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Remote customer service jobs are out there and relatively easy to find. But what about the downsides?

There’s the customer who expresses his disappointment using a string of foul words. Or the passive-aggressive lady who gives you piecemeal information while you struggle to extract the full story.

Online customer service jobs can be rewarding, but are certainly not for the faint-hearted. Here are some cold hard truths you need to make peace with as you navigate through the sometimes murky waters that are characteristic of this line of work.

It’s Nothing Personal

Except, you are a person! With opinions, feelings, the whole nine human yards. However, it’s hardly anyone’s first instinct to ask how the representative on the other end is doing.

How about, “What did you have for breakfast? Did you feed the dog? What about your family, is everyone feeling healthy?” Okay, so maybe that’s a bit too personal. But they could try asking you how your day is going before launching into a venting session over poor service delivery.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but don’t expect common courtesy from people who perceive you as merely a bot behind the screen.

In my copywriting career, I often have to reel in my personal opinions when writing articles for certain clients. If they’re not pleased with the content, regardless of how amazing I consider it to be, I have to focus on their needs and set my feelings aside.

Solutions

  • Find common interests. Try to find common ground with your customers. Developing a touchpoint is one sure way of humanizing you in their eyes. Endearing customers to you makes it easier to resolve conflicts.
  • Practise constructive listening. Reiterate what the customer tells you to ensure you understand them. Empathize with and reflect their feelings by saying things like, “That must have upset you” or “I can see why you feel short-changed” This makes people feel seen and heard as opposed to being “just another caller on the line”.
  • Be quick to admit your mistakes. Honestly? You will have to do a lot of apologising in your line of work. This builds trust, restores confidence, and allows you to take hold of what could easily become a volatile situation.
  • Follow up after a problem is solved. Enure the issue stays fixed and that your customers were satisfied with the service. Sending a follow-up email or even a feedback survey is an excellent way to let customers know you still care about their needs.

Hello? It’s Motivation Calling!

It may take a while before your mind starts treating your remote job like a “real” job. Recognizing that you actually have to show up and put in the time.

I remember the thrill and excitement of getting my first online copywriting job. Oh, how I made plans (in my head) to work for hours and hours!

I quickly learnt that whether in an office or at home, any new job takes plenty of practice and even more patience (especially with yourself).

You have to be willing to stumble around as you grasp the new formats and styles, bearing in mind that the struggle doesn’t reflect on your capability as a writer.

I think that’s every writer’s greatest fear: the thought that perhaps I’m not as good as I think I am.

For a customer service worker, the pressure could result in you snapping at the next aggravated customer that calls to hurl insults at you. So what can you do about this?

Solutions

  • Consider enrolling in an online training course. Luckily there are seasoned individuals who, through trial and error, have fortified knowledge on the dos and don’ts of an online career. Katrina McKinnon is one such fairy godmother, who has developed a step-by-step guide dubbed “7 Habits for Online Success”. In this course, you will learn which ‘truths’ will help build a successful career and income within a freelance lifestyle.
  • Shift your perspective. Repeat after me: “Every mistake is an opportunity to perfect or learn a new skill. They’re disappointed with the service/product, not me as a person.” Be your own biggest cheerleader. 
  • Take a mental health day. You deserve it. Talk to some friends, family and even a therapist if needed. Find an outlet for all the pent up emotions that can come with saying the same three opening lines every day when someone calls in. This will help you regain the much-needed motivation to keep pushing forward.

News Flash: You Don’t Know Everything

But they don’t know that. Or at least they don’t want to imagine that somehow the person getting paid to know it all simply doesn’t.

You will encounter numerous calls from frustrated people who may just want someone to vent to prior to seeking solutions. You’re that someone.

You won’t always have the right words for every particular situation and you need to be okay with that. You need to be open to being wrong, receiving constructive criticism, and applying it as needed.

When I started copywriting, I felt I “knew” what was best for my client’s readers based on my personal opinions. My generally introverted nature means I find any bit of criticism slightly (okay, a lot!) unnerving.

I always closed the work tab as soon as I sent my assignment to my team manager. However, I wasted a lot of opportunities to improve by requesting feedback and trying again.

Solutions

  • Knowledge is power. Stay informed enough to respond to most inquiries and know where to turn if the questions become too detailed or technical for you to answer (for me, that’s my team manager). However, don’t shy away from saying “I don’t know,” either. Customers will appreciate the honesty and your efforts to find the right answer.
  • Thick skin. The customer knows best… right? Knowing how to handle blame or negative feedback is crucial. Whether you’re working directly with customers or looking for feedback on social media, you’ve got to prioritize the customer’s happiness.
  • Adaptability. Customers vary and some may even seem to change week-to-week. You should be able to handle surprises, sense the customer’s mood, and adapt accordingly. This also includes a willingness to learn– remember, good customer service is an ongoing learning process.

Even Adults Need Hobbies

With this kind of work, sometimes you need to come up for air. What better way to do so than picking up a cathartic hobby?

Professionals around the world often give up the things that matter most when under overwhelming time pressure. A recent Harvard Business Review article noted that in surveys, most people “could name several activities, such as pursuing a hobby, that they’d like to have time for.”

In an article for HBR, Gaetano Dinardi shares, “When people don’t have time for hobbies, businesses pay a price. Hobbies can make workers substantially better at their jobs. I know this from personal experience. I’ve always loved playing the guitar and composing. But just like workers everywhere, I can fall into the trap of feeling that I have no time to engage in it. I can easily fall into the trap of the ‘72-hour work week’, which takes into account time people spend connected to work on our phones outside of official work hours.” 

Solutions

  • Identify your hobby. This article by Janice Bear offers a really fun approach to picking your hobby, according to the type of worker you are. Woodworking and writing may suit someone who pays attention to detail, bodybuilding may interest someone who fancies long-term projects, renovation may suit someone who loves to improve upon finished projects, and astronomy may be the perfect fit for someone looking to venture beyond their field. Don’t know what kind of online worker you are? Find out here.
  • Integrate it into your lifestyle. As a remote worker, you get to pick your hours so you can schedule a long walk in the morning before work to kickstart your day or a workout at the end of the day to release stress.
  Photo by CurrencyFair / CC BY
Katrina
Author

I'm Katrina McKinnon, 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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