4 ways to help customer service workers

Sarah Demaree, a volunteer and Tri Kappa member, completes a transaction for a customer at the Muncie YWCA's Twice as Nice resale shop Feb. 25. Alex Bracken, DN
Sarah Demaree, a volunteer and Tri Kappa member, completes a transaction for a customer at the Muncie YWCA's Twice as Nice resale shop Feb. 25. Alex Bracken, DN

In 2022, there were about 3 million customer service workers in the United States with 54,640 workers in Indiana, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), a record 200.4 million consumers shopped over the five-day holiday weekend from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday.

With Christmas and the holiday season coming up, it’s important to remember the best way to treat these workers. This advice can be followed year-round.

Here are four ways to be mindful of customer service employees:

Be respectful

According to an American Psychological Association (APA) study/survey conducted in 2023 with 2,515 employed respondents, 24 percent reported they were verbally abused or yelled at by someone in or outside of their organization. 

One-third, 31 percent, of the reports came from people who work in customer/client/patient services, giving the industry the majority of the reports.

If you are feeling frustrated with your service, instead of rising to anger, Mayo Clinic suggests people think before they speak, calm themselves down before they say their concerns, stick with “I” statements, relieve tension with humor and identify possible solutions, among other advice. 

“Remind yourself that anger won't fix anything and might only make it worse,” the Mayo Clinic advises. 

Understand they’re stressed

Retail workers, customer service representatives, and airline and travel industry staff are three job industries that are prone to workplace burnout, ​​Arijuna George, professional burnout and resilience coach and fire chief explained in a LinkedIn article. 

Workplace burnout, according to the APA, is an “occupational-related syndrome” stemming from chronic stress in the workplace.

Symptoms of workplace burnout are emotional exhaustion, feelings of lack of energy, increased mental distance from the job, negative or cynical views of the job and reduced efficiency, according to APA. 

Five essentials go into the overall mental health of a job: protection from harm, connection and community, work-life harmony, matter at work and opportunity for growth, according to the U.S. Surgeon General

The APA study conducted in 2023 used the five essentials and found that 19 percent, one in five people, reported they work in a toxic workplace environment. The highest number of reporters came from customer/client/patient services with 26 percent, according to the APA study.  

In the same study, APA also found a little more than a quarter of the respondents felt isolated or alone in their jobs. Customer/client/patient service workers were also the highest reporters in this category. 

As a customer, you can help reduce stress by listening, helping servers relax, helping with the cause of the stress and reassuring servers, according to Mind, a registered mental health charity in England. 

On top of the mental stress, there is physical stress. According to the  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), retail workers are on their feet the majority of the work day. 

According to a National Library of Medicine study, prolonged standing at work causes health risks, such as fatigue and pain in the legs, back and neck muscles and varicose veins in the legs and feet.

Be aware of supply chain issues

Supply chain issues cause inflation and higher prices on products, delayed deliveries, overworked staff and smaller qualities of available products, according to Third Way

In a 2022 report from Third Way, 45 percent of small businesses reported domestic supplier delays. Third Way also reported the issues aren’t confined to one sector, with the average being 45.4 percent of businesses affected between all industries. The manufacturing industry experienced the most domestic supplier delays with 70 percent of businesses affected.

Being aware of supply chain issues sets up expectations.

Compare prices before going into stores

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), dealers are free to set the retail products they sell. Meaning prices can differ between retailers.

Instead of complaining to the workers, who have no control over the price, compare prices online.

For example, for 1 pound of ground beef at Walmart the cheapest price is $3.74, at Target it’s $5.29 and at Aldi, it’s $5.19. For ground beef based on price, Walmart would be the better option. 

Contact Hannah Amos with comments at hannah.amos@bsu.edu or on X @Hannah_Amos_394.


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