefore, to correct a person's negative emotion/behavior disorder, it is necessary to correct the person's interpretation of the event instead of avoiding the motivating event - this is also the content of the later Rational-Emotive Therapy (RET).

For example, a customer is complaining the late delivery and speak bad words to you. The surface acting might that you feel very angry but you have to keep polite to the customer. While the deeper acting is that it is not your responsibility. What you can do is to comfort the customer emotionally and urge the corresponding department for a quicker delivery. Then you did a good job!

If there is a common question asked by hundreds of times from different customers, you might think if you should advice your company optimize that procedure. Rather than complaining and feel annoying for the repeated works.

I hope you can learn to try to adjust your daily "emotional labor" with "deep action", and use the energy saved for "mental labor" or "physical labor" to effectively improve your performance at work, and focus your energy on the things/objects that really matter.

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