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Working in customer service can be exceptionally gratifying (we all love that sense of completion when you’ve actually managed to help someone). But if not managed right – it can get extremely draining.
Working with people of different profiles, backgrounds and requirements requires a lot of patience, understanding and self-control. Those aspects are what’s making customer service a really demanding field to excel in.
Regardless of how professional and focused you normally are, there will be times when you will be, to put it simply, human. Words, tones, attitudes and cusses of your customers will get to you, and you will have to swallow your pride and stay collected. Trust me, I should know!
As a customer service employee who’s been with a very popular and renewed American firm for a few years now, although located in Eastern Europe, I’ve had my fair share of (un)professional encounters with various types of people; we are constantly On Phone (the term we use is “Ready”) throughout the shift of eight hours and our team covers 24/7 service. Meaning: there’s always someone covering the work and someone answering the phone.
With the time zone difference which is already a big enough pain (we mostly work mid-afternoon and night shifts because that’s when the US awakens), a language barrier (that isn’t that common but can be a factor) and a very mechanical, almost non-stimulating job we do, finding that one ray of sunshine to stay upbeat is, well, difficult. No, no one’s being ungrateful. I’m simply telling it the way it is.
For instance, I’ve got BA in Biology and yet, my “career” is based on making sure the phone doesn’t ring more than once (because the customer can’t wait). Ah, the excitement!
Still, when the job’s done and you’ve got a happy customer on the other line, you can’t help but feel absolutely amazing. It’s precisely THAT sense of achievement that’s keeping me on the job, otherwise, I’d be long gone. And, a lot has to do with the team you are in as well as supervisors you are working under.
To everyone who’s been employed in a form of customer service and sometimes feels like they’ll go nuts, here are a few tips that will help you stay calm and collected, and keep a positive attitude for as long as possible.
Trust your co-workers
No matter how amazing or terrible the work is, if you are not surrounded by the right people, it’s all for nothing. The team you are in is half the job done, both in terms of a pleasant and stimulating atmosphere and good energy working towards task accomplishments.
Unlike small firms, it is very important to understand corporate dynamics: telling on a colleague who’s messed up a few times to your supervisors (and, as such, hinting that you are such an amazing worker since you noticed the mistake) is trash. Not only will you get a bad rep but you’ll lose support of the other people around you. When you think about it: why would anyone want to hang around with a tattletale!? Setting someone up is also out of the question, especially if you are using it as means to get ahead.
Be a quality member of your team who works hard and is a fine colleague to have around. The better you are, the better people will be for you – and when you cover for them, they cover for you! Coming to work in such an atmosphere that oozes good vibes, laughter, mutual appreciation and understating will make those eight-hour shifts a piece of cake!
Ask to learn
The fact that your job could be mundane and everything but stimulating doesn’t mean you can’t advance; talk to your senior colleagues or supervisors to stir you in the direction of improvement and potential new projects. They’ll appreciate you showing interest and you, personally, will get a chance to change position and advance.
Further, whenever there’s a task unclear, a situation you can’t handle or a client you haven’t worked with before, ask your colleagues for help. Showing you are “vulnerable” to your colleagues is totally okay, as long as you are working towards improving yourself.
Socialize outside the office
Nobody’s expecting you to replace your out of office friends with your in-office ones, but going out for drinks, movie and food with them may do you good. You’ll get to know people you spend more time with than with your family, learn a little about who they are in private, figure out their traits and character and understand which of them you can count on. Also, such interactions will form a pleasant atmosphere during work, which would also keep you from going insane!
If you are really creative and cannot picture your life being reduced to answering phones and being the “hotline” for everyone’s technical issues, I am with you.
Surrounded with computers for hours without end, clicking clicks and ringing rings, I am going crazy. Still, the job is way more pleasant when I just remember I am still a human.
Whenever I am feeling down, and it happens that the phone is ringing at that very moment, I put myself in the customer’s shoes and think: “If I needed help, what’s the kind of person I would want to talk to?” Even if the customer is agitated, nervous, calling in to file a complaint, or even starts yelling, you need to understand that none of it has to do anything with you personally.
Follow with honest phrases like: “I understand the frustration sir/mam,” “I’ll do my best to help out,” “Let me see if I can do something to solve this problem quickly,” “Let me just consult with a colleague and we’ll see to solve this immediately,” “I do understand but there’s no need for you to raise your voice, I’ve done all in my power and will try to help you out.”
Also, keep your tone calm and pleasant. If they’re yelling, stay calm. If they are calm, loosen up and spark up the conversation with a chit chat or joke while you are looking for information. That way you’ll make it easier for both you and the customer.
Have something outside of work
Even though it sometimes feels like all you do in your life revolves around the customer service job, don’t let it become a thing. Make sure you invest in the quality of your life after work in order to stay happy and fulfilled. If you’ve got another job that you love, invest mentally and emotionally in it. See your friends as much as possible, spend a lot of time with your partner, go for a jog or to the gym (even if it meant waking up at 5AM), indulge in movie marathons and sweets, good food and pyjamas parties.
Don’t let the dissatisfaction from your mundane job kill the joy in your soul! No, I am not frustrated - I am just being realistic, and everyone who’s working in customer service, they know what I am talking about.
How about you? How do you manage to keep the positive attitude while working in customer service?