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10 Tips For Surviving Customer Service Jobs

Updated on January 30, 2014

As someone who has worked in customer service for more than half my life I’ve seen some pretty amazing things and I’ve learned some life skills to help me deal with this career choice (or lack-therefor for some people). Here are my top 10 tips for surviving your customer service job.

10. Wear a mask. Customers might ask some of the dumbest questions you have ever heard, they might even be offensive and insult you. The best way to handle these types of people is to wear a mask and not let them see the annoyed you, or mad you. Keep a passive look on your face and answer their questions or just smile and nod and remind yourself that you only need to deal with this person for the next 1-5 minutes and then they’re out of your life.

9. Just do it. There are always going to be people trying to pull a fast one on you, “I bought it with a hole in it” “this 5 year old item was given to me as a gift last week” “I told you I was allergic to nuts when I ordered”. These people’s problem is not your shortcoming it’s theirs and if you disagree with them it’s not going to make them become an honest person it’s just going to hurt your job when they complain or dip into your pocketbook when they don’t tip you so just do it and move on with your day.

8. Apologize easily and often. We're selfish being and no one’s feelings/point of view is more important than our own. When you apologize for taking too long or for a long line up or a glass that was empty for more than 10 seconds people tend to relax. They are the Center of the universe so when you reinforce this with apologies people will like you more and are therefore less likely to complain or stiff you on the tip. At the end of the day what difference does it make if you apologize for something you’re not sorry about?

7. Make yourself look pretty. Odds are if we looked like super models we’d be super models or perhaps floor models at Abercrombie and Finch. The average person is just that, average. People are much more likely to listen to you, tip you, or take you seriously if you make yourself look pretty. I’m not talking go get Botox or become anorexic, just use what works for you. If you have nice eyes, wear clothing or makeup that highlights that. Dress for your body type and style your hair.

6. Do the worst task first. I learned early on in life when there’s a job or task you’re dreading do just do it first and get it out of the way. Going through a day or week with a horrible task looming over your head is awful. From cleaning the bathroom to filling out an overdue report there’s nothing better than that elated feeling of not having to worry about it.

5. Don’t take it personally. These jerks of people didn’t seek you out because they have a personal vendetta against you, you don’t have a pick on me sign posted on your forehead. A complaint against you, a crappy or nonexistent tip probably has nothing to do with you. Remind yourself every time you hear criticism or encounter a particularly nasty person that you are not a bad person, you might need to make some improvements to your job performance but that is probably the worst of it. Remind yourself the next time you deal with a nasty person that they are probably just having a bad day and unfortunately took it out on you.

4. Remind yourself it's just not worth it. I once worked for this retail company that would write me up and get mad at me because I was upholding the policies and procedures they put in place. I couldn't understand why I was trouble for caring about their bottom line. Then I came up with my motto - it's just not worth it. If a customer sends back the same dish 7 times or someone wants to look at 10 of the same shirt in the same size to see which one is the best – just do it, it will make your life so much easier in the long run.

3. Speak with confidence. We don’t take someone who looks down and mumbles when they speak very seriously. Speaking with confidence is an easy way to get that product sold or make your table like you. Even if you’re fumbling your way through a topic you’re not sure about, if you speak with ease and comfort people are going to take you seriously and are more likely to buy that product, do what you ask or give you a better tip.

2. Assume the worst in people. I used to think most people were really stupid and then I had this epiphany. People are not stupid they're lazy. You can't really blame them society has made them this way. From not needing to memorize phone numbers to clicking a few buttons to having any want fulfilled in minutes (or days depending on the delivery) people are really lazy so expect nothing from them. They don’t know how to read that label so read it to them, and they didn’t know the chicken parmesan wasn’t for vegetarians so forgive them. As soon as you expect nothing from your customer the better you can help them.

1. Have a plan. Trust me when I say this. If anyone had come up to my 18 year old shelf and told me I would be working in retail at 30 I probably would have blown my brains out. There's nothing wrong with this career choice if it's what you want but you should know or at least have an idea of what you want in life to work towards a goal. Do you want a long term career in sales or food service? What kind of pay/potion are you trying to get to? Do you want a different career eventually? Does this mean going back to school or a trade college? Seriously think about your life and where you want to be, think of the end result and work backwards as to how you can get it.

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