Rich Perry

STRENGTH & FOCUS: 7 tips for customer service pros this holiday season

STRENGTH & FOCUS: 7 tips for customer service pros this holiday season
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Last year around this time, I offered “7 tips for an enjoyable holiday shopping experience” to add some Strength & Focus to, what should be, the happiest time of the year. Although I have never, and probably will never, ever go out holiday shopping on Thanksgiving night, Black Friday, or any other day associated with mass chaos, there’s never a shortage of wild stories or videos blasted across traditional and social media.

Fortunately, these crazy occurrences, outlandish circumstances, and sometimes pitiful displays of human behavior are rare and erupt due to extraordinary conditions of provocation or poor preparation in some regard. There are, however, many situations commonly experienced causing stress, overwhelm, and frustration that can be easily navigated and controlled with a little consideration and planning.

While the “7 tips for an enjoyable holiday shopping experience” was written with the shopper in mind, today we’ll revisit those ideas from the perspective of the customer service worker. As I’m sure the astute reader had no difficulty switching perspectives as needed in last year’s contribution, today I’m writing this specifically for those whose job it is to serve others!

Before we begin, I’ll share this personal bit. As someone with past work experience in the retail and food industries, I wholeheartedly agree with the statement that “everyone needs to work a day in customer service.” For those who have worked in customer service, no explanation is necessary. For those who haven’t, none will suffice. While this idea is great in theory to help bridge understanding, it would be nearly impossible to make it a reality, so rather than focusing on unreasonable hopes, it’s better to offer real-world advice and strategies for the weeks ahead.

Now let’s put a different twist on last year’s list!

1. Take care of yourself.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that this doesn’t require much tweaking. The company or business you work for will do its best to meet the needs of countless holiday shoppers, which means that you will be working long hours on the frontlines, dealing with all sorts of people. Get sufficient rest, make sure you eat energizing food, and drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Remember, any energy-consuming activity can leave us depleted, and poor sleeping or eating habits can cause feelings of stress or irritability. Don’t be a Grinch – take care of yourself.

2. Set a positive intention.

This tip is easily transferable. Choose something positive and motivating to get you through your day. This could be an encouraging thought, uplifting song, or some other personally motivating tool that will carry you forward. Make sure it’s positive! “I promise not to rip someone’s head off today,” is not a positive statement; it’s a not-negative, and not-negatives aren’t synonymous with positive statements.

3. Remember your purpose.

Remember, you work at your place of employment for a reason or else you wouldn’t be there. Your purpose for being there is yours and yours alone. There’s something that you like about your role and/or establishment, so let that be an anchor when times become stressful. If it helps, you can use your purpose as a grounding statement, such as: “I am here because __________,” or “My purpose for being here is __________.” This grounding statement can serve as a personal mantra when necessary.

4. Breathe.

This tip is the same no matter which side of the fence you’re on. Long days, long lines, traffic, rude people, daily stressors, holiday stressors, bills, travel plans, scheduling your own time to shop, and all kinds of other junk just piles up higher and higher. So breathe! Take long, calming breaths to relax your mind and body. Healthy and focused breathing will produce a relaxed state.

Consider this: most, if not all, of those things listed above are going to happen whether you want them to or not, so it’s your choice to experience them with a calm mind that’s ready to navigate those obstacles or with a stressed and frustrated mind that’s incapable of solving problems.

5. Be considerate of others.

Remember, this is your job, and you’re the professional. The people coming to your place of employment are seeking goods, services, information, etc., so do your best to be accommodating during stressful situations. Unfortunately, some customers forget that service representatives may not always have the items or answers desired, and if this person has poor coping skills or anger issues, they could unfairly misdirect their anger towards the worker. And if you think that this isn’t right, you’re right! It isn’t right and it isn’t fair but, unfortunately, it happens.

If it helps, just remember this sad fact: some people suck. Some individuals have horrible people skills, and it doesn’t take much for them to lash out at others. That’s their problem, so don’t make it yours. If a customer verbally mistreats you, go seek management and/or talk to a confidant to vent. Don’t let them get you down.

6. Be grateful.

Do we really need to revisit this topic? For starters, you have a job. You get paid to interact with customers and help them in some way – how cool is that? If you’re fortunate enough to have a job that allows you to accept tips, then you have even more incentive to be grateful. You’re the professional, and you have certain skills that will help ensure the best possible interaction – for you and the consumer.

7. Spread some holiday cheer.

We can easily recycle this topic too. Just as we stated last year, whatever your holiday preference, it’s easy to spread extra cheer to co-workers, customers, clients, etc. You don’t need to share the same holiday or religious/personal beliefs to be respectful and kind to someone else. Wear a smile. Use good manners. Be a friend.

Go ahead and share these tips with staff, co-workers, friends, family, or anyone you know that’s working hard to serve others this holiday season.

Thanks for reading, and I wish you a happy and safe holiday season. Be sure to enjoy good company, warm drinks, and plenty of wassailing!

Create the future you want with the choice to change now! This column offers Strength & Focus for the moments you need to overcome the distractions of the week, each and every day. Look for it every Monday on NEPA Scene.