When I was in university, I studied Fashion Journalism. Due to this, several of the jobs that I had during my time in uni were industry related (and unpaid, urgh!). These included working as a social media planner for a photographer, various projects related to the X Factor and a style writer for the national newspaper online.
When I finished my degree, I made the decision to stop working in this underpaid industry, but as I wanted to stay in London after my studies, I needed to get a job that paid, even if it did not provide me with the experience I would need, to get paid, in the industry I wanted to be in. It was time to rethink.
I knew I did not want to work in fashion, but I was desperately looking for a way into another sector of the creative industry. As I was doing this, which I am still trying to figure out, I took a simple job in admin. Actually, I took a few jobs in admin over the years following graduation, to pay some bills and sort my proverbial s*£% out.
After almost two years of mindbogglingly dull work in the 9-5 routine, I needed a change. I took a job in a customer service role because it allowed me the flexible hours and shifts I needed to still do my creative thang, whilst earning a living. Since my first CS job came to an end, I have since secured another role which started at the beginning of September. A similar style role, for a travel company, I am a little more optimistic about this new opportunity in terms
With that in mind, I got to thinking about what you learn from being a customer service advisor. I know, this list could be pretty endless, but here are some of the main things for me. Just to clarify, my role was not customer facing, and dealt primarily with “people”, if you can call some of them that, over the phone and via email.
- You always have a choice. If someone is vile to you, then it is human nature to not want to bend over backwards for them, and that’s okay. Fair enough, we are not able to shout back at them which is a jolly old shame sometimes, but if someone is polite on the phone to us despite their rage, we are 1000% more likely to see what we can do for you. Manners go a long way.
- Always apologise. If someone has an issue, apologise for it, no matter who is at fault. You are not (usually) personally responsible for whatever is in their wrath and many times, people just want to hear someone say sorry. It is surprising the effect this one word can have on people; say you are sorry to hear their story.
- Personal touches go down well. They really do. Making people feel like they are getting special treatment and using their names can really help – but do be careful which titles you use. Some people (often the worst kind of customer) will want to be called by their title, be it Doctor or Reverend or whatever else. Most people Mr/Ms Smith works well, and then you get some people who insist you call them by their first names; ‘Hi Johnny’…which always feels really weird for me, especially if I am speaking to them for the first time.
- Be nice to agents or suppliers. It can be easy to lose it with them especially if you get constant complaints about one of their products, but you have to remember the person you will be speaking with, just like yourself, will not personally be responsible for the issues. You can’t turn against your service colleagues, that is exactly what the customers want!
- Be ruthless. Usually, if you keep on at it long enough, you will get what you want. As a customer, if something goes wrong for us agents, we are the best/worst sort of customer to have because we know what processes companies follow and how to wrangle our own way.
On a personal level, my patience with people sky rocketed, as did my ability to listen to the most ridiculous scenario and not burst into laughter. You also develop a perfect phone voice that would be worthy of reading out the information at a large train station.
Whilst I don’t enjoy the negativity and abuse that can come with the role, you do learn to take it on the chin and brush it off. I do find jobs and colleagues in customer service, from my own experiences, a lot more interesting than in administration.
Have you ever worked in customer service? Could you? Would you? Why? Let me know in the comments below.