Maintaining Self-Care and Positive Customer Focus in the Face of Difficult Situations

Imagine two line ups: one for gratitude and the second, complaints.  Which one is longer for your company?

For many customers, if expectations are met, you may never receive gratitude other than through their loyalty. By contrast, unmet expectations can result in complaint lineups or even worse, no repeat business and the risk of customers voicing their opinions to others outside your walls. Be thankful for the complaints as it’s your organization’s chance to make a positive difference in customer expectations.

The people who face your customers can make the difference in customer satisfaction and therefore their roles are the most difficult and powerful in any business. They may need to deal with unreasonable, dissatisfied, angry, disgruntled and demanding people who use your products or services.

To be the one who resolves customer issues, manages emotions and keeps customers coming back requires heavy armour and a strong heart.  Serving others can take a toll on our stress levels, anxiety, attitude and morale.  At the end of the day, it may feel like you were in the boxing ring with Mike Tyson and he is standing tall and you, flat on the canvas.

If you feel like you take the world on your shoulders, or that you have always had compassion for others and you like to fix things and please others, you are likely highly empathetic, caring and are in a role that helps others be happy.  Welcome to customer service and holding the power to make a difference in the lives of others!

There are some things we can do to maintain healthy stress levels and be centered, confident and assertive as we deal with our customers throughout the day.

  • Be Compassionate: It is a gift you have but sometimes our pre-recorded response takes over which doesn’t allow us to truly be in the customer’s shoes. Customers want to be acknowledged, as would we.  In being open and curious about what they are going through, both sides will be more engaged which increases the chance of less negativity and a more positive outcome.
  • Lock the Trigger: Irate customers may trigger an emotional reaction that leaves you knocked down in the ring, struggling to get up to make it through the experience or the day. Evaluate your experiences: what pulls your trigger, why, and what is the emotion behind it?  Emotions drive behaviours and if we can better recognize the bullets, we are more likely to deflect them.
  • Shake it Off: Immediately after stressful situations, animals ‘shake it off’ in order to process and release stress. For many of us, we don’t take a break to process stress and instead let it accumulate throughout the day which can lead to muscle tension and worry. It is important to process how customer situations may have violated our ego, beliefs, values, role, authority and personality traits. Take breathers throughout the day, move your body and release pent up emotions in a healthy way.
  • Not Me: Customers want their expectations met and it’s important to focus on that instead of  limiting beliefs, such as how unreasonable they are or how they behaved.  Know that it’s not about you, unless it is something you failed to do. If it is, then own it, apologize and move on.
  • Self-Awareness: Know your personality type, your strengths, weaknesses, fears and what makes you happy. Your way of being is the reason you are in this role – embrace that.  Self-awareness also leads to knowing what might be standing in your way of not being as effective.  This could include a lack of confidence, not believing in what your company stands for or perhaps being one to avoid conflict, therefore not acting assertively when needed. Understand these gaps and get help to transform them so you can leave at the end of the day knowing you did your best.

I hope the above will help you to process your experiences in a way that is more empowering and that better enables sweet dreams at night.  In an age where customer service can make the difference in an organization’s success, ready your body and mind for a day of being the reason customers choose to work with you!

Kwela’s Customer Relations workshop provides essential skills for building collaborative internal and external client relationships.

Glen Sollors, Partner