If you’re in a customer-facing job, be assured that your 9 to 5, 11 to 8 or night shift will bestow on you all manner of skills that you may not even be aware of at the time. It’s never easy dealing with Joe Public – for some reason many customers just love to tut loudly at the checkout queue, argue over the bill and complain every time they perceive sub-standard service.
But if you’ve been trained in the “customer is always right” philosophy (even when it is patently untrue) you learn to censor your automatic response, which could simply inflame the situation, and instead deliver a neutral phrase to start the process of placating the irate customer.
And whilst that can make your blood boil, (especially when the client is definitely in the wrong) why not take comfort from the fact that you are learning some enviable personal skills each and every day. In fact at the customer service interface you learn more about the human psyche than any theoretical degree will ever be able to teach you.
Here are the skills you are guaranteed to master:
1. Thinking Before You Speak
This is a fundamental skill you need before you can be placed in a customer-facing job. You can’t answer a cross customer with a knee-jerk reaction type of response, especially not if you’re a hot-headed kind of guy or gal.
So you will learn how to “count to 10” or the equivalent, not rise to the bait, and think very carefully about what you say before you speak.
2. Defusing A Situation
When you’re faced with an unhappy client, what is the most important outcome? That of calming down the client, and taking a situation from code red to a more manageable slightly yellow round the edges.
However you do it, if you do it well, you can turn an angry complainant into one who is prepared to listen to reason.
3. Really Listening To Someone
In the majority of cases, people don’t complain about a service unless they really believe they have been hard done by. And sometimes it takes a lot of effort for them to actually make a complaint. So when they do, the best customer service staff will really listen to what is being said without interruption or defensive comments – both of which would make the unhappy customer’s hackles rise even more.
4. Respecting Others’ Viewpoint
What if the customer really is right? What if you or a colleague did actually deliver sub-standard service, even if it was unintentional? If you want to succeed in a customer-facing job, you need to respect another’s viewpoint, compare it to your own and understand where and how the two differ.
5. Owning Up When You’ve Made A Mistake
No-one likes making a mistake and few are prepared to admit to it. But if you or a colleague have made a mistake that has enraged a customer, you need to own it. I’m not saying you should take responsibility for something that wasn’t your fault – but if you didn’t follow company rules and a mistake happened, then yep, time to fess up.
Without a doubt, people who work in customer-facing jobs learn patience. On a day to day basis, they speak to thankful clients (unfortunately few and far between since human nature errs on the side of complaint rather than on the side of praise). The thankfuls are so enthusiastic and chatty in their praise that you wonder when you’ll be able to cut short the chat so you can get on with your real job without giving offence.
On the other hand, the moaners may or may not have a real case, but they want to discuss the final details extensively – with Stella on reception, with the duty manger and better still, with the managing director.
And you let them.
Of course you do – patience is a virtue and in a customer-facing job, you have to nurture more patience than you ever thought you possess.
Customer-facing jobs are a pain in many ways (think complaining clients) but can also be very fulfilling (think the thankfuls). But ultimately if you consider things from a purely selfish viewpoint, the personal skills you gain from working directly with the general public will stand you in good stead for jobs in any career, and will also help your enhance your relationships with your family and friends.
About the Author
Michelle has worked as a traditional and digital marketer for the past 8 years. Prior to that she had a varied career, firstly qualifying as a pharmacist, completing a PhD and working in the field of Quality Assurance. Then she upped sticks and moved to sunny Portugal, and worked in an operational role as Leisure Area Manager for a large resort company.
She was drawn to marketing and has never looked back. Her fine eye for detail, scientific background, experience of managing teams and dealing directly with customers has given her an unusual all-round view of the workplace. She shares her opinions on success in life and the workplace in her blogs for Sophisticated Savers. We hope you enjoy them!