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NEWSLETTER

Email Incivility has a Ripple Effect

By Steve Bent

   According to a new paper from a University of Illinois expert who studies work stress and recovery, the negative effects of email incivility extend beyond the recipient’s work and family domains and can even play a role in their partners’ withdrawal from their own work, said Young Ah Park, a professor of labor and employment relations at  Illinois.  “What I found in my previous study is that email incivility—this general rudeness over email, whether it’s the tone, content or timing of a message—really stresses people out on a daily basis,” she said. “People who receive a greater number of negative, rude or just    uncivil emails tend to report more strain at the end of their workday, which can manifest itself in all sorts of ways, from physical symptom such as headaches to feeling negative emotions.  “In this new paper, I found that email incivility has more persistent effects. It’s not merely a blip on your workday radar and then you forget about it. It has a cumulative negative effect for both workers and their families.”
   Park and co-author Verena C. Haun of Johannes Gutenberg University collected survey data from 167 dual-earner couples at multiple points in time during a typical work week: before leaving work for the weekend, the following Monday morning and at the end of the next new week. Results show that when employees experience more frequent incivility via work email during the week, they tend to withdraw from work the following week.  “This is a typical stress reaction: When you are under great stress, you tend to avoid your work as a means of  conserving your energy and resources and staying away from stressors. It’s self-preservation,” Park said.Angry Cat
   The researchers also found that when employees receive more uncivil emails during the work week, on the weekend, “they ‘transmit’ their stress to their domestic partner and, as a result, the partner also         withdraws from their work the following week,” Park said.  “What’s really stressful about email incivility is that, unlike face-to-face interactions, emails don’t have any social cues like tone of voice or body gestures that help recipients understand the context accurately,” she said. “Nuance is lost in email—it could be blunt, it could merely be banal, it could be neutral. You just don’t know, and because of the ambiguity of the sender’s intentions, the recipients may ruminate more about it because they don’t know how to respond to it. That’s why it’s so distressing.”
   When workers ruminate about negative work incidents over the weekend, “they are more likely to take their stress out on family members, including their spouse, because the rumination replays the stressors and renews their effects,” Park said.  “So this workplace stress crosses over work-life threshold more easily to the spouse on the weekend,” she said. “Interestingly, when the spouses also negatively reflect on their own work over the weekend, they become more affected by the stress transmission. It’s like a double whammy.”
   To combat the stress effects of email incivility, employees need managers who recognize the effects of poor email etiquette, Park said.  “This is one of the emerging workplace stressors that needs attention from top to bottom of an organization,” Park said. “Email is so ingrained in our work life now that it would be    impossible to completely do away with it. So we can’t remove the stressor, but we should find a way to   reduce it.”
   For employees, it helps to be able to completely disconnect from work when they’re not at work.  “We know that email is very time efficient, but sometimes behavior that email encourages can make it unhealthy,” she said. “If email is your major method of communication, then there ought to at least be an email code of conduct for employees. There has to be a shared set of norms to follow.”
   People tend to outsource all of their work communication to email because it’s easy, but old fashioned  in-person, face-to-face communication is better “when you’re communicating negative feedback,” Park said.  “Managers really need to think about how they want to set up the communications expectations for email among their employees so they can reduce this stressor,” she said.

Quick Customer Service Tips for Pleasing Different Generations

By Dan Rose

   When it comes to customer service today, the one-size-fits-all approach is dead and gone. Whether in person, on the phone, online or through social media, we all serve a variety of customers with different genders, ages, races, religions, education, economic statuses and language skills. Although each generation has their unique likes and dislikes about how they interact with your company’s  customer service people, one thing remains consistent—their experience with your company is the most powerful differentiator for any business today.
   Great customer experiences lead to increased customer satisfaction and higher sales. American Express’s 2017 Customer Service Barometer showed that seven out of 10 customers will spend more money during a transaction when receiving great service. And that great customer experience begins with your ability to connect and relate to the customer.
But how do you do it? How do you develop great rapport with customers, especially when you might only have an instant to make that connection? And how do you prepare your team to deal with customers from different age groups and generations?
If your customers aren’t happy, your organization suffers
It’s up to you to make sure every       encounter you have with customers is 100% outstanding. But that’s easier said than done when you’re dealing with the communication issues that arise between different generations. Throw in an angry and frustrated customer and an inadequately trained customer service representative and it’s a recipe for disaster. The good news is that with a little   patience, a little emotional intelligence, and training on the proper techniques to communicate and resolve issues between age groups, you can soon have your customer service teams handling any situations with the professionalism that will keep your customers coming back and your business ready for success.
Note: I’m using the generational cutoff points from Pew Research.
Tips for serving the Silent Generation (born 1928 – 1945)
Since the youngest member of this generation is 75 years old, your interactions with this group will be 99% face-to-face or on the phone. This generation is detached from technology and are still generally distrustful of it. Their preferred method of communication media is a written letter.

  • Don’t rush things and keep your interaction to a relaxed paceMachine
  • Establish rapport by being respectful in an old-fashioned way. Don’t forget to watch your language
  • Be a bit more formal, leaving a respectful distance   between yourself and your customer.
  • Remember to avoid being too chummy or over-personal

Tips for serving Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964)    
Boomers were part of the earliest information technology adaptors. However, Boomers prefer contact by telephone. Younger Boomers are far more comfortable with        technology but still prefer a personal touch.

  • Around 87% of Boomers research products online, but a still solid 67% prefer going to a local store to make the purchase rather than order online
  • Be personable, especially in your greeting. If you know their name, use it when you greet them
  • Take time to check in and find out how they’re doing
  • Treat them like friends
  • If they are regular customers, give them something extra to ensure continued patronage - such as, throw in that extended warranty with their purchase for free

Tips for serving Generation X (born 1965 – 1980)
The first group to be highly influenced by personal computers, Gen Xers prefer communication by email and, to a lesser extent, text messages.

  • Be efficient. Competence matters more to Xers than schmoozing
  • Xers won’t purchase a product until they’ve researched it thoroughly, which is why they make extensive use of search engines, online reviews, and social media networks before making a purchase
  • Make yourself available to share information. Xers tend to be cynical and distrusting of marketing and appreciate customer service reps that offer information
  • Don’t hover. Give the customer a little more room and allow Xers to make their own decisions
  • Don’t be put off by Xers’ aloofness. Most won’t be warm and friendly to you 

Tips for serving Millennials (born 1981 – 1996)
The first digital natives, Millennials use the latest technology for finding the best deals, even when they’re physically   standing in your store. They are social consumers, using tech to inquire about a product from social media as well as take their complaints online in a heartbeat. Most importantly, they are swayed by customer experience more than they are by a brand, so here is where you can differentiate yourself from your competition.

  • Be respectful—don’t talk down or condescend to them just because they’re young
  • Be sensitive to the generational clash between Boomers, Xers and Millennials
  • You don’t have to do a song and dance but pick up the pace and look lively
  • Value personalization over speed, so try to skip the AI experience as much as possible and get them to a human

Tips for serving Generation Z (born 1997 – 2012)
Their total digital immersion began at birth and their cyber-savviness puts even Millennials to shame. And, by the year 2020, they will make up 40% of the American population and be responsible for over a trillion dollars spent. This generation wants digital immediacy blended with personalization.

  • Faster is better for Gen Z more than any other demographic. In fact, they even talk faster than any other group. The 18-to-24-year-old age group is 60% more likely than the average consumer to hang up if a business doesn’t answer the phone right away—four rings or fewer
  • Gen Z will leave a brand entirely after only three bad customer service experiences
  • On the other hand, a great customer experience is nearly guaranteed to get your praises sung on Instagram or Twitter
  • Unlike Millennials, Gen Z are actually more apt to make phone calls. In fact, this age group is the most likely of any demographic to click-to-call a business from a cell phone after searching for the business online.

Customer service has always been a priority for the consumer, but many companies treated it as an inconvenience for the last few decades. No more, however. Today, customer service is perhaps the most critical piece of every transaction and     companies that put capital towards technology, but also    training employees like you, reap many times the investment over again.

Legislation Would Require Employers to Provide Worker Training

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has introduced the Workers’ Right to Training Act requiring companies to provide advance notice of any technology changes that may affect workers’ jobs and provide training to these workers in advance of adopting the new technology.
Specifically Brown’s bill would:

  • Require companies to provide 180 days advanced notice to workers when new technology will change employment positions and provide 270 days advanced notice if jobs will be eliminated. Employers must bargain directly with employees on how best to implement new technology.
  • Require employers to pay for and provide on-the-job training to any employees who will be affected by the introduction of new technology. Companies must either provide training to employees whose jobs will change as a result of new technology or to employees who will lose their job to help these workers obtain a different position at a similar company.
  • Require employers to provide six-month severance to all workers who lose their jobs as a result of new technology.

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