11 Things Mom Taught Us About Customer Service


This post originally appeared on the FCR blog on May 6, 2016. Click here for the original and Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s day is this weekend and it’s only fitting to spend some time thinking about Mom and/or other female role models in our lives that we hold dear. As I think about my upbringing, I grow increasingly grateful for the lessons my mom taught me that have been useful in helping navigate things like work, parenting, friendships and most certainly customer service.

As a child, however I can guarantee that I didn’t have full appreciation for those “customer service” lessons. Here are a few that have served me well:

“You are going to do this until you get it right.”

I once had to iron the same pair of pants like ten times until all of the wrinkles were gone and there was only one crease. (These were polyester slacks) In retrospect, I appreciate what that taught me about setting a standard of quality and working hard until I achieve it.

“You will sit at the table until you finish those water chestnuts.”

That’s not exactly how it went but my mom did go through this elongated Chinese stir fry phase and the water chestnuts were repulsive as a kid. Nonetheless, this taught me to finish what I started and also to appreciate the variety of food around the world, seeing it as a way to connect with others and understand their culture.

“Always hold the door for me. (*()#&&*$&**&*#(“

That was after I closed a door in her face so the special characters were warranted. Let’s just say I only failed to hold the door for my mom once. Beyond just this incident though, my mom taught me how to be aware of and considerate toward others. We don’t live in a bubble. Our actions affect other people.

I could go on and on about customer service lessons that mom taught. I asked my colleagues to weigh in on the top lessons their mom taught them and here are eleven gems:

Never take things personally, and always own any interaction with grace and confidence. ~ Jasmine

In customer service the ability to keep our cool is critical to being able to work through each situation, especially when the customer is upset. This is a great lesson in emotional intelligence as we learn that the customer’s frustration is typically not directed at us, though it most certainly will be if we take things personally.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. ~ Sonya

There will always be customer interactions that don’t go quite right. There will be failures and frustrations. Sonya commented that this “sure has helped keep me keep calm in the face of lots of escalations and high emotions while solving problems in the world of customer support.” The ability to be successful totally hinges on the ability to learn from the last interaction but also be able to leave it in the past and handle that next call well.

The customer may very well second guess your advice even though you’re the expert. ~ Samantha

My colleague Samantha learned this one by helping her mom with her computer. Yes, part of the deal of being in technical support is that you are also technical support for your family members. Even with customers, they will sometimes second guess you and this is a delicate balance. It’s important to be confident but also listen, learn, and be humble.

Treat others the way I expect to be treated. ~ Multiple

This was a popular one with my colleagues. The ability to obey the Golden Rule well requires a high degree of self awareness. It requires understanding how our action affect others. Anyone who understands this can work through most problems with a customer. My colleague, Hammer adds to this by saying, “If you have a problem with everybody, the problem is probably you.” Again, that self awareness is critical.

If at first they don’t understand, try, try again! ~ Kristina

It can be deflating to explain something and realize that the customer didn’t understand what you just said. The ability to tailor your explanation to a level that each customer can understand and recognize whether or not they understand it is essential.

To apologize to my sister, even when I wasn’t sorry. ~ Anonymous

This one is actually rather amazing. There are definitely many times in customer service where the problem is not our fault and yet it’s our job to conjure up some empathy and even apologize on behalf of the company we represent.

Always leave things better than when you found them. ~ Sarah

I remember growing up and my parents would spend half a day cleaning the RV we borrowed from a friend for our vacation. Think about every customer interaction as a way of doing this. If you solve the customer’s problem the right way, the first time, they won’t have to call back and speak with one of your colleagues. And if they do have to call back, leave notes that are so well-written that the colleague can pick right up where you left off in the conversation.

Enjoy the work you do so that time will fly. ~ Greg

This mom understood the importance of how we approach our work. In a previous post, I talked about the intrinsic motivation that gives our colleagues purpose in customer service. Finding that purpose in serving others indeed makes the days go by faster.

A watched pot will never boil. ~ Leslie

Leslie makes such a great point here about the importance of patience. She says “Although immediate results are often desired, that’s seldom a realistic goal.”

Shut up and listen. ~ Frank

I think Frank is also giving sage relationship advice here. As Sheri Kendall-DuPont and Mikey Corral, Jr. justnoted in a post, deep listening is the first step in developing an empathy practice. My colleague Valarie notes the importance of listening to the customer’s tone and emotions as these can be huge clues in understanding and solving the problem.

You can’t always be the best or the brightest, but one thing you can do is show up every day on time. ~ Susan

What a great lesson. Let’s keep our focus on what’s in our control and what isn’t and do our absolute best with the latter. My colleague David adds, “Just because I don’t know what I can do, doesn’t mean I can’t.” That’s a great reminder that even if you aren’t the best or brightest you can always push yourself to learn and improve.

This is just some of the great feedback I collected from our colleagues. Little did we know that our moms had a ton of profound wisdom to teach us about customer service and beyond. Take a moment to think about those lessons and thank a mom near you. If you are a mom and are reading this, Happy Mother’s Day!


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