Don’t Be A Customer Service Hero

fakeCustomer service agents strive to save their customer’s day. We wake up, brush our teeth, drink our coffee and arrive at work, eager to help our customers thrive. Every minute, we continue to go above and beyond for well…everyone.

And, when you’re trying to do everything for everyone, sometimes fake smiles and lower quality service results. OUCH. Who wants that? You are genuinely fantastic at your job. Why allow yourself to settle for less?

Recently, I had many tickets to answer. When I say many, I mean there were about 300 folks waiting in the queue. My fantastic co-worker was briefly OOO and my awesome new hire had not started her role yet. On top of it, I am also the manager, building the support center from the ground up.

When we’re faced with lots to do, we throw on our superhero cape and we just jump.

With expectations to fulfil and customers with questions, what else is a customer service agent to do?

My boss recently caught me off guard with a saying that stopped me in my tracks:

Jenny, don’t be a hero.

If I’m not trying to be a hero and helping everyone, what the fudgesicles am I doing?

If we try to be everything for everyone, we’re not being realistic. 

By trying to be everyone’s hero, we’re not helping anyone at all, including ourselves.

What does this mean? Here’s how I’m making sense of it:

Establish Priorities 

What is the most urgent task you must accomplish right now? When I dive into my pile of 300 tickets, I handle anything involving money first. This is most important to my customers, and therefore, these tickets become the most important to me. By trying to go through every email of various topics one by one, while this may seem fair, doesn’t always end up with the best resolution.

Be Proactive

I put on deodorant every day to block the smell of my armpits for the hot afternoons ahead. What task is most important right now to help me prevent something stinkier from happening later on down the road? If this doesn’t help you understand being proactive, I’m not sure what will.

Know Your Weaknesses

When I sit and don’t leave my desk chair for 4+ hours, I’m a giant grump. You don’t want to be around me. I feel groggy, disgusting and I’m not doing anyone any favors by working so hard that I forget to get up and breathe fresh air. Knowing what your weaknesses are, it does not make you weak. It only makes you stronger. You want to work hard, but you don’t want your relationships or yourself to suffer over it.

By figuring out how to NOT be a hero, you’re ultimately providing genuine customer service of quality that people can trust.

And, the next time you think that you’re going to work through the pain, not establish your priorities and ignore your weaknesses…hear me saying:

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  • Jenny – this is the kind of post that I think is your blog at it’s best. I like that you share a real challenge that many customer service leaders face and don’t try to pretend that everything is always perfect and rosy. It’s a tough world out there sometimes!

    That written, I can’t wait to read the epilogue to hear how things turned out.

    • Thank you, Jeff. It definitely IS a tough world out there. I’ll keep you posted on that epilogue 🙂

  • For the record, your previous boss told you not to be a hero too. But only because I learned the lesson by trial and error. The break your back style of heroism isn’t sustainable.

    Ultimately, we know what really makes a customer service hero. Thanks for reminding of what truly is important.

    • Yup, you’re right. You absolutely taught me not to be a hero…pretty much reminding me every day when I took on too much. And like you, I had to also learn through experience. Thanks for putting the “don’t be a hero” bug in my head early on, amigo. You are the example of keepin’ it real in customer service!

  • Yes! Sustainable, repeatable support cannot come from heroism. It’s what I call “Wizard of Oz” support, where you build the tools and systems and culture that enables quality support without heroics.

    I wrote about it here:

    Some days you’ll need to pull on that cape, but it can’t be your everyday wear…when would you get it washed? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Mat, thank you for reading and commenting on my post, as well as sharing a link to your own. Reading your post and watching your talk was like a breath of fresh air. YOU GET IT! This is exactly where I’m at RIGHT NOW. Small team, hundreds of tickets, expected to be on the front lines AND build the support center…you get it. And, great call out–when WOULD you get that cape washed?

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