The customer service industry requires one to exercise certain characteristics when servicing customers. Poise, patience and professionalism to name just a few. There is, however, one three-letter word that can hinder one’s ability to consistently display these characteristics. That word is EGO. My definition of EGO is “Emotions Going Orbital” It’s possible to ruin a customer relationship should this dangerous word surface during an interaction. That’s why it’s important to leave home without it!
Now we all have an ego, so it’s quite natural to jump to one’s own defense when feeling slighted or verbally attacked. Sometimes customers say or do things that can make us feel disrespected or less than a person. A cross word, a mean-spirited request or abusive language can get one close to the edge. Here are a few ways to keep that ego quiet.
Be Determined - Before beginning your workday, remind yourself of the need to keep your ego in check. It takes effort to maintain one’s composure when we feel our very identity is being attacked. It’s up to you to be aware of when you feel the need to defend your opinion or respond in kind during an unpleasant situation. Be determined to pause for a moment and say to you “This is not about me.” I learned to practice this suggestion myself when it appeared my ego was about to make an appearance. Doing so helped to avoid what would surely be negative outcomes had I allowed my ego to win the battle. If yours is a strong personality, it’s important to not allow that trait to lead to arguments or battles with the customer. You will lose in the long run!
They Don’t Really Know You - During my customer service career, I’ve noticed that it’s rare that a customer intentionally sets out to attack someone’s personal identity. After all, how can they when they don’t really know you. Their words may sting or injure one momentarily, but just like anything else, in time this will pass too. Now I hear someone saying, “Errol, you don’t know what that customer just said to me!” Yes I probably can guess what comment you may have had to overlook in order to remain professional. Just remember, in the midst of the situation, you represent your company as well as yourself. This particular customer has no idea who you are as a person, so don’t allow your ego to override your goal to always be professional. The mark of a professional is the ability to remain professional in the midst of chaos. Set a high standard for yourself and don’t allow your ego to cause you to perform beneath your standard.
Be Realistic Regarding Customer Service - As much as we want to please every customer, there will be instances where someone will be unhappy with some portion or all of their experience with a company. Right now as I’m writing this article, somewhere in the world is an unhappy customer. You will encounter not so pleasant people during your customer service career. In knowing this as a fact, be ready to professionally get through a tough situation. Some customers do speak abusively or profanely. They can make unrealistic demands. They are sometimes wrong. In knowing this, it’s important to develop internal fortitude that refuses to take a customer’s unpleasant behavior personally. If your ego escapes the cage during an interaction with an abusive customer, there will be trouble. I repeat, in knowing human nature, know that you will encounter unpleasant people. Practice remaining professional – keep your ego locked away.
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There will be instances where it becomes necessary to professionally remind the customer of your professional boundaries. I have often spoken these words when encountering overly verbally abusive customers – “Mr./Mrs. Customer, I apologize for the situation. I can understand your frustration. As I work to resolve this situation, I would hope that we can be respectful towards one another. Can we agree to do that?” By getting the customer to answer this question or at least think about what I just said, more often than not the abuse ceased.
Remember, don’t allow yourself to become victimized by your Emotions Going Orbital! Resolve to leave that ego at home before servicing your customer. You will encounter all types of personalities during your stay in this industry. Block out that ego by Being Determined, by telling yourself They Don’t Really Know Me and by Being Realistic Regarding Customer Service. You will develop a stronger mental constitution and your blood pressure will appreciate it as well!