Learning Life Skills Through Customer Service
At some point in our lives, most of us have worked some sort of customer service job, be it retail, call center, tech support, or otherwise. What we may not have realized at the time is that those jobs were teaching us skills we would use elsewhere in life.
As our Mods know, customer service is not only about responding to emails and tweets or helping customers; it’s also about the skills you take away from it that you can apply to your everyday life. In addition to learning to work with new tools, troubleshoot specific technical issues, or process a product return, customer service roles teach you essential life skills like empathy, patience, how to stay organized and calm under pressure, problem solving and analysis, and so much more.
There’s a fantastic explanation by scholar Brené Brown on the difference between empathy and sympathy, and why the former is so much more powerful when it comes to helping others.
As Brown explains, empathy creates a connection with someone who’s having a problem, while sympathy tries to put a silver lining around their problem. When you work in customer service, empathy is essential to helping others, even in situations where you can’t necessarily solve their issue.
“In previous positions, I have been told to never say ‘sorry,’ because it implies liability. At ModSquad, I have learned that ‘sorry’ is not a dirty word. I am encouraged to empathize more readily and express that I am sorry for the experience our customer has had, even if our client is not to blame.
“I have learned that people sometimes need to be heard more than they need to be “handled”. Learning that empathizing is a tangible method of support has helped me to help those I can and hear those I can’t. A skill that is invaluable to me, every day!”
—Joe Moore, Mod
As Brown attests, exercising empathy is difficult. Withholding judgment and seeing things from someone else’s perspective is tough. But you know what’s tougher? Naming a situation in life – a relationship, a business decision, anything – that wasn’t made better by empathizing with others.
“I always strive to put myself in the customer’s shoes. How would I feel if this happened to me? What can I do to help them, make them happy, and keep them coming back, while still making sure I follow the client’s policies and procedures? It can be a tricky balance, and not all customers can be made happy. But the customers who do leave happy make it worth it.”
—Laura Leonard, Mod
Working in customer service also teaches patience. When a frustrated customer has run out of patience, it can be tough to have it yourself. When a new issue arises, especially a technical one, a solution is not always available immediately; agents have to not only be patient themselves while a solution is created, but they also have to help keep customers patient.
“As a customer service representative, working with unhappy customers can be very trying at times. Every project I have been on thus far with ModSquad has reinforced my patience and understanding, skills I apply to most aspects of my life.”
—Caterina Schenck, Mod
When the pressure of high ticket volume, upset customers, and unresolved issues stack up, it can be a challenge to stay calm. Working in customer service teaches you that getting overwhelmed results in disorganized behavior and lowers the quality of your work (not to mention the stress it puts on you personally). By facing the challenges they do on a daily basis, customer service agents learn how to stay calm under pressure: focus on one thing at a time, trust your abilities, and don’t stress over the small things.
Problem Solving and Analysis
We all encounter problems and challenges on a daily basis. Just like in customer service, the best solution is not always obvious, and it takes thorough analysis of many factors to make a smart decision. This is especially true for those working in technical support. When “have you tried turning it off and on again?” doesn’t work, support agents have to make sure they’re asking the right questions to get the information they need from customers. This also requires honing one’s communication skills, specifically the ability to translate from “tech-speak” to language everyday customers can understand.
In all areas of customer service, being able to solve problems also means actively listening to exactly what a customer is saying without making assumptions as to what they need.
If I’ve learned anything working in customer service, it’s to listen. Actively, wholeheartedly listen! Our customers are all individuals with unique stories and interests, each experiencing unique issues. The only way to understand how we can help, is to listen to what they’re telling us.”
—Jenny Young, Project Manager
And Many More…
Logistically, customer service work also teaches things like organization and time management, not to mention the specific product knowledge and industry awareness you gain based on the companies you work for. Customer support team supervisors and managers develop leadership skills they can apply throughout their careers and mentorship skills they can use to help friends and family.
Here at ModSquad, we know that working hard to keep our clients and customers happy also helps us develop skills we can take with us through our lives and careers. What skills have you learned through working in customer service? Share with us in the comments — we’d love to hear about your experiences.This entry was posted in Customer Support. Bookmark the permalink.
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