Posted by: Andy Porter | February 15, 2012

Just Be Yourself Customer Service

To be successful at dealing with people you have to first and foremost be able to just be yourself.

One of the reasons that dealing with customers can be stressful is that when we are communicating with them we are not “being ourselves”.    

By NOT being ourselves is meant, among other things, that you are not saying exactly what you want to say to the person. You are not (at least not always) handling the person in the exact manner in which YOU would handle the person, but following some pre-conceived, or possibly pre-trained, response mechanism.

But the basic thing is that you’re not being entirely yourself.

Have you ever spoken to a customer service person who sounded phony? Or sounded like they were pretending to be nice? Have you ever heard a customer service person speak and it sounded canned, like someone pulled a string on the side of their neck and a stream of words came out?   

Now if you are the customer and you speak to a customer service person (CSP) and they sound phony, canned and/or robotic this alone can cause some small degree of irritation, just by itself. You know, you can sense the insincerity of the conversation and have an innate understanding that the person does not, in fact, really care a whit about you.   

How does it happen that the CSP comes to this state? Why do we often feel we are not speaking to a REAL person?

One reason is that CSP’s are trained with several false ideas. The most common one of these, the old stand-by of customer service is “The customer is always right.”

If you operate on the premise that the customer is always right then you have to be nice no matter what the customer says. In this case even if the customer is an asshole you are supposed to be sweet and “not let it bother you.”

This is going to go against what most anyone would do if it were completely up to them and so you have the CSP not being themselves and being phony.

Another factor is fear. The CSP has some, worry, anxiety, fear if you will, that they may possibly get disciplined, or even fired if a customer complains about them personally. I have seen many places of employment where any customer complaint is taken as the gospel truth and any CSP who is complained about is then disciplined. There is not any effort by the (lazy) management to sort out what really happened and get the facts and then decide what’s to be done, its back to the maxim of the customer is always right and the CSP is wrong.

So a CSP, operating with these factors, is often caught between a rock and a hard place: if I am just myself and say what’s real to ME then I will probably get into trouble, but if I just follow the canned script and act like a puppet, then I will escape getting into trouble and all will be fine.

As I mentioned above this is partly what causes these jobs to be stressful: you spend your time at work NOT being yourself. And if you look at it, any time spent denying your self is stressful.

Have you ever been in a close personal relationship where you couldn’t be yourself? Where you felt you had to act different around someone? And how did you like that?

Of all the memorable Customer Service People I have ever encountered, you know, the remarkable ones, who are funny, or smart or kind, every one of them was NOT robotic or canned. They were just being their old fine selves. These are the people we like in customer service. We may tolerate the robotic ones, but we never really like them.

Any employer has guidelines regarding what is proper etiquette for dealing with customers. Generally the guidelines are pretty reasonable, treat people with respect and be polite. I have seen companies where the management is lenient with CSP staff as to how they interact, but the CSP’s are still nervous and tentative about how real they should be with the customers. Maybe this is due to the CSP having been employed in the past at a poorly managed business.

Actually the CSP who can be comfortable and be them selves and deal with customers has a great value to the business where they work. I have known several businesses where the customers come back again and again because of the friendly and real customer service people who work there.

Sometimes the owner of the business or its management does not know how to deal with people and not be phony. Remember that if you work for an extended period of time in such an environment the phoniness will probably rub off on you!

It may come to mind that telling a CSP to “just be yourself” will in some cases not work. True, if the “customer service person” in question is sitting at the front desk busy texting their “friends” and views all customers as a distraction to their networking activity then, no, this will not work.

The simplest bench mark for how to treat customers, besides to be yourself, is to act as if YOU are the owner of the company. How would you communicate? How would you deal with an irate customer?  

It may take some time and diligence to find a place of employment where you can just be yourself. But it’s definitely worth the effort!



  1. Complaint letters don’t have to be formal and polished anymore, you can thank the internet for that one. What most companies need to realize about complaints, is they need to take them seriously!

  2. Yes this is absolutely right. Customer service is merely important as all people are customers. Mark Suansing

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