Many entry level roles are customer facing or in the service industries. Let’s face it, without customers, nobody’s business would exist. “If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.” This quote by Jan Carlzon, a very successful Swedish businessman, puts customer service as the responsibility of every person in the organisation; not just the customer-facing employees. However, if you are customer-facing, you will most likely hear the majority of complaints. If you learn from these types of jobs, you will not only be able to expertly handle customer complaints, you will also be able to develop and create high quality relationships built on trust.
It is a simple truism that everything in business, or indeed in any not-for-profit organisation, is based on relationships and that all relationships are based on trust. So, this is most graphically seen in the role of any job which directly interfaces with the public, with the customers.
Skills and techniques learned whilst in this type of role will be invaluable throughout your career. The ability to create, maintain and develop relationships is critical to operational success. Dealing with customers is an intensive course of learning to do this.
We recognise some people take customer facing jobs without really having a clear career plan; it is a job and there is a need to make money. But it remains invaluable, if done well and lessons are learned, for whatever long-term employment path is pursued. Indeed, it is now estimated that people entering the world of work today will have up to 10 different jobs. Knowing how to deal with people, whether they are complaining or needing help, is a great bonus for any employer.
These perspectives are emphasised if we recognise that our customers are all around us. It is inevitable that the first thought when the word customer is used we think about people outside of the business, the people who are spending their money with us. However, we also have internal customers, colleagues who need our services. Again, our organisation’s success is based on relationships. Can finance, logistics, HR and every other function give professional support to their internal customers? And sometimes this will mean being able to deal with tense situations and having difficult conversations, in the same way that we have to interact with the public.
All successful careers are based on highly tuned and effective skills to deal with customers. At whatever point in our work journey that we have the opportunity to deal with the people who ultimately pay our wages, it is an excellent chance to become much more broadly developed and capable. We can learn what works for customers and what doesn’t.
The principles of customer service apply irrespective of the medium being used. Whether it is face-to-face, over the phone or through electronic and virtual media, we need to employ the same consistent standards and techniques.
At the outset we must recognize and accept there will be both the pleasures of doing a good job and the stresses of dealing with people for whom it will be difficult to provide satisfaction and delight. There will be people who are charming, upset, angry and confused. Each creates a different challenge but, simultaneously, a very real chance to improve their situation. We have the power to make a difference to their lives. And in doing this we are fine tuning our own talents for the problems to be faced in the future, to impress those whom hold our careers in their hands but, most crucially, to give ourselves confidence and strength. If you can deal well with an angry and disappointed client, most other problems seem that much less imposing. If we can placate the frustrated, we can manage the stresses of any difficult situation in the jobs of our future.
Some of us choose an occupation which will always means dealing with the paying clientele. Given no two situations are ever exactly the same, we must have a set of principles and techniques upon which we can call, however we are challenged.