Every now and then in our customer service training programs, someone will say something like, “I hate people who are always cheerful,” or “You can’t fake a smile, I hate when people fake smiles.” Typically (and fortunately, rarely) these comments come up during discussions on customer service body language or tone of voice, and are coming from people trying to rationalize not doing these things.
It’s kind of like someone saying, “I hate mechanics who are always fixing things,” or “I hate surgeons who wash their hands.” These aren’t just nice-to-have behaviours, they are part of a professional mindset.
For people to be in a role that involves customers, things like positive attitude, cheerfulness and smiling shouldn’t be a conscious effort. It should be automatic, reflexive. It’s not just what we do, it’s who we are. The best people for customer service roles are ones who find it an effort to not automatically do these things.
A V.P. of a large fitness client of ours once told me that, as part of the hiring process for new managers, she takes them out to lunch and watches how they treat the servers and other people around them. If they aren’t instinctively warm, friendly and respectful with them, there is no second interview. She encourages all of her managers to do the same when selecting personal trainers, instructors, etc.
Customer Service Isn’t For Everyone
We all have bad days, of course. There are times when we have to make a concerted effort to not let the stress, fatigue or frustration show. But that is part of being a professional. If this makes you bitter, or if you’re finding yourself frequently having to “fake a smile,” you probably should avoid professions that involve customer service. You aren’t enjoying it, and your customers likely aren’t either.
Customer service is part of most of our jobs – sometimes to external customers, sometimes to internal customers. Often, it is also the hardest part. It can be both intellectually and emotionally draining. There are many diverse skill sets one has to master, and training is crucial. But the good news is that those who truly excel find doors to opportunity opening much easier than for other people.