Note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.
Customer service is hard. Anyone who tells you otherwise is in denial, bad at it, or both. The notion that serving customers is easy is something I’ve referred to as the Biggest Myth in Customer Service.
There are many reasons why customer service isn’t easy. These obstacles range from poor corporate strategy to ineffective leadership to our own limitations as human beings.
Here are five common examples:
#1 It’s not instinctive
There are many situations where our natural instincts result in the wrong customer service move.
For example, if you encounter an angry or upset person, your “fight or flight” instinct will kick in. This is a natural urge to either fight the danger (verbally or physically) or flee the danger. Neither is acceptable in customer service, so employees wind up struggling against their own instincts when they try to make the upset customer happy again.
#2 Our customers see what we don't
People tend to get locked in to a certain perspective, but this perspective may not match our customer’s. This can cause us to be blind to a customer's need that might be obvious in hindsight.
The classic nine dot puzzle provides an example of how this naturally happens.
- Connect all nine dots using just four straight lines.
- You can't lift your finger off the screen
If you get stumped, click here to find the solution.
#3 It's sometimes hard to be friendly
Customer service employees are supposed to be friendly, but what happens when an employee doesn’t feel friendly?
It takes effort to outwardly project a feeling you don’t really feel. The worse you actually feel, the harder it gets to pretend you're in a good mood. This effort, called emotional labor, can leave people physically and mentally exhausted.
To add insult to injury, research shows that customer service employees don’t get paid very much for their emotional labor.
#4 We aren’t good at multitasking
Multitasking is a requirement for many customer service jobs. Unfortunately, we’re not very good at it. The end result is multitasking hurts service quality.
That’s because our brains can only process one conscious thought at a time. When we try to do more, we’re really just rapidly shifting resources between various thoughts. The inevitable result is we operate slower and are more prone to making mistakes.
#5 Directed Attention Fatigue
All of this chronic multitasking causes a condition called Directed Attention Fatigue. It comes from overusing the part of our brain that focuses attention.
Here are a few of the symptoms:
- Difficulty starting and finishing tasks
Obviously, none of these symptoms are good for customer service. You can read more about it in a blog post I wrote called “How detoxing our brains can improve customer service.”
What can you do about it?
Start by embracing the fact that customer service is difficult. If you want to serve your customers at the highest level, you have to work at it every day.
Next, slow down and focus on one customer at a time. The obstacles described above get exacerbated when we get anxious and try to do too many things at once.
Finally, learn from experience. When you encounter a challenging customer service situation, think about what you'll do differently next time to get a better result.