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What we all learned from those customer service jobs

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customer service jobs

Almost everyone works a customer service job at some point in their life, whether it’s in retail or food. Some of these customer service jobs are more fun than others, but sometimes the only way pay the rent is to grin and bear it and serve people.

Occasionally you’ll find a customer service job that makes you happy, but many people have to settle for less-than-satisfactory conditions in order to pay rent or save for college. Often when you’re stuck in customer service jobs, you spend your workday thinking, “Is this really helping me?” You question the paycheck, wondering if minimum wage is truly worth your time, and even though you go back and forth about the issue, you usually keep the job until you absolutely cannot stand it anymore.

Customer service jobs test your patience, your stamina, and sometimes your will to get our of bed in the morning, but in the end they’re more important than you think. I myself have spent a number of years in food service, and just recently got enough experience to take those jobs off my resume (Yay!). However, the more I thought about it, the more thankful I became for my small-town pizzeria and those long evenings cleaning tables. Here’s what we all learned from those customer service jobs we hated.

Genuine customer service

Funnily enough, one thing we all learned from those customer service jobs, both retail and food, is customer service. Most of us did not set out to become good at understanding customers, but as a result of hours of training and having managers remind us to smile, we were forced to be good at serving the customer. A majority of us know how to turn on our joyful selves and make the customer believe that we are happy to serve them, even when we sometimes don’t feel that way. I personally have seen myself become a more generous person when it comes to serving people, just because I know how happy customers can be when they get great service. More than that, my jobs in food has taught me to be kind to people, whether you feel good or not.

Appreciation for other service workers

It’s easy to tell who has worked in customer service jobs based on how they act in a restaurant or in a clothing store. Because I’ve spent almost five years working in food, I always make sure to help out servers and waitresses. I try to clear my spot at the table or help hand them things they can’t reach. More than that, I make sure I’m kind to them. Before working in customer service it’s easy to ignore food workers or clothing associates, but when you work on the other side, you know how hard customer service jobs can be.

Patience

Customer service workers deal with a lot of frustrations. Whether it’s annoying customers, unhelpful co-workers, or even just stressful situations, we all had to learn patience when working in customer service. If you haven’t worked in the service industry, you will not understand how difficult it is to remain cool and collected when your store is going crazy. It’s even more difficult to remain patient with difficult customers. Some customers are oddly specific with their requests, but others are down-right mean. Customer service workers were taught how to remain kind and patient even in the face of unideal circumstances.

Value your free time

When you’re in a job you enjoy that doesn’t involve standing for forty hours a week, you may not value your free time that much because even your job is fun. However, if you’ve worked in a customer service job, you probably have had at least one season of your life where you can’t wait to have your day off of work. If you work full time in food or retail, you probably only have one or two days a week where you don’t have to work, and as a result, you really appreciate that free time. You either learn how to relax, or you figure out how to pack your day full of things in order to be productive in the rest of your life. We all have probably experienced that moment when you make your to-do list and it’s filled with things like grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning. Even though you may wish you had more time for chores or fun, you will value your free time much more than someone who isn’t standing all week.

How to handle kids in public

Something we all learned from those customer service jobs is how kids should and shouldn’t act in public. There’s usually two camps of people who work in customer service jobs: “When I have kids, I’m going to make sure they behave politely in public” or “There is no way I am ever having kids.” Of course, these statements are usually said jokingly, but they come from a place of honesty. Food and retail workers interact with a variety of children on a daily basis, and some are more pleasant than others. These customer service environments force workers to see different parenting techniques played out live before their eyes, and it’s easy to get discouraged about children very quickly. Either they’re screaming too loudly or leaving a mess behind, but no matter what, we all know the wrong ways to let children act in public. 

We can thank those customer service jobs for giving us a a good work-ethic and healthy dose of reality, but more than anything else, we can be empathetic to those in the customer service industry now, knowing that we were once in that boat, too.