The most critical moment in anyone’s career in the service industry is handling irate customers.
You will never be prepared enough for someone or something that rides the highest wave of your emotions, especially when it is not your fault. Even if it was, no one wishes to be yelled at.
But let’s face it, there are people who just live for that moment when they can tear through another’s defenses with no regard to what effect that may have on the person, or if it resolves their complaint or not.
I’ve sat behind that thick glass that should protect a Bank Teller from the most irate customer but there were times I doubted its ability to withstand one man’s punches as he yelled every insult his experiences have ever graced him with at the top of his voice, regardless of who heard him.
I’ve sat through it; straight faced, apologising profusely and praying to every God I have ever believed in to make him accept his fate and walk away. It did not work. I never talk back when yelled at. And I could not cry.
More than six years later, I still have similar encounters and never have I learned how to return the favour, no matter how badly I want to.
There was a more interesting one this week. As she enjoyably yelled all sorts of threats and profanities, I wondered why no organisation has ever thought of the Best Apology Award for its employees. She threatened to drive to the premises and turn everything upside down, and I wondered what was satisfying about that, because all it does is freeze every brain in the room and lengthen the resolution time as people fidget to recollect their nerves.
But at the end of the day, when you resolve such a customer’s issue before you have a meltdown, it doesn’t matter what anyone says about that being your job. Darling, go and buy yourself some fried chicken and celebrate yourself.
That is a skill added, and more so, proof that you have the milk of human kindness. Not everyone does.