Combating Social Anxiety in the Customer Service Industry
So you’ve done it. You’ve pushed through that awkward, uncomfortable, even sometimes painful process of applying for a job. Congrats if you got the job, I’m sure it wasn’t easy. If you didn’t get the job, then well, it just wasn’t right for you. However, fret not, there’s tons of jobs out there, and you’ll find the right one for you.
The following article however, is for those of you that were unlucky enough to get a job in the nightmarish field of Customer Service. Now, why you went for that job with social anxiety, I’m not here to judge, you had your reasons. But, having been in the same boat, I figured some pointers on how to survive the customers, and collect that paycheck, would be appreciated.
It’s just a job…
As anyone who has worked in retail, or customer service could tell you, it is an awful profession. Some people might love their jobs, and I’m not sure as to why, but hey, you do you. For the rest of us, the job itself may be difficult enough, but if you add moderate to severe social anxiety into the mix, well, it gets exponentially harder. What would usually get me through my days at the customer service desk at a very well known home improvement warehouse, would be telling myself over and over that it is just a job. I clock in, do what I have to do, clock out, and get paid (every other week). Reminding yourself that, at the core of it, what you do at work, is just that…work! It doesn’t have any bearings on your life, and shouldn’t be brought home with you. Just get in, and get out, be a drone and do your job.
Now I know that doesn’t sound like fun, but, isn’t payday fun? Just separate the actual working, from your life.
They’re just customers
Needless to say, those of us with social anxiety have a bit of trouble fitting in with people, and carrying on conversations. Now, this may sound mean, but you have to dehumanize the customers. These people walk in the door, looking for an item, or a service, and don’t see you as an actual person, but as a physical manifestation of the company that you’re working for. So, why not do the same thing to them? Somebody is yelling at you for not having an item on the shelf? All you can do is apologize, and see if you can help them any other way. What does it matter? That person is not your friend, family member, or lover. You might not even ever see that person again (if you’re lucky). So, you have no obligation to treat this person in any way above how the company states to treat customers. Granted, with customer service, being a little nicer never hurts. Though, you do what you need to to get by.
Follow a Script
Have you ever called a customer service line and felt they were reading off a script while talking to you. In most cases, there is no script. Most CS workers get so many of the same calls, complaints, or concerns a day, most of which with similar or the same answers. So much so, that they follow a sort of impromptu script in the their head. Even the job I work now, I answer the phone the same way every time. When I make outgoing calls, it’s the same every time too. For example, when I’m making a call, it’s “Hello, my name is ____ and I’m calling on behalf of _____. How are you today? …Good. I’m calling because_____.” That’s how it goes, every.single.time. And my anxiety goes through the roof on the phone, and I’ve found if I take most of the unknown out of the equation, it mediates my anxiety. So all you really need to do, is come up with a “company line” to tell customers based on the situation. It may not be the easiest thing to do, but it is super effective. Plus, these lines will become more comfortable the longer you use them. The best part? Customize and refine your lines as you go to best meet your needs, while still following company policy.
Rely on your manager(s)
If you’ve ever been in the situation where nothing you are doing, or can do, is calming the customer down. They’ve hit you with the usuals, “I spend so much money here”, “I basically pay your paycheck”, “I shop here all the time and never had this problem”, etc. pretty much everything short of calling you names. Then you probably know where this is headed, before you can blink they’ll probably be screaming for a manger. So, you take the initiative, “I’m sorry that I can’t assist you further sir/ma’am (people love being referred to formally), let me see if my manager can help you with what you need.” If you’ve ever been a manager, and I have, you really hate that part of the job. Yet, you get used to it, you expect it. So as long as your manager has been around for a while, they really shouldn’t have a problem dealing with those irritating customers. Once you pass the torch you’ll get this feeling of freedom, and finally be rid of the overpowering anxiety this customer caused. However, I highly recommend, if there aren’t any other customers that need your immediate attention, hang around. See how your manager handles the customer, you could probably learn a thing or two to add to your “tool belt”.
Create a Work persona
You’ve probably known one of those people who could be the least productive, laziest person ever; but as soon as hey clock in, it’s like they’re a different person. Well, that’s most likely because they know that a job is a job, and we only work to make money. So they’ve literally separated their work life, and their actual life. They’ve effectively “built” another them, to do all the work. I was doing just that while working at a popular pizza chain for 5 years. As soon as I clocked in, I’d put a smile on my face (despite crippling depression) and become the mode employee. As soon as I clocked out, I’d go back to being me. For some people, this is the only way they can have a job. Doing this really helps with leaving work stress at work, where it belongs. Just be careful if you start to mix the 2, usually with work friends. Things can snowball really fast, and before you know it, work you has become the only you.
Even though I’ve specifically targeted customer service jobs, a few of these may be helpful with other fields of work too. If you work in customer service, let us know if any of these work or have worked for you. Also, if you know of any other or better ways, comment below! We are a community devoted to helping each other get through the tough times caused by mental health illnesses. Good luck at work everyone!
Photo Credit: Unsplash: Clem Onojeghuo