We all interact with the customer service industry on a weekly if not daily basis, but not all of us know what it’s like to be on the other side of the counter. And while customer service jobs may not be the final stop on your career path, there are many great skills that can be learned from working in customer service that are applicable to a vast array of other jobs.
Mastering the Art of “Smile & Nod”
As the phrase goes, "the customer is always right," even when they order an item not listed on the menu. However, your ability to “smile and nod” without revealing the not-so-appropriate thoughts in your head will serve you well when a boss approaches you with a less than ideal task.
Even though you are fully aware that this task is going to cancel your date on Friday night, your practice with crazy customers will allow you to accept the task without so much as a blink of disapproval.
Communication is Key
There are few things more humiliating than when a customer asks for a thick-cut piece of juicy prime rib, and you bring them a chuck steak – or retrieving a size 6 when someone asked for a size 16. And while mishaps like these are all too common while working in customer service, both situations could have been avoided by clearer communication.
Bringing someone the wrong meal or size definitely isn’t the end of the world, but reporting the wrong numbers or giving someone the wrong information could cause disastrous effects in a business environment.
Refining your communication skills in a situation where the stakes aren’t as high is a great plan to have them perfected by the time you enter the professional world.
Could I get a slice of humble pie with a side of respect?
Remember that waiter’s tip you withheld because you had to ask twice for a glass of water? Not so funny when you’re on the other side.
Being on the other side of the table or counter will provide you with a new perspective and sense of respect for those who work customer service jobs.
Your section is completely full, the kitchen messed up an order setting you back 15 minutes, you’ve just seated another table, and “oh shoot!” that guy wanted another glass of water.
Hounding or belittling your service provider usually has more adverse effects than what you intended. Instead of speeding them up, you’ve probably made them more nervous and more likely to forget that glass of water for the third time.
Having first-hand experience will make you more empathetic and more likely to cut your waiter some slack. Giving respect is a good way to earn respect, and a little bit of "tip karma" goes a long way.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
A lot goes on behind the scenes when working in customer service and working in retail – those shelves don’t magically become organized and the silverware definitely doesn’t roll itself.
Working in the customer service industry or working in retail is a great place to hone and refine your teamwork skills.
It will teach you to be appreciative of the employee who put away the 7 boxes of shoes you got out while you close a sale. It will also teach you the value in thanking the server who refilled the little kid’s drink.
In today’s world, it is virtually impossible not to work on a team, and whether it’s working with your coworkers or your boss, the fast paced environment of the customer service industry will both teach and show you the synergistic effects that come from buying into and being part of an effective team.
Toughen Up Buttercup
It’s no secret that the restaurant world is a cut throat industry. You’re constantly dealing with nagging, unhappy customers and demanding bosses – and you’ll probably fall partial to an insult or two.
However, if you can deal with all of this and still deliver that hamburger with a smile on your face, you’re well on your way to triumphing in a tough board room situation or handling a heated discussion with your boss.
Staying cool under pressure and developing a thick skin will help you remain UN-phased when tough situations come up at work.