Surviving Your Customer Service Job

Just about every job I’ve worked has been majorly related to customer service. Some days it simply takes thick skin and determination to make it through.

Through my experience I’ve learned a lot about having a customer service position and how to handle the highs and lows that can happen in this department.

Learn The Language:

It is important to understand the right way of wording things. How you say something can make all the difference. Here is an example.

My co-worker and I went to the local supermarket to visit the salad bar. My friend was impressed with the selection and was getting her different kinds of lettuce. She accidentally used the same pair of tongs on two kinds of lettuce. A worker, at the salad bar, snatched the tongs right out of her hand. She said “don’t cross contaminate the food” and stomped away. It really soured my friend’s experience. Not only that, but we told so many people the story. Instead of being able to talk about how much we liked the food, we were talking about the rude worker.

So what could this worker have done differently? Here is what I would recommend.

  • Start a conversation first. “How are you today” “Have you been here before?”
  • Listen to their responses and welcome them.
  • Begin to explain, “we are glad you are here, let me show you some tips.” Word your correction and the rules for their benefit, “we try to keep our tongs in their designated bin and don’t want to use them in other bins. It helps us keep it clean for our customers and prevent cross contamination.”

Doesn’t that sound better? What a difference that would of made for my friend! I always cringe at bad customer service.

Listen, Just Listen:

Most of the time, angry customers just want to find someone who will listen to them. I know when I have been angry with a service, my biggest problem is that no one will help me. When you are in customer service, this is your job. Your job is to listen to their problems and concerns and try to find a reasonable solution. You don’t have to solve world peace but just be a listening ear that your customers can count on.

Always Agree and Sympathize:

As your customer tells you the story take their side. If they say something breaks, “oh no! That’s not good, I’m sorry that happened to you. Let’s see what we can do to help you.” They automatically trust you and feel like you have their back. This is especially helpful to get all of the details, customers are more likely to tell you everything (my dog chewed the cord) when they feel like you are trustworthy. You gain their trust by agreeing and being sympathetic.


Sometimes, this one is hard. I would say it comes in second on the hard list. It can be hard to sit and wait for someone to stop telling you all of the wrong that have been done so that you can actually help them find a solution. Find a way to not rush through anything, remember you are there to listen to them. It will ultimately go faster if you really listen to them so they feel heard and you get all the details. Be patient with them. Whatever is making them contact you obviously bothers them, don’t make it worse by rushing them to a solution or decision.

Kill everything with kindness:

For me, this one is the top of the difficulty list. It is hard to stay patient and nice when someone is yelling (sometimes cussing if they stoop really low) at you for something that is most likely not your fault. Deep breaths and retract the cat claws. I try to put myself in the customer’s shoes, maybe I would be that upset too. Also remember, you are the front lines, you get the worst of it first. It’s okay though because you can handle it. The fastest way to put out the fire is to remember what you’ve already seen, patience and listen, agree and sympathize. “I’m sorry, that’s upsetting. I can understand where you are coming from, let’s see what we can work out.” Do you hear the rushing water hose, that fire is out!

I also listened to a speaker at a conference who touched on angry customers, and he gave some great advice. Don’t put up with the screaming, if you do all you can do to calm this customer down and they continue to yell it is perfectly okay to say, “I understand you are upset, however I can’t get all of the details needed to help solve this problem right now. If you are ready to calmly explain the problem to me, I’m happy to dig further. Let me know when you are ready.” Well shoot fire.

(PS, if you work somewhere that forces you deal with people who treat you with disrespect, leave).

Do what you say:

Of all the tips, this should be the easiest. Keep your word. If you promise something, deliver in a timely manner. Another rule to follow is, under promise and over deliver. It is better to surprise a customer with a better outcome than to disappoint them because you can’t do what you said you could do.

Stay organized and in the know:

If you are disorganized, this isn’t the field for you. You have to be organized to stay on top of your work. Some days you may talk to a 100 people. Take notes and keep track of your projects. If you are waiting on an invoice to post, set a reminder, etc. Don’t let things slip or get lost. Stay organized and find ways that help you keep on top of things.

Also, set time out each day to get educated. Be in the know about your company, is there issues with a system or a product? Did your delivery truck arrive or leave late? This prepares you for customers, you aren’t surprised by any issues.



Mostly, be patient with yourself. If this is a new gig for you, it will take time and practice before you are a pro. It may not come naturally. Go slow and pay attention. Read article on tips and find the ones that work for you. You can do it!

(PS, nothing is more rewarding that getting a raving review or having a customer tell you that you rock)

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