10 Ways Customer Service Jobs Prepare You for the Professional World

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Let’s face it—college is expensive and there’s no way around it. You might find yourself choosing to work in the customer service industry to make a little money for groceries. But in a world that pushes the idea of completing multiple internships on your constantly, you may find it difficult to maintain a customer service job.

The skills you will learn in that customer service job can help you prepare for that first entry-level position in any industry.

 1. You’ll Learn how to stay Calm Under Pressure

Many customer service jobs involve a fast-pace working environment. Because your number one goal is to keep the customer happy, you do not have time to lose your cool and cause chaos around you. “Regardless of the situation, you have to maintain composure,” said Sean Keller, owner of Mosley’s BBQ and Provisions in Iowa City. “Years in this business has cultivated the ability in me to maintain my composure.” Most professional jobs will bring some sort of stress, from the worst customers imaginable (half caf, skim, no whip, 210 degree latte…really?) to bona fide emergencies like running out of a certain product right as it goes on sale. Learning to deal with it will help you succeed in any position.

2. You’ll understand the Product and Mission of a Company

In any customer service job, you must excel at explaining and selling your service, whether it’s (overpriced) coffee or toilet paper to your patrons. If you can’t, they will most likely not be satisfied with your product. Understanding what a company wants from their employees will make any boss happy in any industry. “It is essential that you know you are representing, which can come from your degree,” said Lynne Sebille-White, Senior Director of Career Advancement at the Pomerantz Career Center at the University of Iowa.

3. You’ll Build Confidence

Confidence is key no matter what job you find yourself in. You must feel confident in speaking in front of groups of people, accomplishing a difficult task and performing your duties well. “You have to be willing to put yourself out there,” Keller said. “Through guidance and experience your confidence will grow.” What else could build your confidence as much as speaking to people every day?

4. You’ll Develop Teamwork Skills

In most customer service jobs, you find yourself surrounded by more customers than fellow employees. Working together becomes imperative when your team must make sure every customer positively experiences your establishment. “For example, you have to do your stocking at the end of your shift so the next person that comes in is set up to have a great shift,” Keller said. This goes for professional jobs as well. Helping your team out will accomplish tasks in a quick and effective manner and lead to the whole team having a higher morale.

5. You’ll Also develop Your Communication Skills

The basis of the customer service industry: communicating with people to perform a task. Another skill important to any industry? Communicating with your coworkers and team.Verbal and written communication skills are highly valued in all industries so developing these skills, especially when trying to manage a difficult person or situation, is essential,” said Sebille-White. Whether your team tries to fix the broken coffee machine in the break room or write the best sales pitch, communication will be the most important key to solving the issue.

6. You’ll Gain the Ability to Positively Deal With Difficult Situations

If you make a mistake in someone’s food order or forget to give a patron his or her drink, you might have to deal with an upset customer. Learning to deal with these uncomfortable situations will help you to communicate with people in any difficult situation in any workforce. “Positive interactions and communications are more likely to yield a favorable response,” said Nicholas Meyer, a University of Iowa junior who has been a server for two years. “Reacting to anger with anger is regressive for both parties.” So when Janet tells you that you filled out a report wrong, you’ll know to kindly apologize and say you’ll fix it instead of throwing the report back in her face.

7. You’ll Become Solution-Oriented

No matter the job, you are going to run into a problem at some point. In the customer service industry, you must focus on finding a solution to keep your customer happy. I mean, as much as we’d love to, you can’t throw that sandwich back at their face and tell them where they can stuff it. “You have to address problems in a positive way,” Keller said. “If you identify a problem to me, I’ll ask, ‘what have you tried so far?’” The ability to problem solve is relevant to all jobs and will be a huge plus to any employer looking to hire you. Any employer will always appreciate the relevant skill of problem solving.

8. You’ll Know What Skills to List on Your Resume

Don’t ever forget to list your always-relevant customer service skills in your resume or CV. “Rather than listing the duties of the job, you should focus on skills you developed and used as well as results achieved,” said Sebille-White. “For example, you can list that your excellent customer service skills led to increased sales.” Listing these skills and accomplishments in your resume or CV will help employers get a sense of what you are skilled at and give you a clear edge over the competition.

9. You’ll gain interview Smarts

Just like in your resume, it’s always better to talk about your customer service skills in an interview than have nothing to talk about. “An interview is a tool to help both an employer and candidate to determine fit for the position at hand,” said Sebille-White. “This includes both skills as well as one’s ability to fit into the organization’s culture and work well with colleagues, clients and/or customers.” Don’t be afraid to mention specific situations where you solved a problem or performed a task effectively. Your potential employer will see that these skills can be effective in the professional workforce as well.

10. You’ll become a People Person

Most jobs in the professional workforce involve working with people. Whether you interact with a coworker or a client, communicating and working with people in a positive manner remains important. When you interact with customers every day in the customer service industry, you have no choice but to learn how to politely and positively work with other people. “Since I’m going to be a teacher, I’m going to have to interact with people my whole life that might get on my nerves,” Meyer said. “I can’t get angry at them, or it will affect my performance.”

Still not sure how your customer service skills prepares you for your professional job?

Let Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson of the Parks and Recreation Department demonstrate how they deal with a difficult customer.

Leslie Knope, customer service extraordinaire:

Leslie: Hi sir! Welcome to the Parks and Recreation Department. How can I help you today?

Angry Man: I was walking in Ramsett Park today and I saw a raccoon. He chased me down the pathway until I tripped into the Pawnee River. You need to make these parks safer!!!!
Leslie: I’m very sorry to hear that sir. Are you injured at all?

Angry Man: Just my pride!!!!!!!! What are you going to do to fix this raccoon problem in Pawnee?!
Leslie: I assure you sir, we take the raccoon infestation very seriously. We were not aware the raccoons were back in Ramsett Park, so I’m glad you brought this issue to our attention.

Angry Man: Well maybe you should pay more attention to your parks!

Leslie: You are absolutely right, sir. Let’s get to work on solving this issue. Tom, can you please bring this gentleman a formal complaint sheet? Sir, would you like coffee or water? April here can fetch whatever you need. I am going to call down to the park rangers office and have them head over to Ramsett Park and get started on finding a safe home for these raccoons.

Now here is how Ron Swanson of the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department, who has never worked in the customer service industry, might deal with that same difficult person.

Ron Swanson, lacking any sense of customer service etiquette:

Angry Man: I need to speak with someone about an issue in Ramsett Park.

Ron: *grunts* What do you need?

Angry Man: I was walking in Ramsett Park today and I saw a raccoon. He chased me down the pathway until I tripped into the Pawnee River. You need to make these parks safer!!!!

Ron: It’s just a raccoon. Did you really need to run away? Fight the damn raccoon like a man!

Angry Man: Excuse me? This raccoon was foaming at the mouth! Do you think I’d risk rabies?

Ron: A real man would have dealt with this situation by himself, rather than barge into my office and interrupt my busy day of doing absolutely nothing. I am done with this conversation. Go bother someone else.

As you can see, Leslie knew how to speak to the angry man with respect and dignity while searching for a solution to the problem. Show your boss that with your customer service background, you can do the same.

Third year creative writing and journalism student at the University of Iowa. Lover of reading, writing, cheering on the Hawkeyes, Dunkin Donuts, and admiring dogs from afar.

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