When (and when not) to take it personally in the customer service industry

Call center work can be a tough racket sometimes.  Customer service agents often will have to deal with people who are irritable, angry, or downright mean.  In this line of work, it is important to have a thick skin and not take everything personally.  Here are a couple of examples of when it is appropriate to take something personally and when it is best to let it slide off your back.

Anger – Customer service agents will have to deal with angry customers.  It simply comes with the territory.  No company is absolutely perfect, and when a mistake is made, people will naturally want to take out their frustration on the first person they talk to about it, which is usually the customer service agent.  It is important to realize that, although you as the agent will have to bear the brunt of this anger, it is really being directed at the company and not at you personally.  As a key representative and voice of the company, you will have to do your best to take ownership of the issue, diffuse the emotional situation, and resolve the problem.  However, in this type of case, you should never feel that you are personally responsible for the customer’s hardship.  If the caller speaks in an angry tone or makes a sarcastic comment, the best thing to do is to ignore it and focus on fixing the underlying issue.  Don’t take it personally!

Praise – Most people have felt under-appreciated at some time or other, and call center workers are no exception.  Dealing with upset customers can take its toll on anyone.  However, sometimes a caller will be so happy at getting his or her issue resolved that they will offer up a genuine compliment or some other form of praise in gratitude.  Something like, “Wow, you have been very helpful!” or “Thanks so much for fixing this problem – I really appreciate it!”  In this type of situation, you should definitely take it personally!  Remember that you and you alone solved the customer’s problem and brightened up his or her day.  Sure, you may have had help with a troubleshooting script or some other aid, but in the end, you are the person who had to listen to the customer, appropriately diagnose the problem, and provide an effective solution.  That’s not always an easy thing to do, especially over the phone, so a successful resolution to a problem is certainly something to be celebrated, and any compliments received by callers should be taken as personal reinforcement that you did a good job.

Let the insults roll off your back, but take the compliments to heart!  That is one of the most important keys to being a successful customer service agent.

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