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Customer service motivation

Five tips to avoid being worn down

By Jeff Mowatt

33124001-mainSomeone once said that life would be easy if it wasn’t for other people. Making a living, however, usually involves interacting with those around you. Your job may be fine when customers are pleasant and everything goes well. Sooner or later, though, unavoidable delays, foul-ups, and interruptions can make even good jobs turn into, well”¦ work. To help you have more ‘up’ days than ‘down’—even when things go wrong—here are several strategies I share in my seminars for making your job easier and your mood better. The bonus is your boss and your customers will love you for them.

Fix rather than foist

No matter what your job description, if you view internal and external customers as interruptions, you’re going to be frustrated and angry a lot. We all know that without those customers, we wouldn’t have jobs. Ultimately, the purpose of everyone’s job is to serve customers and co-workers. That means when customers ask for something that’s not technically in your job description, instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what you can.

Consider saying to a customer, “You need to call another department,” versus, “I’ll call that department and see what I can find out for you.” With the second approach, customers will be easier to deal with and you’ll have a better day. Ironically, trying to avoid customer requests or foist them onto others makes your day harder and more draining that just finding a way to solve the problem.

Open as a troubleshooter

Imagine you’re about to talk with a customer who is obviously unhappy. Starting the conversation by asking, “How are you?” invites the customer to rant, which sends the conversation in a downward spiral. By the same token, if it’s evident the customer is unhappy, asking them how they are indicates we must be blind to the obvious. That doesn’t exactly build trust. So when you suspect a customer may be frustrated, instead of asking, “How are you?” say “What can I do to make your day a little easier?” That opening shows you’re aware and positions you as a problem solver. Chances are you’ll have a better interaction.

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Watch your language

Speaking of words that improve outcomes, try my ‘Phrases that Pay’ with your customers and co-workers”¦

Instead of: I’ll deal with it. Say: I’ll take care of it.

Instead of: You’re welcome. Say: My pleasure.

Instead of: Bear with me. Say: I appreciate your patience.

Instead of: It won’t be here until Tuesday. Say: It will be here as soon as Tuesday.

Did you notice how just changing a few words alters the whole tone? When I speak at conferences, participants who’ve used these tips report afterward they’re amazed at how much easier customers are to deal with once service providers become more thoughtful with their word choices.

Realize not everyone loves you

Chances are, you may have several co-workers or customers with whom you have absolutely nothing in common. They may come from a vastly different culture, upbringing, or value system than you. That means if you attempt to win them over as friends, you’ll likely be disappointed. I suggest that instead of trying to become buddies, position yourself more as a trusted advisor.

Think of the relationship between a medical specialist and a patient. As a patient, we don’t expect the cardiologist to phone us at home to talk about movies. We may only interact with them once and then never see them again. Yet we feel a strong bond because we see them as a trusted advisor. At work, your day will be easier if you expend less energy trying to be liked and focusing more on satisfying customer needs as a trusted advisor.

Get moving

You know that great feeling you have after a work out? It’s more than a temporary endorphin high; it’s also the sense of well-being and self-esteem you generate by doing something you know is good for you. If your job involves a lot of stress and potential conflicts, I encourage you to exercise before you go to work. Yes, it may mean getting up earlier. Fine, get up earlier and go to bed earlier. Being kind to customers and co-workers starts with being kind to yourself. You’ll not only have a better outlook, you’ll also have the energy to face life’s daily challenges.

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The bottom line is you may not have control over every foul-up or frustration that happens when you deal with customers and co-workers. Fortunately, you do have several tools to make work more pleasant for everyone.

Jeff Mowatt is a customer service strategist, award-winning speaker, and bestselling author. For more tips, training tools, or to inquire about engaging Jeff for your team visit

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