Retail Customer Service Has Taught Me A Few Things

For some people, working in the field of interacting with and serving customers on a daily basis can feel rewarding. And at other times, you have to deal with the not so good experiences. For those of you who have worked in customer service, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

And as difficult as it is to face these problems every day, it can be those very situations that you learn the most from.

As I write, I’ve been working in retail based customer service for 7 years now. Though it’s not a massive amount of time, I think it’s long enough to review my progress in this industry and see what I’ve learnt, and where I’ve grown and developed my skills.

Proactivity

When you are working in retail, one of the main things that won’t do is simply wasting your time doing nothing.

It may be tempting to stand around and wait for something to happen, and in some customer related jobs you might be lucky enough to do that when demand is limited. But in jobs where you never really know what situations might be thrown at you from one minute to the next, such as extra paper work or jobs to do, you need to be well prepared as possible.

For instance, if you know that a particular task always needs doing on a daily or weekly basis, don’t wait for someone to tell you to do it. You should go ahead and get it done because the earlier you can get it started, the more you can relax later once it’s nearly done.

This is particularly true for myself, in very practical related customer service fields. When you have a store to maintain, the priority no matter what should be to tidy it up, fill up the spaces and then make sure all customers are getting what they need from the store. At the end of the day, it’s not your manager who always has to tell you what needs doing, when you can see it right in front of you.

Compromise and Tolerance

This point is much more related to dealing with customers, since you will have all kinds of people that you have to talk to and mediate with.

I think the easiest ones to deal with of course are people who are nice and understanding of your situation. Even the nice customers, who have a lot to say and love a good chitchat are pretty harmless, and for sure I’ve learnt to keep an (almost) permanent smile on my face while I listen.

But unsurprisingly the most challenging situations are the ones with people who are angry, upset or frustrated. There are all kinds of reasons why they might be like that, it might be the service isn’t quite right, a product they bought isn’t up to scratch or maybe they’re having a bad day, week or year.

How people are going to respond to difficulty isn’t something you can ever control, but I’ve definitely learnt one thing. If you are patient, and you don’t let your negative emotions rise to the surface at these times, you can actually be of great help to these people and make the situation a lot better.

It doesn’t mean that these situations aren’t frustrating to you as well, and I’m always pretty annoyed when people appear to be very argumentative about something so small. The best thing to do is to try to let that go and see it as impersonal. It’s not about you necessarily, it’s about the thing that they are unhappy with.

Confidence

The biggest thing that customer service has taught me is being a lot more assured about myself.

Through experience and working in this industry for a prolonged amount of time, I’ve found that it’s done wonders to my ability to feel that I’m capable of many things.

What you’ll often find is that you must juggle a fair amount of jobs on a daily basis. I remember starting off doing voluntary work at a charity shop, which involved being a cashier, approaching customers for help, and contacting clients about donation collections.

At the time, my biggest fear was making the phone calls to clients. I can’t explain exactly why, and I think that the worry of saying the wrong thing was getting to me. But I learnt very quickly to process that, and to go with the flow more. Because life shouldn’t be scripted, waiting for you to say the perfect response to someone else. And even if you did make a mistake, then so what? The worst thing you could do is apologize and correct yourself, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

So on the whole, it wasn’t just my confidence that was improving, it was my ability to communicate better, to make conversations and simply to improve my social and personal life. And as strange as it is, it really did help me form better friendships with people.

So remember, if there’s a job with many obstacles, think to yourself: what can you gain from pushing through it? You may develop some pretty important life skills on the way.

3 thoughts on “Retail Customer Service Has Taught Me A Few Things

  1. Having spent 30 or more years in Customer Service I tend to agree with your views. I also find using scripted sales is demeaning to the sales person. However it is standard for the Sales Manager to require you learn a scripted talk starting with the phrase, Hello, how are you? Give me a break! We know you don’t give a damn, how I am, you just want a sale. The only good thing that does is alert the buyer that it is time to put the phone down.

  2. A very good post on how customer service actually is and how to rise above those tricky issues. I can see not much has changed since I worked in the frontline customer service environment over 30 years ago. However, what I did learn was how not to do things re customer service, if that makes sense. However, as my career flourished I came to understand that customer service very much applies to inside the organisation (i.e. providing customer service to the people we work with) as much as it does to our external customers and clients.

    1. That’s very interesting to hear that customer service hasn’t changed all that much. Yes often making mistakes and going through the experience teaches you more lessons about the industry. I’m sure it does apply in more areas than we realize, since it’s all about basic and effective communication at its essence. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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