Nice People Shouldn't Work In This Industry

Apple Genius Bar customer serviceBy Cassie Nolan

Employers love to put nice people in customer service positions. Especially if they're authentically nice people -- I'm talking about the kind it's impossible to get mad at because they're just naturally so dang polite and pleasant. It's obvious that they genuinely want to solve everyone's problems, and they're working really hard to make it happen.

This setup makes sense (put nice employees in front of clients = a no-brainer) and works out well for all involved -- except you, the sweetheart professional.

For you, the arrangement is stressful and trying and leads to major job dissatisfaction. Here's why:

Nice people Are Sensitive
Customers are loud, abrasive and impatient. They're rude. There are exceptions, of course, but anyone who's worked even one day in a client-facing position knows that people coming to customer service are usually upset. And for some reason, many clients find it acceptable to take their frustrations out on you, the well-meaning customer service employee, as if you're intentionally out to make their experiences with your company crappy.

The main problem with this is that you internalize the insults and absurd accusations and take it all personally. As a truly nice individual, you absorb this non-personal angry venting and blame yourself for the issue. The more customers you work with, the worse you feel.

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Nice People Are Easily Flustered
All you want to do as a nice person is make the client happy. That's a difficult enough endeavor on its own, but when several customers are barking commands at once, your people-pleasing brain starts smoking. All these clients need help, and most of them are mean about it, and you so desperately want to take care of all of them immediately -- but the high level of negative input impairs your ability to problem-solve.

And so you bounce around from complaint to complaint, attempting to put out each fire but getting pulled away before it's out by a larger one -- and ultimately, you hardly accomplish anything.

At the end of the day, you reflect on all the issues that you weren't able to resolve and doubt your capabilities as a professional.

Nice Introverts Have It Even Worse
Extroverted people get their strength from speaking with others. Chatting and interacting excites and enlivens them. Introverts, on the other hand, find too much verbal communication tiring. It leaves them mentally exhausted, and they need some alone time to recharge.

It makes sense, then, that if you're an introverted employee in a customer service position -- where interacting with other people is the name of the game -- you're at an increased disadvantage. Not only is your "niceness" working against you, but you're also operating in an environment that depletes you of energy.

A nice customer service employee leaves work feeling offended and doubtful; you, the nice introverted customer service employee, leave work feeling offended, doubtful and drained.

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The Exception: When Customers Are Awesome
There are situations in which darling you working in customer service is a beautiful scenario for all parties. For example, let's imagine you work for a charity, and your clients are donors or volunteers. Or maybe you're employed by a Hawaiian resort, where your customers are vacationers.

If the clients are participating in a feel-good activity, or are arriving at the scene already in a fantastic mood, it's likely that those conversations are going to go swimmingly. That's a win-win-win for the customer, the employer and you.

Bottom line: Know yourself well and navigate the professional world accordingly.

And if you're honestly nice, stay far, far away from most customer service roles.

Cassie Nolan is the blogger behind Alternative Badassery, "A creative guide to being good at life," where she covers career, writing and health topics. She also regularly disseminates awesome on Facebook and Twitter.

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The most difficult job I ever had was arranging for appointment for claimants in a flood disaster. They were understandably upset .. and I was given the job because I am mellow and "good with people". I lasted all of two weeks.and would never again under any circumstances work as any sort of 'trouble buster". No way.

April 11 2013 at 10:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have been in Management and Sales interacting with customers (I actually prefer the term "guests"). I have trained and led sales teams and the two key strategies I use are:

1) Treat each guest as if they are entering your home. Upon greeting a guest would you ignore them and look up and say things like yeah...what'd you want? No, you would smile, and greet them warmly with a friendly attitude. I am so dismayed over customer service in almost every sincere.

2) When a guest is obnoxious or irate initially, it is ALWAYS for one core reason. They are afraid. They fear that they will either be taken advantage of, information will be withheld, or that they will be ignored without results. You must be willing to acknowledge this fact.

I promise....if you can maintain the dignity of a professional, implement these two factors, and relay some empathy, you will see immediate improvements.

April 01 2013 at 6:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This explains what I couldn't put into words. I work as a front desk clerk at a nicer hotel, and as cheesy as it sounds, I literally feel accomplished when I'm able to fully satisfy a guest. I feel better about myself and I get this warm feeling in my heart knowing I helped someone else's day better. On the other hand, when something goes wrong (9 times out of 10 it's because another front desk worker screwed up and didn't warn me) and a guest is screaming in my face, I usually go into the bathroom and cry afterwards. I internalize the anger and I do feel like a failure if there was nothing I could do to help them. Days at work can be emotionally and socially fulfilling...and they can also make me feel like I'm worthless. My ability to talk to people is what has got me every job I've had for 5+ years.. I don't know if I have the skills to work something behind the scenes. Ugh!

March 26 2013 at 12:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

42 years as a cosmetologist. Listening to their problems and life stories just made me feel so glad to have the life that I lived instead of theirs. Came to the conclusion that most are NOT in control of their lives. So sad!
They told me EVERYTHING in complete confidentiality knowing that I'd take their stories to the grave. No confessions of crime or anything like that.
No I'll never write a book. That book has already be written 10 x's over already.

March 26 2013 at 11:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Buddy Maxwell

With more than 60,000 hours of freewill volunteer time over past couple of decades, working with various organized charities and local churches, along with donated time and effort to many legitimate businesses, I have securely developed a solid facade of sincerity in helping people in all circumstantial situations. Realizing that other peoples problems are not actually mine, but a true desire to be of assistance in solving problems of others has enormously helped me solve whatever may be my own difficulties in life. The simple secret is having an inherent love for all humanity and God's creations great and small. You call me any kind of a name you want, except: "Late For Breakfast.". I hate that.

March 26 2013 at 10:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Any one who comes in contact with customers is doing customer service for their employer - whether they have that job title or not. I am an RN with over 40years experience and frequently see people at their worst. It is amazing how focusing on the patient, empathizing with their complaint and allowing them to vent, even when you cannot get them what they want, will calm most people down. Those that it won't are just unhappy individuals, who would not be satisfied anyway. I have worked in hospitals, outpatient clincs and doctors offices. I now do telephone triage for a number of doctor's offices when they are closed. I am encouraged by the number of people who apologize after venting and thank me for listening and trying to help, even if I can't do what they would like. The ones who get upset and hang up or yell at me, I just ignore. I do not even think about them when I leave work.

March 26 2013 at 10:24 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

This is exactly the world Flight Attendants must work in. Managing people's expectations, asking them to follow a few simple regulations and at the same time being prepared to deal with sudden life and death situations, it becomes daunting. Yet somehow they perform, despite the negativity.Thank goodness for the Four Agreements.

March 26 2013 at 9:28 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Me and my spouse work in the hospitality industry in Myrtle Beach,SC for a major hotel chain. The vacationers treat you like you are garbage. They blame everything on you. Front desk positions are total Hell but we are grateful to have employment. Restaurant positions are bad too. Money is tight and expectations are high. That's what you face. We are looking forward to the end of May when we get a large group of Welfare cases come to town and want the world. It's frustrating! If people are going to be miserable please just stay home!

March 26 2013 at 9:19 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Working in the hotel industry has changed over the years, people are more demanding and don't have any difficulty in cursing the desk clerk out if they cant figure out how to turn the shower handle to get hot water. Travelers take note: do some research to see what is going on in the city you are going to be staying in, don't be upset at clerk because rates are high, management sets rates not the desk clerk. We recently hosted the NCAA basketball tournament in Lexington Ky, also had cheerleading competition in town, hotels were packed and travelers were upset because of all the "kids running around the hotel" don't travel on weekends if you don't want to encounter children. Especially stay away from hotels that offer indoor pools and hot breakfast bars.

March 26 2013 at 9:14 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

The problem also is that IT NEVER ENDS! Day after day and hour after hour they come to you for help and support. After many years of face to face customer interaction, the main problem, as a non manager, you only have a certain level of authority to implement "Company policy". After listening to the customer and going thru all your choices to finalize the problem you usually have to either get a manager's approval or turn them over to the manager! The core of the problem with most, if not all, customer service problems is that you don't usually have authority to make the customer happy. This is what causes anxiety and depression in many retail/customer service personnel. But, we keep on trying while trying to game the system to help the customer...which is what the result should be all about.

March 26 2013 at 9:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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