To grow, take a break
At the beginning of my yoga class the instructor tells us to close our eyes and set an intention. I take a deep breath and think of one… Make it through this entire session without stopping for a break. Ten minutes later, I’m standing in warrior II pose and my legs are on fire! For nearly every pose we move through, the yoga instructor offers a variation that puts less stress on the body. During the most intense parts, she welcomes us to take a child’s pose. Stubborn, I disregard the invitation to rest and push through. There’s no way I’ll get better at this if I check out when things get tough.
No pain, no gain in customer support
I know from firsthand experience that growth happens when we push ourselves. When I started in customer support, I wasn’t innately open to handling rude customers or mentoring a new hire. Taking on those challenges/opportunities has made me better at managing customer’s emotions and I’m a better leader. I’m no avid blogger, but participating in the Support Driven writing challenge has led to better writing skills and clarity on my professional experiences. I used to despise offering support via live chat (especially after that one time a customer complained it took too long to get an answer on Facebook). But, overtime I get faster, know the right questions to ask, and I learn a lot more about our product thanks to the volume of tickets that come in through live chat.
I know from firsthand experience that growth happens with rest, too. I sometimes skip my yoga instructor’s suggestion to take a child’s pose, but it serves an important purpose in yoga. Yoga is more than the positions you move through; it’s about breathing and meditation as well. Child’s pose (a resting pose that involves kneeling on your yoga mat, belly touching thighs, forehead touching mat and hands laying straight ahead or alongside your torso) not only gently stretches your body, it encourages focusing on each inhale and exhale, ignoring distractions and quieting the mind.
Beyond the world of yoga there’s evidence that taking a break is an important part of learning. In A Mind for Numbers, Dr. Barbara Oakley explains that both the attentive networks of our brains (focused mode) and the resting networks of our brains (diffuse mode) are essential for learning math and science. When you’re learning something new, especially difficult subjects, allowing your mind to bounce between these two modes leads to effective learning.
The reality of customer support
It seems like the reality of customer support at tech startups clash with the idea of taking a break. Customers want 24/7, empathetic and quality support — and they want it fast. When you’re on the front lines of customer support, there’s always another email to answer, phone call to pick or another chat to respond to. There should be a balance, though.
The customer support experience can’t get better if you just go through the motions, solving ticket after ticket like a game of whack-a-mole. If we know that taking a break can help us think clearly and learn new, challenging concepts effectively — we should do so more often. Take a break and you might open your mind up to better ways of supporting customers and to achievements that reach beyond the support queue.