There is no substitute for life experience. It teaches patience, empathy, creativity, problem-solving skills, and the importance of listening. In other words, life experience prepares you for a successful career in customer service.
Few people, if any, will contact a businesses’ customer service representative when they are pleased. They tend, instead, to call, e-mail, and appear at customer service kiosks after bad experiences. They are often angry, sometimes personally offended, and almost always in a hurry to have their questions or concerns addressed.
It takes a special type of person to develop the customer service skills necessary to thrive in these situations—and often it’s the type of person who has a breadth of personal and professional experience. In other words, it takes someone with exceptional customer service skills.
Many of the skills needed to succeed in customer service cannot be obtained by reading a textbook. They are tangible and intangible. They require the ability to view situations through different lenses. They must be developed through living a rich, full life full of ups and downs and then supplemented with industry-specific knowledge.
[Customer service skills can help you build a career in real estate, insurance, or financial planning.]
Here is a look at five ways your real-world experience makes you an ideal candidate to succeed as a customer service professional:
It has been said that patience is a virtue, and this is entirely true in the world of customer service. With age comes wisdom, and in a customer service job it is always wise to be patient. Many people simply want to be heard. If you quickly cut them off, become defensive, or do not give them the time to tell their story, a small customer service issue can quickly become a larger issue. This makes patience one of the most important customer service skills.
The ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes—regardless of how seemingly inconsequential their concern—is a hallmark of an exceptional customer service representative. A person who does not have life experience often cannot understand how frustrating it is to pay hard-earned money (even small sums) for a product only to have the product not deliver on its value proposition. On the other hand, someone with life experience understands the frustration very well and is more likely to be empathetic.
There are some problems that can’t be solved by reading a prepared script or thumbing through a manual. For these problems, people with the experience to deliver creative solutions are invaluable. Creativity is often the product of a life’s worth of experience.
4. Problem-solving skills
One of the most sought-after customer service skills is problem solving. The ability to make quick decisions, choose the correct options, and solve problems in mutually constructive ways is an ability that comes with age. Too often customer service is viewed as a zero-sum game by both the customer and the service representative. Those representatives with the experience and customer service skills to understand that both sides can achieve their objectives are more likely to succeed.
5. The ability to listen
At the end of the day it all might come down to listening. If you do not listen to the other person’s story—if you assume you know their story before they’ve told it to you, you will not succeed in customer service. The ability to listen is perhaps the most important of the customer service skills because it makes all of the other customer service skills possible.
If you have these customer service skills and are looking for an encore career, consider a career in customer service.