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I don’t want to do Customer Service!

I’m not sure how many times my team and I have heard these words. It is the most common objection that candidates give recruiters in our space.

However, I must admit that I am deeply saddened when a candidate utters these words especially if they have never worked in a customer service capacity. The reason being, I know all too well that they will be missing out on some valuable life experience, as well as the opportunity to get into a really good company.

Don’t get me wrong. I remember my call centre days very well. Having worked for Bell ExpressVu, Dell Computers and Oxford in customer service for years, I have solved my fair share of problems with tough customers. It was hard, and sometimes very stressful. However, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

My career began in customer service and thanks to that foundation, I have thrived as a result. I am successful by any traditional measure and owe it all to my customer service background.

Customer Service is the foundation for any business, which is why I wanted to write this article. Hopefully, it will have an impact on some graduates who may have the wrong impression about this line of work and the inherent possibilities that exist after that.

Customer Service: The foundation for Problem-Solving

Problems are the natural order of business. They happen daily, and in large quantities.

Knowing how to deal with problems skillfully and quickly is an underrated skill. When my team and I are recruiting top talent for any organization, problem-solving abilities are front and centre in our talent acquisition method.

If you can solve problems well, gracefully, and with emotional intelligence, you will automatically become a sought after candidate in any industry. The customer service department is the starting point for such a foundation, and its importance cannot be overlooked.

Empathy, Emotional Intelligence and Negotiation 101

Everyone wants to be understood. Especially an angry customer.

In my experience, most people shy away from taking such emotionally charged calls, mainly due to fear. I believe that this is a missed opportunity. When you are afraid of something, it is a signal that there is something to be learned from that unknown. An area for growth.

It would be best if you crossed thought that threshold. The result will be a newly acquired strength and elimination of specific fears.

From a very young age, I looked at the challenges of demanding customers as opportunities to turn a critic into an advocate. Difficult calls were a constant reminder that people wanted to be heard and empathized with. Turning those calls around were significant wins for me, and the businesses I worked for.

In his Masterclass, former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss teaches us that “everybody really deserves to have somebody hear what they have to say.” While I have never negotiated a hostage release, I can tell you that the same principle applies in business.

Negotiation and diffusing a challenging call is really about ensuring that you have empathized and put yourself in that person’s shoes. A good CSR can make the difference between having a customer for life, or the end of a mutually beneficial relationship. That’s a very profound difference and an invaluable life skill.

If taken, the opportunity to obtain these skills can become a solid foundation for a very successful career.

The Empty Chair: The Most Important Person in the Room

I am a big fan of Jeff Bezos and his profound understanding of customer service. He is, in my opinion, the most successful CSR on earth. He is quoted to have said that “Everyone has to be able to work in a call center.”

In this Salesforce article, the author writes: An overwhelming figure that used always to set the tone of his meetings was “the empty chair.” Early on, Bezos brought an empty chair into meetings and informed his top executives that they should consider that seat occupied by their customer, “the most important person in the room.” Throughout these meetings, a different weight was held on all decisions as the invisible but clear presence of the customer was always accounted for.

Throughout all the interviews, books and articles I have read, Jeff always has the customer at the forefront of all of his decisions.

Customer Service: Where all problems end up.

If you want to get a great understanding of what is happening in a business, good or bad, sit in a customer service representative’s chair. From this vantage point, you can see the results of all kinds of internal issues ranging from shipping, logistics, manufacturing, finance, sales and marketing.

This understanding of what is truly happening inside a corporation is what makes the customer service team a breeding ground for talent. It can also give you a competitive advantage over other potential candidates.

Once exposed to problems and knowing how to solve them, you can quickly navigate to other parts of the corporation (i.e., get promoted) with a good primer for the future. It is, in my opinion, the best way to enter an climb up the corporate ladder. Getting to know the company from within is the best way, and the Customer Service floor is that starting point.

Numerous examples of success stories start on the ground floor.

Customer Service: Great training for Sales? Yes, it is.

While I didn’t know it at the time, being in customer service was the beginning of my training for a great sales career. Sales are no longer about aggressive, pushy people, but about listening, building relationships and a foundation of trust and understanding between the client and the company. Those are the same principles for a successful customer service representative:

Listening + Understanding + Solving Problems = Customer Service

Listening + Understanding + Solving Problems = Sales

The formula for sales is the same as the one for customer service. All those years in a call centre has led me to be able to generate a tremendous amount of business, and it can work for you as well. You have to have patience and go through that experience yourself. Customer Service can give you the basics needed for the future.

Customer Service: Not forever, unless you love it.

Don’t get me wrong; I know that being a lifelong, professional Customer Service Representative is not for everybody. While some people are permanent professional CSR’s (and fantastic at what they do), most eventually want to move on from that department and grow into other areas.

However, if you haven’t given customer service a fair shot, then I believe it’s the right starting point for most individuals.

It is a superior learning experience that can accelerate your success, and in return, you can have an impact on the people you interact with on the phone.

Give it a go, and don’t look back. You undoubtedly will learn a lot.

Greg Benadiba, President at Bilingual Source