Write Down That Story for Your Book

This article was originally published on the FCR blog on January 31, 2018. Click here to read the original.

Whether it was as a frontline customer service representative or as a manager working with my team or speaking with escalated customers, there were challenges almost daily that exercised my ability to bounce back in order to remain effective at my job.

I think about the call that’s escalated to a manager after chewing out the first person they spoke with for thirty minutes, only to spend another thirty chewing out the manager before they can get a word in. I think of the employee that shows up late or not at all and throws off the entire schedule, putting the rest of the team in a reactive mode to get the phones, emails, chat, etc answered.

It’s so easy to allow these situations to derail the rest of our day, isn’t it? No one wakes up in the morning wanting or asking to face difficult people or situations, but it happens and will continue to happen. Sure it’s one thing when you work with other people to be friendly, empathetic, and great at solving problems, but without the resilience to bounce back when things don’t go right, those other amazing qualities can easily fly out the window. And I think we can agree that it’s not fair to the next caller to have to pay for the offenses of past callers.

I was recently sitting in a meeting with a couple of my colleagues who were facing some adversity and felt compelled to share with them a somewhat funny thing a previous boss used to say to me when I had just dealt with a difficult customer. Here’s what he used to say:

“I hope you’re writing down all of these stories for your book.”

How did I respond when he said that? I typically chuckled and said something like, “Yeah, that one’s definitely going in the book.”

I love that response from my boss and continue to recall it during difficult situations. Here’s why:

  • It makes me crack a smile. Granted, it might be really easy to make me smile, but the ability to get an emotional lift going into the next customer interaction makes a huge difference. It’s a bit like a reset button.
  • It makes a molehill out of a mountain. It helps to gain some perspective that even though a situation might be distressing, live and business will go on. While some things are a big deal, this probably isn’t.
  • Only stories from the past go in the book. If it’s a story, that means it already happened and is no longer happening. It’s in the past. Once it’s in the past, no need to dwell on it unless you recall it later when someone else is going through a similar situation.
  • Experts write books. Think about it, even the thought of contributing to a book, makes you an expert in something. If you’re including a story in a book, you must have gained some bookworthy wisdom and learning through that situation.

I guess what I’m saying is that even in adverse situations there’s some good, sometimes a whole of it, that can come out of it.

Need something more extreme than this to bounce back from difficult customers? Jeff Toister presents a concept called “Attitude Anchors” in his book, Service Failure. He recommends having something like a picture of a loved one or taking an action like a walk outside to anchor your attitude in a positive place. My friend Jenny Dempsey took this to the extreme and got an anchor tattoo. Regardless of what floats your boat, the goal is to bounce back and be in a position to give your very best to the next human interaction or project that comes your way.

How do you recover from difficult situations? While I’ve written many chapters, I need your help writing the book. There’s tremendous power in sharing our tips with one another so take a moment to leave a comment below.

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