I never set out to spend over a decade in Customer Service. After leaving school, I needed a job and was able to secure a Call Center job at a telecoms company. As time went on, I realised I was pretty good at it. I continued to learn how to effectively serve customers, Solve Complex problems and forge strong work relationships and friendships. Twelve years later, serving different roles at two telecoms companies has not only made me a better Customer Service Professional but a better human as well. It’s all thanks to the lessons I’ve Learned along the way.
It may not be important to you, but it’s important to someone else.
You may think that the product or service you are supporting is trivial or simple, but to someone else it’s not. It could be the difference between success and failure for them. It could be the product that helps feed their family. The product could be what connects them to the most important person in their life. Because of my customer interactions, I have empathy for others and what they are passionate about. A social cause or current event may be insignificant to you and you may wonder why your friend is making a big deal about it, but it could have affected them on a level you can’t begin to understand.
So practice empathy. Seek to understand than be understood. Practice humility. The world will be better for it.
Learn names, and use it.
A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language. — Dale Carnegie
Most customer service professionals are encouraged to ask and use customers’ names. That’s not by chance. It’s more respectful and conversational to know and use someone’s name. Using “sir” or “ma’am” carries an air of condescension in any interaction. When I meet someone new, I tend to use their name as much as possible (without sounding crazy). It builds a level of respect and appreciation for the other person. It helps show that you want to learn about that person and build a deep understanding for him/her. That’s all from working in customer service. I’ve had so many interactions that were great because I simply referred to someone by their name.
Do more than expected.
There are no traffic jams on the extra mile — Zig Ziglar
Customers expect you to resolve their issue as quickly as possible. What they usually don’t expect is a little extra. It’s the times that you did a little extra your customers remember. They tell others and that raises your stock and the reputation of the organization you work for.
That’s no different in life. People remember you by going out of your way to do a little extra for them. They sometimes pay it forward. They remember you when opportunities come up. If it does not take too much time and effort to do it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do it. Expect nothing in return and see your life change. Going the extra mile builds wealth of the heart.
You become a better person for it.
It’s not supposed to be easy
Day after day I would encounter difficult customers, difficult situations and even difficult peers and bosses. That’s normal. Marcus Aurelius in his memoirs, Meditations, sums this up at the start of Book 2:
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own — not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.
Life is not supposed to be easy. You will encounter different situations and scenarios every day, some more difficult and stressful than the next. You should expect it. Your patience, humility, resilience and decisiveness are the qualities that help you through these scenarios. My ability to solve complex issues at my customer service job allowed me to think critically and solve the complex issues of my life.
If you’re not sure what to do in life, help someone who is.
The best thing you can do in life is help others. In my confusion as a teenager, I knew I was good at helping others and that’s what got me into Customer Service. Eventually I learned the things I was good at and what I was not good at. I learned the things that I enjoyed doing and what I hated.
You may not always know what your next step in life is. You may not know what your vocation is. And that’s fine. You’re not supposed to have it all figured out. What you can do is help someone who is where you want to be. Find out what their problems are and help them solve those problems. Keep doing that and you will find what makes you jump out of bed. Life is all about serving others. That’s how you get the things you dream about.
What have you learned in your work that you have transferred to your life? You may think that there’s not much that is transferable. You may not like your job right now but you should squeeze the great lessons you can from it and take those to your next venture as I did in my years in customer service.
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Powerful Life Lessons from 12 Years in Customer Service was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.