Customer Service: What I’ve Learned Over The Years

Photo by Lena Paulin on Unsplash

I spent a good part of a decade as a waitress or front of house staff member. My favourite part of my role was having regular customers order their same coffee and meal. I’d ask how they were doing and their reply usually was, “Better now that we get to see your smiling face!”. It was an amazing experience.

I learnt to be resilient, I learnt to problem-solve in fast-paced environments, I learnt what customer service was really about.

As the years went on, the early starts and late nights began to wear my body down. I was often unwell, my morale was low. I knew I needed a change.

The transition from hospitality to an office

A couple years later, I applied for a volunteering position as an Administration Assistant for a charity organisation. I was offered the position after my interview and couldn’t believe I was finally making the transition to a new industry!

As time went on, I learned new processes and became familiar with the systems that were used.

When a paid position became available, I applied and got the role within the same team I volunteered for.

I learned more, sharpened my customer service skills and felt like I was part of something bigger than myself. The feedback we received whether it was on the phone or through donor letters were heart-felt and encouraging.

In 2020, the pandemic happened. My contract then came to an end.

A few months later, a new position became available. Like the one before, I applied and was interviewed. Thankfully and possibly from my previous experience with the company — I got the position!

I was now a Receptionist at the Lodges that housed rural guests undergoing cancer treatment.

Although we were warned, you cannot prepare for the emotional weight that comes with the environment. Like in any service-based role, it is next to impossible not to form relationships and bonds with people you see for weeks at a time.

The moments I cherish are those when we receive thank-you cards or feedback from guests that cannot imagine where they’d be without the service we provide.

The moments that are difficult are those about grief, loneliness and financial hardship. Although customer service is like second-nature, the emotional part is still rather foreign to me.

However, in the years that have passed, I have learnt a thing or two about customer service.

How to maintain work/life balance

I have began implementing self-care and boundaries when it comes to balancing my responsibilities in my role and personal life.

Not viewing my work emails constantly or turning off notifications on the iPhone app has allowed me to switch-off when not at work.

I prioritise my personal relationships, self-care and hobbies to remain true to myself, no matter how tough some weeks are.

Knowing hobbies I can always go back to like writing, sewing or cooking helps when I start feeling stressed. These are activities I can do that fills me with joy and recharges my batteries.

Don’t have a hobby? Spend quality time with friends or family. Play your favourite board/console/computer game. Read a new book. Construct outdoor furniture.

The bottom line here, is to do something on your day off that fulfils you.

Helping isn’t just about positive outcomes

I’m beginning to accept that helping people isn’t just about having positive outcomes, but being there when things fall apart.

Trying to encourage someone who has just received terrible news or even just sitting in the moment with them, can be tough and heartbreaking. There have been more than one occassion where I’d go home and emotionally release the heaviness from the day.

Helping the people that go through our organisation isn’t just about customer service, but what goes on behind the scenes: making sure bookings are correct, making sure dinner orders are organised and scheduling maintenance on site when need be.

When our job-related tasks are done each day, it means we are able to balance our responsibility to serve guests.

It’s a team effort

Similar to hospitality, we have a team that works together to achieve goals.

If someone finds an efficient way to complete tasks, we share the information. If there are things that need to be followed up, there are notes that the next shift-worker can read and add to their list.

Communication, honesty and consistency allows our team to deliver results, day-in, day-out.

Work support is something I never thought about, but realise, it can change the way employees view work. The people you work with influence the way we complete tasks and even the way we may view the company.

When everyone is able to be on the same page about our roles, responsibilities and challenges, it makes for efficient service and a supportive, adaptable environment.

Strive for excellence

No matter where you are, no matter where you envision yourself in the future, try your best. Customer service can feel like a thankless job, especially after brutal complaints or verbal abuse.

However, trying your best means that when you clock-off, you know you gave your all. There is less room for doubt, whether or not you “did enough”.

Adopting this work ethic can be a pivotal point in the way you work and succeed in anything you approach in life. This can apply to not only customer service but financial goals, emotional changes and physical wellness.

Some people think striving for excellence is:

  • bending backwards
  • accepting being underpaid
  • accepting being treated poorly
  • working overtime (unpaid)

I get it. I used to be that person.

Striving for excellence is really about:

  • seeing where you are and finding ways as a team / company to do better than before
  • boundaries (work / personal)
  • having a vision and clear goals
  • balancing responsibilities in a healthy way

“If you’re going to be paid to do something, do it well.”

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