Skip to main content

15 Tips on How to Work in a Customer Service Job

David has over 15 years of supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge of how to handle personnel issues across many areas.

Preparing for a customer service job is tough, especially when the customer thinks they are always right.

Preparing for a customer service job is tough, especially when the customer thinks they are always right.

What is a Customer Service Job?

A customer service job involves working with customers, typically on a full time basis. This could be something as simple as fast food, or something much harder like pleasing a client at a fortune 500 company. Both circumstances are the same - you have to work to please your customer so that they walk away satisfied.

However, customer service is a dangerous thing now a days. Your actions can be caught on camera, your words can be recorded, and every action is watched. If you do your job and keep your nose clean, you can be fine. But you need to prepare yourself before you go into work each day for those possibilities.

Starbucks Excellent Customer Service

A good smile always lets the customer know they are welcomed.

A good smile always lets the customer know they are welcomed.

Preparing for a Customer Service Job

Before you set foot on your job, you need to prepare for that job mentally. Customer service can be a horrible experience, especially if you deal with customers that are unhappy. So here is how you can prepare beforehand:

  1. Remember the times you were the customer. Think of all of the times you experienced bad customer service. What could have the person done differently to make it a better experience? More importantly, think of how a customer would feel when you treat them badly. If you put yourself in their shoes, then you will have a better understanding of their needs.
  2. Be prepared to be yelled and berated at. When a customer is unhappy, they will make it known. Some will just yell at you, others will call you names. You may even have one or two that may resort to physical violence. Just prepare for those incidents so you can protect yourself. If you try to diffuse the situation, things like this may never happen. If you cry easily or get intimidated, that will be bad. Just have a stone-skin, let the customer vent, and handle the situation appropriately.
  3. Practice smiling. A smile goes a long way in a customer service job. It makes the customer feel like you want to help them, that you are welcoming them in instead of making them feel like they are bothering you. Don't make it a fake smile, but a genuine smile. I go up to customer service representatives who are smiling, as opposed to ones who aren't. Even if you help customers over the phone, smiling can help improve your demeanor!
  4. Know that you can't please everyone. It's impossible to please everyone in a customer service job. Either you can't give them what they want due to internal policy, or they are just asking for the impossible. You'll have to learn to tell them "no" when the need arises. That's when you need to be prepared to be yelled at. Keep in mind that you may receive complaints against you as well. As long as you act properly and follow your organization's policies, you shouldn't have a thing to worry about.
  5. Do research about your organization. See what previous customers have complained about. Go in and watch how employees there handle customers, especially the ones with complaints. If you see what they do wrong and do right, you will know what to do when you go in there. If you see a common customer complaint, be prepared for that and learn what to do in those situations before they come up.

An Example of Bad Customer Service

Customer service is all about helping people.

Customer service is all about helping people.

Working a Customer Service Job

Once you start your customer service job, you will have a lot to learn. Even if you have a degree, it won't tell you how your company handles your customers. So that is something you have to learn, and hopefully will be trained for. Keep the following tips in mind when on the job learning to assist your customers:

  1. Learn your organization's policies when it comes to helping customers. Knowing how to handle customers in your organization is important. A lot of places just won't have a book for you to review with every situation. So you have to ask your supervisor, and learn from your experiences.
  2. Bend the rules for your customers. The rules aren't meant to be broken, but they are meant to be bent for your customers from time to time. Don't get yourself in trouble, but if you find you can get something done for a customer without crossing the line, then do so. They will appreciate it and keep coming back.
  3. Try to avoid using the words, "I don't know". If you have to say that you don't know something, state that you will find out. For example, "I don't know, but let me find out for you." The customer doesn't know if it's your first day on the job or the 1,000th day on the job. They will expect you to know, and if you don't, that you know how to find the answer for them.
  4. Keep your cool. Some customers will try to rile you up and get you upset at them. The motive doesn't matter, you just have to prevent yourself from showing that you are upset. This isn't something you can prepare for, you just have to know at that moment to keep yourself calm. If your emotions don't wavier, then you'll get through the situation just fine.
  5. Protect yourself. As bad as it sounds, some customers will intentionally try to get you in trouble, even if you handled things correctly. So keep proper documentation and advise your supervisor of any situations as they arise. You never know who you could be dealing with who will try to get you in trouble, or worse yet, fired from your job.
The camera will always be fixed on you at any customer service job.

The camera will always be fixed on you at any customer service job.

Protecting Yourself at a Customer Service Job

As scary as it sounds, you have to protect yourself when working with a customer. You never know who could be watching you and keeping track of what you are doing - supervisor or customer. The following tips will help accomplish that:

  1. Assume you are always being watched. If you are on the sales floor, assume you are being watched from the ceiling. If you are in a call center, then you are probably having others listen in on your phone call.
  2. You can be recorded at anytime. Recording devices are so small, you don't even know they are there. You could be making the headlines if you do something so outrageous it appears on the news. That's an easy way to get terminated from your job and never to find another one again.
  3. Be ready to call security. People tend to get more physical now a days. They won't hesitate to get in your face, start breaking things, etc. So don't hesitate to call security if the need arises. If they are a good security force, then you won't even have to call them, they will be right there.
  4. Watch your merchandise and money. People will try to cheat and steal from you, if they see that it's easy. If you open your register and they try to distract you, someone could come up and swipe some money out of your drawer. While it may not be your job to stop it when it happens, it is your job to prevent it from happening.
  5. Properly document everything. If something bad happens with a customer, document everything. When it happened, what happened, what they said, etc. If you have documentation and paperwork involved, keep it in a safe place. If you organization is sued for the incident, you could get pulled into court and have to defend your actions.

Example of Being Recorded Providing Bad Customer Service

In the end, you need to ensure you provide great customer service, but protect yourself from any abuse that may come your way from customers. The world respects the frontline workers in customer service jobs now more than ever. Don't let entitled customers walk all over you, but always do what you can to look like the better person in any situation.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 David Livermore


realjobsfromhome on September 15, 2014:

All I can say is wow. I'm so glad I don't work in customer service anymore.

Michael Tully on April 11, 2013:

Excellent advice for all customer service reps, David, whether new or experienced. Something I've noticed in my more than 30 years in various customer service roles is that over the years, customers have gotten progressively more rude, demanding, and pushy. There seems to be a general decline of civillity in society as a whole. At any rate, CSR's have to be exceptionally thick-skinned these days, sad to say. Your advice about being prepared to be yelled at and berated, and protecting yourself, is spot-on. Voted up++.

Alison Graham from UK on April 11, 2013:

David, congratulations on presenting a great guide to giving excellent customer service. I hope lots of customers who might be ringing a call center or visiting a store or business where they need to speak to someone about a problem will read it too as it is good to be able to empathize with the difficulties the customer service adviser has to work under!

Beffore I became a PA, my job involved having to provide customer service to people whose businesses (restaurants and hotels) depended on the laundry company I worked for getting it right - otherwise they had no chefs' uniforms, tablecloths, bedlinen or towels!

They often shouted or were rude, but I made many friends among them who would make a point of calling me personally if they had a problem. Not because I was brilliant at my job, but because I really cared about their business, understood their frustrations and would honestly do all I could to help.

Putting yourself in the other guy's shoes is the key for both customer and customer service provider!

Thanks for a great read, voted up and shared.