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What does it mean to be a ‘people-person’?

Aren’t all people, by virtue of being people, ‘people-people’? 

Not all introverts are destined to become librarians, you know. A career in customer service might be just the thing needed to showcase an introvert’s natural strength.

Let’s take a step back. 

Customer Service as a Career

Customer Service is all about solving problems before they become problems. Are you a problem solver?

introvert
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If a company were an army, customer service is like the infantry: the customer’s first, and sometimes only, point of contact. These representatives are usually found in offices and call centres, communicating with customers through phone calls, web chat applications, email and social media.

Some may work remotely, especially those that deal more with responsive communication. Remote work allows them to work in an environment of their choice, while still shouldering the responsibilities of their counterparts. An attractive option for introverts in dire need of their own space, perhaps? 

Whether one chooses to become a product expert or take on a leadership role, introverts have a lot to offer the world of customer service. You can become a customer service specialist, for example, who knows the ins and outs of the product or service and act as a reference point for your team. 

For Extroverts Only?

Extroverts have always gotten the spotlight. They run out to meet it, while introverts choose to remain in the shade. A study done by Johnson and Weibe at the University of Texas showed that the main difference between introverts and extroverts is an inward vs. an outward focus. While both crave stimulation, one travels within to find it, while the other is driven by external stimuli.

For better or worse, there is a certain confidence that is associated with being extroverted that leads people to believe they are better at handling people. 

This is not necessarily true, and we’re going to use this space to highlight all the strengths that an introvert has in their arsenal to make them excellent ‘people-people’. A career in customer service is not only within reach for an introvert; it is a perfectly sound choice. 

Strengths of an Introvert

Introverts have two main strengths that propel them in any career choice, including customer service.

Listening 

Learing Style Cheatsheet
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Introverts are excellent listeners.

A 2008 study found that introverts process information longer and more thoughtfully than other personality types. This can come in very handy in customer service, where exchanges can be terse and automated. Listening attentively will give introverts the ability to pick up on details others might overlook. How many arguments happen because one or both parties don’t feel heard? 

Observation

Introverts have strong observational skills. It makes them hyper-conscious of their own and others’ body language and tone of voice (sometimes a cause for anxiety). With this unique power, however, they can steer the conversation and align themselves with the customer’s personality. This means smoother and faster interactions all around. 

Customer Service Tips For Introverts Only

Adopt a Growth Mindset

The idea that you can keep improving is crucial for professional success. So many self-help books are selling out today because of it. The hunger to grow and the belief that it is possible – that is a growth mindset. Do you have it?

You don’t have to be great at everything right away. Release this pressure and bask in the enormous relief that follows. It’s OK to begin as one of those customer service professionals that are quiet and bad at networking.

You will improve.  

Overcome Anxiety 

Unfortunately, the things that annoy introverts the most are all aspects of customer service: constant interruption, noisy environments, endless socializing and the need for immediate feedback. 

As an introvert, learn how to minimize your triggers (as best you can) and recover quickly from overstimulation. Think of stress management techniques as a secret superpower you can use in a high-energy environment to remain self-assured without tensing up. Here are three to get you started:

‘The Pause’

When aggravated, pause and breathe mindfully for 10 seconds. Take as many pauses as you need. Use your strength of critical thinking to look at a negative situation from different angles. Ask yourself: how can I improve this situation right now? Take positive action. 

Play to Your Strengths

It could be listening, love of learning, creativity, curiosity, organization, honesty, teamwork, conflict resolution, etc. Assess your strengths and ask yourself: are you applying them to your work each day?

Play to Your Strengths
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Plan Your Way Out of Anxiety

Anticipate conflict and stressors, and decide how to deal with them beforehand. Prepare how to answer common questions (the ones you know will surely come). Make checklists, rehearse and role-play your way out of potential landmines. 

Accept Yourself as an Introvert

Lastly (and most importantly), banish the notion that introversion is a bad thing. There are so many positive benefits to being an introvert. Use your powers of introspection to assess and manage your strengths and weaknesses. What kind of an introvert are you? Read Quiet by Susan Cain to gain confidence and learn more. 

Find ways of mingling with customers and colleagues that doesn’t stress you out. Use your introverted powers of introspection to develop self-awareness – know when to be yourself and when to overcome crippling tendencies:

Is there something you can offer during a company meeting? Speak up.  

Dealing with a rude customer? Withdraw and reflect on best practices. 

My last piece of advice: accept that shy part of yourself that wants to retreat. You will soon find that, even in the turbulent world of customer service, your personality type can be an oasis for many. A quiet and reserved manner does a lot to put customers at ease. It’s OK to get nervous when talking to people. Just focus on being nice (two-minute conversations can go a long way). 

Interested in starting a career in customer service? Take it one step at a time. Start by learning how to perform customer service tasks as a virtual assistant and go from there.

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Katrina
Author

I'm Katrina McKinnon, creator of eCommerce University, founder of McKinnon Group and Small Revolution. I'm using my 20 years' experience in building and operating online businesses to create engaging educational materials that helps others become successful online workers. Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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