As anyone who’s ever worked in a customer support job or near a customer support team can tell you, it is tough staying motivated. You have to interact with different customers with different needs and different temperaments, solve their problems and do it in a way that puts a smile on their faces. Phew! Talk about pressure.
Because the job calls for interacting with different kinds of customers, it’s inevitable that a few of these interactions will run sour. Maybe the customer had a bad day and they’re taking it out on everyone around them. Maybe there’s no immediate solution to their problems and you have to be the bearer of bad news. For whatever reason, it’s very easy to let these sour interactions get you down and make you frustrated and demotivated. Unfortunately, there’s no room for you to stay frustrated and demotivated because issues won’t wait for you to get back to normal and you’ll need to pull your weight.
Not to mention, all of that havoc it’s wreaking on your health…
So how do you solve this sticky problem? How do you make sure you handle frustration in a healthy manner without making it about the customer or creating a toxic work environment? We asked a few people who’ve been there and done that to pitch in with their answers.
Put it down in writing
Before you talk about it to someone, take some time to walk away from your desk and put it down in writing. I’d recommend an actual pen-and-paper journal because there are few processes as cathartic as putting nib to paper. Once I put those thoughts down on paper, I always feel a little relieved, like the act of expressing myself allowed all the stress to flee.
This isn’t unique to just me; studies have shown that journaling helps reduce stress and provide mental clarity. So, even if it’s a notepad you just filched from your neighbor or a treasured journal you’ve had for years, put those thoughts to paper and let them loose.
Here’s a thought on some of the questions you could answer in your entry (stick to a single line, if possible):
- What happened? The customer gave me an angry-face rating.
- Could you have done anything to change it? Yes.
- If yes, what and why didn’t you do it? Because it’s not on the product team’s roadmap.
- Is it something that could change in the future? Can you make it happen? Maybe.
Talk to someone
I hate to be Captain Obvious about it but trust me, it really really helps in these situations to pull a colleague aside and talk about what happened. Grab a coffee and talk through the whole situation, preferably with someone outside the team so that your stress doesn’t prove contagious.
“This is something I learned from previous managers I came in contact with. Many ignored the needs of their team members and never listened to them, their concerns or feedback. My reps know that they can come to me for anything. It motivates them knowing that they don’t have a manager but a mentor and leader.” – Stephanie Price, Customer Success Manager at SaneBox.
Talk to your supervisor if you can’t catch hold of someone outside the team – chances are your boss might be able to give you some perspective or help you cope with it in the future when you have to deal with this customer again.
Get out of the office
Step away from your desk. Walk to the water cooler and back. Leave the office, if you can. Grab something to eat. Try to stay away from sugar because, once the sugar high recedes, it can leave you feeling more vulnerable. Keep ice cream or hot cocoa or whatever floats your boat as an occasional treat, and reach for high-protein snacks instead.
Indulge yourself for a few minutes, disengage, and take a few deep breaths. Take the long way back to work.
“Sometimes, I step away from my desk and go for a walk around the block. There’s also an ice cream place right up the block from me that’s a great place to go when I have an angry customer. Everything’s a whole lot better when you have homemade ice cream on hand.” – Chase Clemons, Head of Support, Basecamp
Remind yourself why
When the going gets tough, it helps to remind yourself why you’re doing all of this. A repo of happy customer stories, some favorite tickets, a motivational poster – nothing quite helps like real, solid proof that what you’re doing matters, that what you’re doing makes a difference in people’s lives.
“I think it’s actually easier for us in service to stay motivated than the people in tech and marketing, because we talk to our customers, we’re closer to them so we know how much they value our product. Tech and Marketing can become a bit secluded from time to time. That’s why it’s also important for us to pass on the positive vibes every now and then, pass on positive customer quotes for example. This was one of the reasons I wanted to stay in customer success instead of switching to marketing.” – Nils Hermann, former Customer Success Manager of Userlike.
So, if you don’t have one already, make yourself an ego folder for the hard days. Throw in screenshots of your favorite interactions, pictures of your family, your pets if you have any…remind yourself why you’re doing this and it might just get you through the rest of the day.
Meditation and mindfulness can change your life. Use an app like Headspace to go take a bite-sized (10 minutes) or mini session (3 minutes, max). All you need is the app (which is free), a quiet corner (not as easily available) and your earphones. Breathe deeply, let your stress go and try to clear your mind.
PS – Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, just called this the #1 app on her phone (besides Facebook).
Crank up the tunes
A lot of our support heroes have power playlists that they use to get them through the day.
“Music and Nespresso coffee help me through the day. Classical in the morning for a calm start to the day. Trance music around lunch time (our peak hours). Jazz at the end of the day to wind down. As for the team, it’s simply amazing to be a part of the support team. When we’re all shoulder to shoulder, we carry each other other through the day. Whether it’s with a friendly joke, an ear to get out someone’s frustration or a lovely animated cat GIF.” – Scott Markovits, Head of Support, Invisionapp
“Your day needs a good music playlist to start. The right music can really carry you through the day. We also share fun stories, links, and (most importantly) GIFs throughout the day inside our Campfire chat room. It’s amazing how much a funny GIF will brighten up your day.” – Chase Clemons, Head of Support, Basecamp
“We all drink lots of coffee and share music, GIFs, and laughs. We also love our community and are motivated to see their success as a result of having their products posted on our site. Here are some success stories that keep us going:
“I just put my headphones on and get involved with the music. After you crush 40-50 tickets, you need to get into your zone to go on. And music is the way to get there! I prefer to keep my support playlists instrumental because lyrics or podcasts throw me off course. When you’re listening to something with words WHILE typing words, you’re bound to mix them all up and cause a mess. I do have a couple of other playlists as well though. One for each mood so that I don’t get bored. Like for example, I’ve got an electronic one, a heavy metal one, a breezy one, etc. I try to keep it fresh by making one every week!” Mike Minnick, Morale Specialist at Carbonmade
“I find a good combat tool is a great cup of coffee and a playlist full of epic film scores – try it, you’ll feel like the king of the world. Or at least king of customer support.” – Lo Marino, Customer Happiness Liaision, Baydin
Here’s a couple of playlists that the amazing Lo Marino uses to get her jam on:
However, we’ll be the first to admit that no one can achieve complete mastery over the art of staying motivated and we’ve probably missed out on a couple of in-your-face pointers that can really help. If you spot one, drop us a note in the comments down below.