Monday, February 15, 2016

Marketable Skills: Calm

We live in a society of drama queens. No task is too small to bemoan, no slight too slight to take offense. When you work in the world of customer service, and let's face it, all work except politics is customer service, one of your best skills is remaining calm.

Customers show up with all manner of baggage. Their particular problem with your company at that moment is just the tip of the iceberg, and if you are not careful, you may collide with a lifetime of therapy-deserving issues with a single sentence. When this happens, remain calm.

1) Focus on the immediate problem. Ask questions, slowly and carefully, and listen to the answers. Bring all your knowledge of how your company works into the situation. How did this situation come about? This moment is not about assigning blame. Some customers will begin with it's all the company's fault; some begin with apologies for how they screwed up: neither is relevant. Your goal is to correctly identify the problem and solve it, not assign blame.

2) Slow down. Angry and anxious people speed up. Their voices rise in pitch and volume. The words pour out of them because they expect an argument, and they've geared up for the fight. You're not going to fight with them. You don't have to. You're going to calmly diagnose the problem and present them with their options. Sometimes this means letting them vent a bit, but even that works for you. Once a customer feels they have been heard, they start to calm down, too. Keep your voice level and slow. Not insultingly slow, but normal slow. If you keep your cool, the customer will join you in the Land of Calm.

3) Be genuine. When you begin practicing this skill, and you will practice it every day you live, it will feel false. You don't want to be calm when someone yells at you. You want to either yell back or slam the phone down and hide in the bathroom. You will not do either. You will breathe deeply, focus more on them than yourself, and solve the problem. You may get thanked, you may not, but you will keep your job and probably rise to manager rather quickly, because this skill is rare indeed among the Commonwealth.

One caveat. You also have baggage, and that will come into play with some customers. When your usual calm slips, it may be your own issues being triggered. Hopefully, you will be able to tag-team those cases without prejudice because of your stellar service record. However, if it happens with every phone call, I recommend real therapy and possibly a job change. You have issues.

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