Why Nice People Shouldn’t Work in Customer Service

customer
image courtesy of 10ch

Note: This is an article I originally wrote for Brazen Life, a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals, where it first appeared.

Employers love to put nice people in customer service positions. Especially if they’re authentically nice people—I’m talking about the kind it’s impossible to get mad at because they’re just naturally so dang polite and pleasant. It’s obvious they genuinely want to solve everyone’s problems, and they’re working really hard to make it happen.

This setup makes sense (put nice employees in front of clients = a no-brainer) and works out well for all involved—except you, the sweetheart professional.

For you, the arrangement is stressful and trying and leads to major job dissatisfaction. Here’s why:

Nice People are Sensitive

Customers are loud, abrasive and impatient. They’re rude. There are exceptions, of course, but anyone who’s worked even one day in a client-facing position knows that people coming to customer service are usually upset. And for some reason, many clients find it acceptable to take their frustrations out on you, the well-meaning customer service employee, as if you’re intentionally out to make their experiences with your company crappy.

The main problem with this is that you internalize the insults and absurd accusations and take it all personally. As a truly nice individual, you absorb this non-personal angry venting and blame yourself for the issue. The more customers you work with, the worse you feel.

Nice People are Easily Flustered

All you want to do as a nice person is make the client happy. That’s a difficult enough endeavor on its own, but when several customers are barking commands at once, your people-pleasing brain starts smoking. All these clients need help, and most of them are mean about it, and you so desperately want to take care of all of them immediately—but the high level of negative input impairs your ability to problem-solve.

And so you bounce around from complaint to complaint, attempting to put out each fire but getting pulled away before it’s out by a larger one—and ultimately, you hardly accomplish anything.

At the end of the day, you reflect on all the issues you weren’t able to resolve and doubt your capabilities as a professional.

Nice Introverts Have it Even Worse

Extroverted people get their strength from speaking with others. Chatting and interacting excites and enlivens them. Introverts, on the other hand, find too much verbal communication tiring. It leaves them mentally exhausted, and they need some alone time to recharge.

It makes sense, then, that if you’re an introverted employee in a customer service position—where interacting with other people is the name of the game—you’re at an increased disadvantage. Not only is your “niceness” working against you, but you’re also operating in an environment that depletes you of energy.

A nice customer service employee leaves work feeling offended and doubtful; you, the nice introverted customer service employee, leave work feeling offended, doubtful and drained.

The Exception: When Customers are Awesome

There are situations in which darling you working in customer service is a beautiful scenario for all parties. For example, let’s imagine you work for a charity, and your clients are donors or volunteers. Or maybe you’re employed by a Hawaiian resort, where your customers are vacationers.

If the clients are participating in a feel-good activity, or are arriving at the scene already in a fantastic mood, it’s likely those conversations are going to go swimmingly. That’s a win-win-win for the customer, the employer and you.

Bottom line: know yourself well and navigate the professional world accordingly.

And if you’re honestly nice, stay far, far away from most customer service roles.

***

Discuss

Have you worked in customer service? What other jobs should nice people avoid?

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Your thoughts?
  1. laurievarga says:

    I’m so glad you’re an introvert because it means I can usually relate to your posts. Another place introverts should not work is sales. But maybe that’s just me. I would rather write a math exam than sell something.

    • Cassie says:

      It’s totally me, too, Laurie, and what’s funny is it’s recognized that introverts can be great at sales (they REALLY listen to the client, earning trust) but the scenario is similar to the customer service one–it works out well for everyone but the introvert, who, though perhaps quite successful, is totally drained at the end of the day. This is precisely the experience I had when I worked in sales.

  2. This is all so true, especially the nice introverts part. Customer service in fast food and in clothing retail as my first two jobs made me dread going to work to the point it made me sick.

    • Cassie says:

      Glad (sort of) to know I’m not the only one–I’ve broken out in hives over work, and I’m quite sure several stomach aches and colds were job-related, too.

  3. Bader says:

    This the first time I comment in your blog, I was reading your post for the last four days. Actually there are two reasons why I’m following your blog : I want to learn English and improve my reading and writing, and I like reading blogs, but your blog is exceptional ;p.
    By the way, this is also a nice post and it makes sense.

  4. Scibard says:

    Cassie – Thank you so much for this post. As an extrovert married to an introvert, this is helping me to better understand my spouse’s experience.

    • Cassie says:

      Happy it was helpful, Scibard. My boyfriend’s an extrovert, so I know what you mean about trying to understand the other’s experience–it can be so different!

  5. Alex says:

    For once I strongly disagree with one of your blogs! It can turn out as you suggest, but some customers really appreciate it when you’re able to turn things around and help them out – it makes being in customer service worthwhile.

    • Cassie says:

      I’d say MOST customers really appreciate that! 🙂 Sounds like that appreciation is enough to make customer service work enjoyable for you. For myself and many others, though, the negatives far outweigh the positives. Thanks for your comment, Alex!

  6. LaLa says:

    Well I’m an introvert and being considered for a Customer Service position. It’s not something I want to do and I’m not a people person but I’ve been looking for work since beginning of year and can’t find anything to fit me as an introvert. Any suggestions?

    • Cassie says:

      Have you figured out your personality type? You can do that here. Then research professions best suited for your type, and go from there, exploring and eliminating based on skills, education, time, money, priorities, etc. Another thing that may help is to brainstorm more “cerebral” roles you can go after. Essentially, jobs in which you’re paid mostly to think, not interact. Another option is to get a more physical job (UPS, stocking shelves, factory work), where your value is in your physical capabilities, not your communication with others. Lots of different ways you can go; it just all depends on what your priorities and circumstances are. Good luck!

  7. I currently work as a cashier at a drugstore and always try to be extremely nice & pleasant to the customers. Today I had a KRAZY KOUPON LADY & like always i was so nice and patient, even with all her coupons. She did not have any coupons to use for some powders and I told her she could come back later and redo the transaction & use the coupons.. NICELY!
    Later in the afternoon she came back with the darn coupons in hand & wanted me to do the entire transaction once more. I did it, but in the end the system did not allow me to process the transaction with the coupons because the register rung up at 0. I called my manager and she said that it was not allowed to make a transaction with items that had already been purchased in a previous transaction. The customer then blamed the situation on me, saying that I TOLD HER that she could do that in such a rude and misunderstanding manner. All i wanted to do was help her and she did not treat me the same way back. The manager told her this would be the only time we would be able to resolve the issue, because we both were not aware that the transaction could not be edited further. At the end, I was able to resolve the issue, without the manager, she got her dumb THREE dollars back & at the end I told her I was simply trying to her and that I WAS SORRY, she then replied.. “No, it happens. You were trying to do a good deed & it turned into bad.” SERIOUSLY? After everything I did. Point of the story, you can be nice to ALL customers and do your best to make them happy & there will always be a customer who does not care. I am an extroverted person and usually do so well with customers, now I am questioning whether I should change my cashier personality and just treat customers nicely, but not try to meet all of their expectations. Or maybe it was just that damn lady with her damn coupons.

    • Cassie says:

      This: “…you can be nice to ALL customers and do your best to make them happy & there will always be a customer who does not care.” Truth. Some of us aren’t bothered by it; some of us are. Sounds like you’re usually just fine and this was just one particularly frustrating customer, so I say don’t change a thing.

  8. Bagonyas says:

    I really appreciate this. I am stuck looking for a job. I know I am an introvert but my CV is full of CSR jobs. Don’t know what alternatives I can pursue…

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