Practicing Patience

Today’s lesson: Life is too short to let a bad customer ruin your day.

Simple, right? Well, five years into my life of customer service, this is something I have to remind myself quite often. Not to say that I’ve been cursed with hoards of unfortunate customers — there are actually a few regulars that I enjoy seeing on the daily — but every once in a while there will be a human who seems to exist solely to cause you anguish. This person has never mastered the virtue of patience. And they will test the limits of yours.

When it’s your job to fix people’s problems, customers will come to you expecting exactly that. But let’s be real — no one has all the answers. We might be able to make up some pretty good ones, but ethics tell us that isn’t how we should be doing our jobs. So that leaves us with telling the customer all that we can do to help them, and praying they don’t ask for more.

Which, obviously, they will.

This is where you practice patience. It is a long lost art, but still one that I feel can go a long way in a tough situation. Usually, the aforementioned customers have no patience, thus leading them to demand help that you feel you can’t provide. At which you will smile and remain outwardly calm because, in that moment, you are the face of the company you work for.

Tip #1: Remain calm

You can do this! You’ve made it through their explanation of why they’re angry with you/your coworker/the janitor, which is by far the longest part. The pain you are starting to feel inside is simply your patience growing stronger. Every second that you manage to remain civilized while someone is diverting their anger at you is simply proving how good you are at your job.There are not many people who could stand there and take that unwarranted verbal harassment…. and that makes you pretty awesome if you think about it.

Tip# 2: Do Your Best

You know how to do your job better than the customer does (no matter what they claim while yelling at you in front of a line of other customers). You’re doing the best you can and if that fails to please them, or if you feel you might be burning the last of your patience reserves, you’re allowed to ask for help. This is not an admission of defeat. Some customers are only satisfied after speaking to the highest authority. I’ve even dealt with customers who are only satisfied when speaking to a male employee. Don’t let it get to you. You’re not any less competent at your job or annoying your manager. Serving customers is their job, too.

Tip #3: Hang in There

It’ll be over before you know it! Focus on remembering that when that customer leaves, you are free. Sure, you still have three hours of your shift left, but you survived! You have just won the Championship of Patience. And odds are you won’t be subjected to two horrible customers in the same day. Let that knowledge soothe your soul as you return to your previously joyous life.

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Originally published at on February 16, 2015.