Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Avoiding directed attention fatigue, part of Innovative Customer Service Techniques.
- Do you ever feel exhausted after a long day? It's not uncommon in customer service. Even jobs that don't require a lot of physical activity can leave you feeling tired and drained. If you work in a fast-paced customer service environment, you might be experiencing what's called directed attention fatigue. It's a problem that can affect your ability to serve customers at the highest level. This video will explore the symptoms, causes, and cures. Let's start with some of the symptoms. Do you experience any of these on a regular basis? Distractibility, irritability, impatience, indecisiveness, or procrastination? In a 2005 Harvard Business Review article, psychiatrist Edward Hallowell said that directed attention fatigue symptoms match the symptoms for attention deficit disorder, or ADD.
This is pretty scary stuff. What's even scarier, is many of our daily habits are the cause. It comes from overusing two parts of our brain. One part of our brain is responsible for focusing our attention, such as listening intently to a customer. The other part of our brain blocks out distractions, such as a noisy co-worker sitting right next to you. These two parts of our brain are constantly in use. We focus and refocus our attention throughout the day. We check e-mail, text, instant messages, and even our own personal social media accounts.
Many people say that their computer with multiple screens open, rapidly jumping from one to the next. And then there's the distractions. Our phone buzzes, and rings, or computer blinks, our co-workers interrupt. Multiple customers demand service. Our brains spend all day trying block out unimportant information, while letting the important stuff in. It doesn't even stop, and we have some free time. We multitask on our smartphones, we multitask while watching television, we even multitask while driving. It never seems to end.
Constantly focusing and refocusing our attention eventually makes those parts of our brain feel tired. Ironically, when that happens, we become more easily distracted, and are more prone to unhealthy multitasking. So what's the cure? There's only one known way to recover, and that's rest. Here are a few specific examples. A great place to start is to unplug from your social networks. You can do this for a few minutes, a few hours, or even a few days. There's even a popular #unplug hashtag on social media, where people share stories and ideas.
Taking a break is also a great idea. Not just a break from work, but a break from nonstop focusing and refocusing. Some companies are even creating special quiet rooms to encourage employees to recharge on their break time. You might also engage in quiet activities, like reading a book, working a puzzle, or listening to soothing music. These activities can help you relax. One of the best cures for directed attention fatigue is to get outside. Take a walk, hike, or go for a run. Research shows that exposure to nature helps us recover faster.
Finally, getting a good night's sleep can help us recover from directed attention fatigue. Just like our bodies, our brains need rest. Avoiding directed attention fatigue isn't easy with our hectic lifestyles. Ironically, it's the constant go-go-go of our everyday lives that makes it worse. It's counter-intuitive, but if you can get more rest, you'll actually work faster, and more effectively. People who take time to recover from the effects of directed attention fatigue can feel more alert, more refreshed, and more focused, and that can lead to better service.
- Identifying the most important customer need
- Making wait time more bearable
- Improving your power of observation
- Avoiding directed attention fatigue
- Increasing teamwork