“It’s Chaos, Be Kind”
by: Molly Graham
We’ve all heard horror stories about terrible customer service…
…waiting in long lines at the store, getting put on hold with a sales rep for an hour or more, the not-so-great attitude from the 15-year-old behind the counter with blue hair and too many ear piercings working a summer job to pay off their 1992 Toyota so they can “drive to the coast and live my dreams, man…”
…was that too specific?
Anyway, the point here is customer service really can be a drag. But only if approached incorrectly. I’d say most of the time, the frustrations we get on the receiving end of the service come from the attitude and energy we bring to our problems.
As someone who has spent years working at a call center, retail stores at an outlet mall, and as a waitress, of this I am positive: the customer is not always right.
And as customers, our attitudes are almost always wrong.
I recently had an issue with an electronic device that had just passed the warranty of when I could exchange it. I’m a Millennial, so, naturally, I didn’t pick up the phone to talk to someone about it. I took advantage of their “live chat” option, where you instant-message someone in a customer service center. (My experience working at a law firm also taught me to get everything in writing, so there’s that.) I explained the problem in a few brief messages, got some responses with options of how to fix the problem before involving Corporate, and when my issue wasn’t resolved in the time I had to chat with this person, I got an email detailing next steps I could take. And not just one of those “do not reply to this inbox” emails, I was emailing with a real person who was doing all they could to make sure I had what I needed and assured me that they could be reached at any time.
This person was helpful, calm, understanding, and they listened. They listened not just to hear my problem and respond quickly to get me to go away, but to really understand why I was frustrated and to come up with the best solution or me.
Do you know how good it feels to be listened to? I mean like, really listened to.
My frustrations were gone. My problem was being handled. My needs were being met. They cared about my issues and wanted me to have a good experience dealing with what would have otherwise been a long and annoying process. That kind of customer service is invaluable to me.
I could have absolutely approached this problem with the attitude of “UGH I can NOT believe this is broken! This is SUCH a PAIN. I don’t have TIME for this!” Which would have affected how I talked to the customer service rep, the kind of service I was going to receive, and the duration of them handling my problem.
This is easy stuff, folks. Remember the Golden Rule? “Treat others the way you’d want to be treated.” I’ve got a better one for you, the Platinum Rule: “Treat others the way they’d want to be treated.”
This is all something we can each practice in our daily lives. I know I’m going to add it to mine. A change of attitude can drastically change an outcome. Approach someone who’s going to help you fix a problem with a little more patience, a little more gratitude, and a little more kindness.
Think about that when you’re asking a vendor for the hundredth time where your overdue payment is, or when you get another email from Janet in the cube down the hall wanting you to do part of her job because she doesn’t feel like doing it, or when you get approached by Harvey who just can’t understand your idea for a project and has to either call you or show up in your office demanding too much of your attention.
Now I’m not going to guarantee this method will work for every situation. We all know there are repeat offenders of the aforementioned horror stories (hint: it rhymes with Shmomcast.) But changing the way you approach someone or something that’s going to help you with a problem is going to result in a better outcome.
There’s a lot of light in this world, but there is often a lot of darkness. Simple acts of listening, understanding, and responding the way you’d want to be responded to can really make a difference.
Patton Oswalt is one of my favorite comedians, and his late wife, Michelle McNamara, always reminded him that this world, and all of the people in it, are going through chaos. Big chaos or little chaos, it doesn’t matter – everyone’s going through something.
Even the customer service reps.
But there’s always a way to break the chaos, and that starts with you.
So, in the words of Michelle McNamara, “it’s chaos, be kind.”