Today is bitter sweet. It is my last shift in my part-time parks and recreation job that I have been working for two and a half years. I absolutely love the people I work with at this job and I am really sad to be leaving them, but it’s also exciting to be moving on to a “big girl job” and to the next chapter. I started working in customer service when I was 15 and I worked at a hair salon every Saturday at the front desk. I moved on to working at a major coffee chain for four years, Running Room for a few months, and currently an aquatic facility for two and a half years.
I feel like customer service has taught me a lot and I highly recommend everyone has a customer service job at some point in their life… I mean I’ve been called a “f*$%ing b&*ch,” I’ve had money thrown at me, I’ve had people cry in front of me, I’ve cleaned up more vomit than I’ve ever wanted to at a pool, and I’ve had people unnecessarily tell me their life story… and I think I’m a better person for it, or at least a more patient person.
- Care about your job, but don’t take it personally. Often being in customer service means you’re not the top dog, and you’re somewhat on the lower end of the totem pole. My jobs have always been temporary, a summer gig or a student part-time job, but I’ve always cared. I invest my time in the people I work with and getting to know the people around me because you never know who will be your references, who will be your friends, and who you might be that could influence your future career. Care about your job but don’t take it personally… there are things you can’t change and don’t worry about it. The world won’t fall apart if something goes wrong. Don’t stress.
- A smile goes a long way. It sounds cheesy but I’ve become known as the “girl who is always smiling” at more than one job. It’s just nice to see a customer service person smiling and I want to be a friendly face… my job has literally been to “be the face of the organization” and why not make it a happy face.
- Listen. Don’t interrupt. Listen more. There are instances in customer service where you will literally not help someone in any tangible way… you just listen. People take their life stresses out on you, their emotions, their frustrations. Just listen, because in 99.7% of cases, they aren’t terrible people and probably don’t even realize how insane they are being when they lash out at you. I’ve had people flip their shit on me and then call me half an hour later apologizing because they realize that they weren’t actually mad at me, they were just having a rough day and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time to get the brunt of their frustration.
- Don’t gossip about your coworkers. Drama sucks. Not going to lie, the pool I work at is one of the most gossipy places I’ve ever worked. I’ve had so many rumours float around about me, so many people who hunt you down to tell you stories about other people or who whisper secrets to you about someone who just walked by. I brought one of my (guy) coworkers a coffee one morning because I started work after him and the next shift no less than three people asked me if we were dating. I’ve been sucked into drama and gossip but it has never ended well. I’ve turned into Switzerland. I’m neutral. I don’t say bad things about people because often I don’t believe the rumours and I try and see the good in people. If I don’t know the whole story, why should I pass on bits and pieces. I love the relationships I have with my coworkers, so I don’t ever want to jeopardize them.
- You literally wouldn’t have a job without customers. It sucks, people are mean, 8 hours of listening to people complain is hell, having to explain to people that they aren’t special or don’t get special pricing is a serious form of torture, but without those annoying people who have the audacity to walk into your retail or recreation or service establishment, you wouldn’t have a paycheque. I know, it pains me to say it just as much as it pains you to read it.
- I appreciate customer service more at other places. Being in a customer service position has made me appreciate the customer service in other places more. I tip better when a server interacts and smiles and is helpful. I tell someone that they were helpful when they go the extra mile to make my experience better. It’s the little things that matter and I notice them more because I think I can recognize it. It annoys my dad to no end when I try and see the positive in a bad customer service experience. He starts getting frustrated and I say, “maybe this is hour 7.5 out of an 8 hour shift,” or “maybe they’re just having a bad day,” or, “really dad, they don’t actually get to make the rules, they just follow them.”
- Kill ’em with kindness. The nicer you are to people, the nicer they are to you. This works in like 76% of cases. Even when people are being total assholes to me, I smile, nod, agree with them, and say really annoying customer services slogans like, “I understand how this would be frustrating for you,” and “I can tell you’re upset about this issue.” No joke, I’ve actually said those things. People either roll their eyes at my positive helpfulness or they lighten up and see that I’m really trying my best to help them.
- You don’t know how a customer service job will change you. I’ve made more friendships than I ever thought I would at my pool job. I went to write my resignation letter a few weeks ago and I pulled out a draft letter I had written in October 2015. At that time my supervisor was pressuring me to quit my job and focus on school and my parents were telling me I was loading my plate with too much and didn’t need to work for financial reasons so I might as well quit. I couldn’t do it. I loved the people too much. I’m sad today because I know that as much as I can say, “I’ll come and visit, I’ll see you around,” it won’t happen as much as I think it will. I actually met my BFF James of 7 years working at Starbucks together when I was 16. You never know how one little temporary part-time customer service job will change you.
I am really into lists lately as you can tell. I have a daily to-do list, a to-buy list, and multiple lists running for other random things in my life so it felt natural to write a list of customer service lessons. I hope you can relate to at least one of them and if you’re currently working or had worked in customer service, you should share the most funny or random or incredible customer service experience you’ve had!