The Things You Can Only Understand If You’ve Worked Customer Service

Customers Can Be The Worst But You Can Learn To Deal With Them

Customer service: The very mention can be enough to throw those of us who are/have been in the industry into mild to extreme discomfort, curling ourselves into a ball and rocking gently in a corner. It’s a thing that people who have had the blessed luck not to work in just do not understand.

They don’t get that a morning of people screaming at you for no reason makes it REALLY hard to be chatty in the afternoon.

They are completely dumbfounded that you need to check they haven’t worn the clothes they’re returning, when you know that right before they came in someone tried to return a dress complete with food stains and fabric tears swearing all she did was try it on for friends and then this happened so OBVIOUSLY there must be a fault with the fabric (cue eye roll).

And they definitely, for some unfathomable reason, don’t understand that you have absolutely no say about store policies and you’re just following guidelines set by the head office while trying to study full-time and complete an unpaid internship and pay your ridiculously high rent, so yelling at you is completely pointless and just plain mean.

Ok, it’s not all bad, but you have to deal with a lot of crap from people who think it’s ok to take their bad day out on you in a way that no other industry does. Which is why customers need to understand that if they’re copping these behaviours from their servers, they probably brought it on themselves.

Being Ignored

Ok, it’s absolutely no surprise that customers hate this, but I’ve got to tell all of you who’ve never held a customer service role: some of you ABSOLUTELY deserve to be ignored.

If you’re the giant thorn in my over-worked thigh who simply refuses to understand that actually, it’s a really busy day and there’s a huge line and I’ve already apologised and told you I’m getting to you as quickly as possible but you’re still staring me down and tapping your toes, I reserve every right to ignore you. I agree that management should hire more workers, but they haven’t and I’m here doing my best, so stop being a douche about it.

Also, there’s a special place in hell for customers who come in 5 minutes to close and expect you to help them for the next half hour or more. Sometimes company policy won’t let us kick you out, so NO I am not staying back for THREE HOURS on a Saturday night (true story) so you can casually try on half the store for fun. You are the worst.

Reading From A Script / Upselling

Actually, this one is totally annoying, I completely agree. But BELIEVE me, the person serving you is hating being forced to greet you in the exact same way about 100000% more than you, who only has to live through it once.

We KNOW it’s phoney. We KNOW you came in for one thing and one thing only. But you don’t understand the grief some employers will give if you haven’t said everything they told you to, and dealing with an annoyed customer for 1 minute is SO much better than that passive aggressive ‘so what happened there’ from your manager.

Please just chill out, have some compassion, and let’s all lean into the awkwardness together.

Passing You Off

Oh, you don’t like being passed off to a million different people? Well yeah ok, sometimes this is just laziness on the server’s behalf, but sorry guys, most of the time you bring it on yourselves.

If you’re refusing to accept a situation, or you came in with a serious attitude looking for a fight, you’re going to be passed on. No-one wants to go out on a limb for someone who’s just going to blow their top anyway.

Also, some customers literally will NOT accept an answer from the first person they speak to, amiright?

More than once, when I was working as manager of a small retail store and I happened to be the first person greeting a customer with an issue, they literally would not listen to what I was saying or my repeated explanation that I WAS the manager and there was no-one else for them to talk to.

I ended up asking one of my team members to pretend they were the manager and go tell the customer exactly what I just had. Lo and behold most of those customers then walked away happy.

Over apologising

For real? We get yelled at for not helping enough and now we get yelled at for being too sympathetic. I promise you that if all you’re getting from a server is ‘I’m so sorry this happened to you/you feel this way’ on repeat, it’s because you’re being irrational and there is nothing anyone can do or say until you calm down and deal with your issues like an adult.

How To Handle Crappy Customers

Look, I realised long ago my tolerance levels for rude people is far too low for the customer service industry, but there was so much to enjoy about it too (hello heavy discounts and free food), and I know plenty of people who still love their work in these industries. If you’re one of them, there are lots of options to help you deal with ratty customers.

Take a course in your chosen industry. Whether it’s retail, hospitality, general knowledge on customer service or preparing to set-up your own business, there’s a course for that.

You can also talk to people who have honed the craft of dealing with sticky customer situations from years of experience, chances are you’re working with at least one. Beyond that, I dunno, take a deep breathe and have a good dish sesh with your friends after work?