Back to the Toolbox

The Chemicals of Support

author photo
Maxime Manseau
June 27, 2024
Team Development
Support Operation

For many years, people were unaware that their actions, thoughts, and feelings were governed by a complex system within their brains.

In the 20th century, scientists began to learn about our brains. They discovered that certain chemicals control most (if not all) of our actions.

For customer support professionals, understanding brain chemistry is essential. It helps in engaging and satisfying customers by revealing the neurological factors behind human emotions and actions. This knowledge also aids support leaders in building and leading effective teams. By creating an environment where team members feel valued and motivated, leaders can enhance performance, job satisfaction, and overall productivity.

I aim to help you understand the most important chemicals in our brains.

If we look at the human animal, it functions like a machine. There is a system inside our body that is always trying to get us to do things for one unique interest: survival. Inside our brain, there are chemicals that influence us to do things that are in our best interest. Whenever you feel happiness, pride, joy, fulfillment, engagement, etc., understand that all these feelings are chemically produced.

For those in customer support, understanding these chemicals—Endorphin, Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Cortisol—can transform how we interact with customers and manage our teams. These chemicals have been around for tens of thousands of years, shaping our responses and interactions. In customer support, we are not only solving problems; we are creating experiences. Let's explore how these five chemicals can guide our approach to customer support. They can help us build stronger, more empathetic connections with our customers and effectively lead our support teams.


Endorphin is designed to do one thing only: mask physical pain. Running a marathon and pushing your body to its limits produces a rush of endorphins, making you feel great.

In the time of the Caveman, hunting was essential for our survival. We were neither the fastest nor the strongest animal, but we managed to survive. Thanks to our endurance and our body's production of endorphins, we could track animals for long distances and hours at a time. Even if we were tired or injured, we kept going. And it felt so good that we might have volunteered to look for food the next day. It is exactly like being addicted to exercise today, and it is a very good system for the survival of a group.

On a side note, the reason why laughing feels good is because of endorphins: you are actually convulsing your internal organs, and endorphins are masking the physical pain.

We could say endorphins just make us feel good!

In customer support, maintaining a positive and resilient mindset is crucial. Just as endorphins help us push through physical challenges, finding ways to naturally boost endorphin levels—like incorporating moments of humor and encouraging brief physical activities—can help support teams stay energized and positive. This ultimately improves their interactions with customers and enhances their sense of belonging to the team.


Dopamine plays a key role in motivating us to achieve our goals. It's the chemical that provides a sense of satisfaction when we locate something we've been searching for or achieve a set objective. That's why crossing off items from your to-do list feels so rewarding.

Historically, dopamine was vital for our survival. Our ancestors depended on it to prompt them to search for food well before hunger set in, ensuring they didn't delay and risk starvation. The dopamine produced when we eat makes the act of eating enjoyable. This chemical reinforcement promotes behaviors beneficial to our survival.

For instance, if you're walking and spot an apple tree, you experience a minor dopamine surge, helping you focus on your goal (the apple). As you approach the tree, your brain releases more dopamine, motivating you to continue until you attain your goal.

This is why setting goals is vital; they become concrete targets. As visually oriented creatures, we need to visualize our goals to stay focused on them. Each accomplished goal, reached milestone, or achieved target gives us a dopamine boost, reinforcing our drive to persist. This is why companies need a clear vision and tangible goals to foster progress (👋 Support OKRs).

In customer support, setting clear and achievable goals for both the team and individual representatives is crucial. Each resolved ticket, positive feedback, or met metric can trigger a dopamine release, reinforcing productive behavior and motivating the team to maintain high performance. This not only drives individual success but also contributes to the overall success of the support team.

However, dopamine comes with a caveat. It is highly addictive. External triggers like alcohol, nicotine, gambling, and even your cellphone can release dopamine, leading to addictive behaviors. In the workplace, people can become addicted to performance metrics, constantly striving for higher numbers and greater achievements to obtain that dopamine surge.

Symptoms of dopamine addiction include inability to complete tasks, being easily distracted, and having short attention spans. People might even sacrifice their personal resources and relationships in pursuit of this chemical reward.

While dopamine is incredibly beneficial in a balanced system, it can be harmful and destructive when unbalanced. Understanding how to effectively harness dopamine can help maintain motivation and productivity without falling into the trap of addiction.


Serotonin is responsible for feelings of pride and status, which is why public recognition is so important to humans. As social animals, we constantly seek recognition from others. Events like the Oscars, public awards, and commencement ceremonies make us feel good. Imagine if you received your diploma via email; it wouldn’t have the same impact. Instead, we hold grand ceremonies to celebrate accomplishments. When we walk across the stage to receive our diploma or award, our serotonin levels rise, boosting our pride and confidence.

The best part about serotonin is that it creates a chain reaction. At the exact moment you receive your diploma and feel the serotonin boost, your parents in the audience also experience a surge of serotonin, feeling intense pride. This is what serotonin aims to do: reinforce relationships between parent and child, boss and employee, coach and player. A great team doesn’t just want to win a trophy; they want to win it for their coach or caregiver. Making our caregiver proud elevates our status, boosts our confidence, and feels good.

In customer support, this dynamic is mirrored in the relationship between team leaders and support representatives. Recognizing and celebrating the achievements of support staff can significantly boost their confidence and morale. Public acknowledgment of a job well done—whether through awards, shout-outs in meetings, or even a simple thank-you email—releases serotonin and strengthens team bonds, motivating everyone to perform at their best.

However, serotonin can be tricked. In our material society, we often judge status by wealth. Any sign of wealth raises your status, which is why wearing designer brands can boost your confidence. But this doesn’t reinforce real relationships; it’s a quick serotonin fix. This is why we accumulate more material goods but still don’t feel successful.

Thousands of years ago, Homo sapiens lived in small communities. If food was brought in, the strongest ate first, and the weakest ate last. We evolved into hierarchical animals, constantly assessing who the Alpha is. When we recognize someone as the Alpha, we let them lead.

Who is considered the Alpha is relative, depending on the context: it could be strength for cavemen, talent for artists, or courage for soldiers. If you’ve ever felt stressed meeting someone, it likely meant you were not the Alpha.

In the animal kingdom, alphas are the first to eat and mate. There are benefits to being the Alpha. Today, we accept giving special treatment to our Alpha. No one minds that the boss makes more money.

But being the Alpha comes at a cost. When danger threatens, the pers who is stronger, better fed, and with higher serotonin levels is expected to protect the others.

This is why people dislike bankers who make a lot of money. It’s not just about their wealth; it’s because they violate a deep social contract by allowing others to be sacrificed for their gain. In contrast, people wouldn’t mind if Nelson Mandela received millions, as he truly looked out for his tribe.


Oxytocin is the feeling of love, trust, friendship, unicorns, and rainbows.

It is the reason why we like to spend time with our friends even if we don’t do anything with them. It is also the reason why, if you arrive in a room full of seats, you will pick a seat next to someone you know. Oxytocin is the feeling of safety, that someone has your back.

There are multiple ways to get Oxytocin:

  • Physical contact: Hugging feels wonderful. When a mother gives birth to a child, she receives a big shot of Oxytocin, which is responsible for the children-parent bond. This is also why shaking hands matters. If you are negotiating a contract and you have all the terms you want but the person in front doesn’t want to shake your hand, trust decreases. Business and relationships are not rational; they’re about feeling safe
  • An act of generosity: Giving time and energy (money doesn’t work) without expecting anything in return releases Oxytocin. You could hire someone for $1,000, but as human beings, we put a premium on time because it is an equal commodity and a non-redeemable commodity. You spend $1,000…but you will make $1,000 again. If you spend a day, you will never get that day back. We put a premium on people who give time and energy. But if you give time and energy in exchange for something, it is not relationship building (for instance, inviting someone to dinner expecting they will hire you).

Our body is trying to get us to repeat behavior that is in our best interest, and it makes us feel good when we see (witnessing an act of generosity releases Oxytocin) or when we do an act of human generosity. In fact, the more Oxytocin you have in your body, the more generous you become.

The more you do, the more you want to do. And it gets better than that. A lot of Oxytocin in your body inhibits addiction (it becomes more difficult to get addicted to something like Dopamine). It boosts your immune system and makes you healthier; this is why happy people live longer. Couples live longer. It increases our ability to solve problems and boosts our creativity. It is good for us and it is not addictive.

One of the lessons of the longest study on happiness is that social connections are really good for us and that loneliness kills. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, friends, and community are happier, physically healthier, and live longer than people who are less well connected. And the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic. People who are more isolated than they want to be from others find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner, and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely. Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies; they protect our brains. Being in a securely attached relationship to another person in your 80s is protective; the people who are in relationships where they really feel they can count on the other person in times of need have memories that stay sharper longer. Conversely, those in relationships where they feel they really can’t count on the other one experience earlier memory decline.

It takes time to build up oxytocin. You can’t form a bond of trust strong enough to get married in seven days, for example. Everyone knows that when you start a job, you don’t feel from day one that you belong. It takes time. But one day, when you have enough Oxytocin, you will fall in love or feel like you belong.

In customer support, fostering a sense of trust and connection is crucial. For example, when the VP of Customer Support actively shows appreciation and recognition for the hard work of the support team, it builds trust and camaraderie. Acts like publicly acknowledging a team member's exceptional work during a meeting or taking the time to personally thank employees for their efforts can significantly boost oxytocin levels. This creates a supportive and positive work environment where team members feel valued and motivated to excel.

But we can’t provide Oxytocin for everyone. There is a limited amount. That’s why you need others to trust others to trust others.


Cortisol is the feeling of stress and anxiety.

We share this chemical with all social mammals.

So, when you see on National Geographic a herd of gazelles grazing and one of them hears a rustle in the grass and they all lift their heads, it is cortisol in action.

Cortisol is designed to keep us alive. It makes us paranoid, heightens all our senses to look for danger, injects energy into our muscles to make us ready to fight or flee, increases our heart rate, and makes us start looking for danger.

The fascinating aspect of cortisol in a social environment is that if one person is nervous, everyone else becomes nervous too. So if one gazelle raises its head and the others haven’t heard anything but see one reacting, they all react and become alert.

It is an effective system. When cortisol leaves our body, we relax.

For cortisol to be efficient, it needs to shut down non-essential systems. You need energy from somewhere, right? So it shuts down things like growth (you don’t need your fingernails to grow at that moment), and it also shuts down our immune system. We are not supposed to have cortisol in our system all the time. It is supposed to come in and then leave. The problem arises when someone or something doesn’t make us feel safe, leading to a constant trickle of cortisol in our body, making us paranoid (we might think our boss hates us, for example).

One other thing that cortisol does: it inhibits the release of oxytocin. It makes us self-interested. Biologically, if you work in an environment where you feel stressed, you are biologically less empathetic and less generous. We don’t care about each other because we are too busy protecting ourselves.

We also know that parents who come home stressed out teach their kids that “this is what work does; it makes you unhappy.” Worse, we now know that parents who come home upset and angry have kids who tend to be bullies.

In a customer support environment, the impact of cortisol can be particularly pronounced. When team leaders show signs of stress and anxiety, it can ripple through the entire team. A support representative who feels constantly stressed may become less empathetic towards customers, leading to a decrease in service quality. Conversely, leaders who manage stress effectively and create a calm, supportive environment can help minimize cortisol levels in the team, promoting better customer interactions and a more positive workplace culture.

In conclusion

Understanding how brain chemicals like Endorphin, Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Cortisol influence human behavior can provide powerful tools for customer support professionals. By applying this knowledge, you can create a more effective and harmonious work environment, enhancing both team dynamics and customer interactions.

Actionable Advice:

  1. Boost Endorphin Levels:
    • Encourage brief physical activities or team exercises to help reduce stress and improve mood.
    • Incorporate moments of humor and fun into the workday to keep the team energized.
  2. Harness Dopamine for Motivation:
    • Set clear, achievable goals for both individuals and the team. Celebrate small wins to maintain motivation.
    • Use positive feedback and recognition to reinforce productive behaviors.
  3. Increase Serotonin through Recognition:
    • Regularly acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of your team. Public recognition can significantly boost morale and confidence.
    • Create a culture of appreciation where team members feel valued and proud of their contributions.
  4. Build Trust with Oxytocin:
    • Foster a supportive and inclusive environment where team members feel safe and connected.
    • Show appreciation and recognition for the hard work of the support team. Acts like publicly acknowledging a team member's exceptional work or personally thanking employees can significantly boost oxytocin levels.
  5. Manage Cortisol Levels to Reduce Stress:
    • Encourage a healthy work-life balance and provide resources for stress management.
    • Create a calm, supportive environment where stress is managed effectively, helping to minimize cortisol levels and promoting better interactions with customers.

Implementing these strategies can transform your customer support team into a highly motivated, empathetic, and effective unit. By fostering a positive work environment and understanding the chemical drivers behind human behavior, you will see improvements in team performance, customer satisfaction, and overall workplace happiness.

If you found this article useful, please consider sharing it with others. Remember, sharing is caring!
Feel free to reach out at if you'd like to discuss brain chemicals in the support space.
To receive more actionable articles like this, subscribe to our newsletter below, or follow me on Linkedin.
Peace, Love & Support ✌️

Toolbox Access

Never miss a post

No fluff. Actionable strategies & experts' support tips.

Thank you for joining Support Odyssey!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.