You might think that you can work as a Customer Care Specialist and have the rest of your life intact. You might be wrong (most probably). The changes come slowly, stay almost unnoticed, until you stop at some point, look back in awe and track all the transformations you have gone through.
Before entering the IT sphere, I was working in Event Management: organizing conferences, festivals, concerts and so on. I am a positive person. And very energetic. I can generate 10 different ideas within 5 minutes about how to coolly pass the time, what book we should discuss next including the how, when, where, with whom and what should be done for that. And I was used to sharing those ideas out loud because,, you know, I was an event manager and that was what I should have done.
Then there came the office filled with gloomy developers, almost-always-silent analysts, and I entered the interview room. At that moment, I had no idea at all what world I was going to emerge into. I was presented with the specificities of the work: like, you know, it’s technical. We see you’re with brains, but you’ve never been in IT. Plus, the work is almost routine, you need to answer chats and emails. Calls? No, no calls. Just written communication. You okay with that?
And yes, I was okay with that. Because I knew, the routine is usually underrated. The key point here was that I wanted to prove to myself that after the here-there-and-everywhere years of volunteering and event making, I could let some steadiness into my life and promised myself to not quit from the next job for at least 2 years, no matter what. There we go, I accepted the offer and started my Customer Care journey.
More than 3.5 years have passed since then and though I have kept my base, I am no longer the same person. Let me tell you how I changed and how my life became different by simply pledging to stay in the same company for 730 days minimum.
As my manager would repeat from Day 0: “Agnes, less emotions”.
I am in no place to deny, I am somehow made of emotions with the backup of wit. And every single thing that I felt was expressed on my face, in my movements, voice and actions. A customer yelling from the other side of the screen could easily make me crawl down the table to shed a couple of tears away from the gazes. Yes, dear colleagues, this is a confession. I was not tying my laces a million times during a day.
Then little by little the things that made me fall into pieces could affect my inner peace no more. I am not telling here that I regressed to having an emotional range of a teaspoon, hell no. I just learned to put off the feelings until a better moment. And go with the head into solving issues, calming frustrated customers, having crazy discussions with colleagues and the management where the cool head was the trump card.
And that had its positive influence on my personal life. I got several steps closer to the nirvana of taking stuff easier, of letting things and people go. It’s beyond words how less complicated my life got by that.
I started not only to look, but also to see, and to listen to instead of just hearing.
What is great about the written communication with the customers, is that you have the option of re-reading their messages and that, my friends, is a whole bingo. By doing semantic analysis of the message, by paying attention to the choice of words, I started reading between the lines. Then joining the pieces of the information I gathered, I started understanding the motives of customers. That was the solid ground to negotiate and lead them towards where I needed them to go. Not against their interests, of course.
An example will be handy here. It’s not a secret that any platform has bugs. And often the customers who use it deeply and in unpredictable use cases, are those who bring the problems to our attention. There are two types of customers. They can face the exact same trouble and express it in the exact same way. However, the first type will be satisfied only if the problem is fixed and might stop using your service otherwise, while the second type will be good if they receive a small compensation and a thank you for reporting the issue. This was not obvious for me at first. Little by little I noticed the pattern. Then, to understand the type, I needed to know if the customer is using the platform individually or through their company. In the second case, what role they have. Then, the approximate size and revenue of the company. Depending on that, the decisions were being made. The beautiful part was seeing the decision-making process becoming shorter and shorter with practice.
But I couldn’t stop there. I started analyzing the life situations, friends, people surrounding me. You know the common thing that the brain goes back to the events without closures and plays it over and over again, especially when one tries to fall asleep. I started to enjoy that process. In spare times, I challenge myself into Sherlock - Watson games returning to complicated work or life moments, finding the perfect solutions to them and apply them to future cases.
I trained patience
That started with the training of newly hired colleagues, explaining all the dark alleys of the platform, answering the same questions multiple times, mastering the art of paraphrasing for better explanations.
Once I winded up helping my mother’s not-at-all tech-savvy friend to configure Skype on desktop. For that, I called her on messenger, explained how to install TeamViewer and give me access to remote control, then we stayed connected on the messenger while she was following “the magic I was performing” and then I taught her how to use the app on her own. For the record, not a single frustrated phrase slipped out of my mouth in the process. As effortless as it might sound, this was one of the most important victories of my life.
I got the chance to know myself better
It was my job as a Customer Care specialist that let me clearly understand: I am no fan of stagnation and easy things. I need problems and I need to solve them to feel satisfaction. When facing difficulty, I already know the phases of my reactions. That gives me confidence! First, I panic (a bit, and less with time). Then, I might complain. Not much. Then I accept the fact that the problem needs to be solved and then I can be discovered red-handed in the solving process.
There is a saying “If the problem can be solved why worry? If the problem cannot be solved, worrying will do you no good.” As mentioned, I am not following the first part. But that’s a personal thing, no offense. As for the second part, I think we can always do at least something about any problem. That’s how I deal with the cunning ones. I cover the parts that can be handled by me, then gather all the possible pieces of information and ask for help from those who can solve them. Well, I am not talking about global warming here. But even there, we can have our share of ways out, can’t we?
To be completely honest, I will talk about the negative side as well. On we go.
Because of my experience, I can’t help but give sophisticated answers to the everyday questions I get from family and friends. Let me bring you an example.
A friend asked yesterday if I was reading the Max Frei book on Kindle.
I analyzed all the sides of the question:
1. I am an incurable booknerd, I love to have the printed editions of the books dear to my heart and I am a huge fan of Max Frei stories. I have re-read his stories for a couple of times, so that should mean I have the printed books; 2. I have been pushing him to start reading the series lately and he might have thought that he could borrow the books from me; 3. My Kindle is a birthday gift from him and he might want to know if I am actually using it.
So, the answer to a simple Yes or No question was: “Yes, I am reading this one on Kindle /answer to the main question and my 3rd thought/. You know there are the main series and a couple of others, which derive from the main one or are separate at all. I borrowed the books of the main series from a classmate some million years ago /answer to my 1st thought/. But I have the new series and several standalone books in the printed version. Let me know if you’d like to borrow them /answer to my 2nd thought/.”
You might think that this is not a bad thing. Mostly, you would be right. But sometimes I can be hell of annoying…
The bad service became way too obvious for me, both offline and online
This is the worst of the transformations! I mean I feel physical pain from it. It’s probably the only thing that I haven’t yet learnt to cope with. Examples, again. I contact a live chat, give all the necessary information for them to solve my issue, they start to ask everything again. Then the chat gets transferred to nearly a dozen other reps, I ask each time to read the back story, but they DON’T! The most painful part? They tell that they do read, but ask questions that make it clear they didn’t. Last time that happened, I ended up taking a calming pill and solving my issue myself. Silly me, thought I took the short road…
Another example, s’il-vous-plait. I went to do a CT of my head. And I have a brow piercing I couldn’t take off. The doctors were discussing if I can take the procedure with my piercing on, they were pointing at me and talking about me and “others like that” as if I was not standing there. Don’t, just don’t do that!
One more example. I am standing in the line to check out my purchases in a supermarket, the cashiers start to talk about their personal lives, broken nails and the kids left in the kindergarten using some offensive words for each other in a joking manner. And I have to listen to that… While their talk might have not affected the speed of serving me, I obviously thought that I unjustly lost a couple of minutes because of them. And a bad opinion about the supermarket formed in my head.
I got an addition to my job and started confining my whole life in it.
This is something that can happen no matter the area of expertise. However, being a member of a support team having the highest of standards I needed to comply with added a lot of salt and pepper to the problem. First, when I was on the entry level, I had a lot to learn, and obviously, I was using my off-duty time for that. Then I got my groove on and started checking our help desk when I didn’t have to, be in the office for 14+ hours a day. I even had a joke with my manager, that I am so engaged with my work that I am simply waiting for the ring to get married to it.
Well then came the time of being a shift lead, and I felt the urge of constantly being there for the team. And the team knew they could call me at 3 AM even if I left the office at 7 PM. On one hand, that gave wings, knowing that they need you, on the other hand, this was exhausting.
And clearly, this was not healthy nor was it adding up to my productivity. I was getting constant work burnouts, I was stressed and tired. And not because I hated my job, as it would usually happen, but au contraire, because I loved it too much. Luckily, I stopped at some point, slapped myself in the mind and woke up. Because you are not a real professional if you don’t know how to take a rest.
Now I try to limit the work time to 10 hours a day, I revived a couple of my hobbies and constantly practice the “think about something else” technique. The latter is strongly advised to all of you, too :)
I should probably interrupt myself here, or else I will talk and talk and talk. Just quick advice before going. No matter what field you are working in, it’s always helpful to pause for a moment once every 6 months, or a year, and evaluate the progress. We often get driven by the flow and the important things pass before our eyes unnoticed. The lookback will hint to you if you are on the right track or if anything needs to be changed.