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IT Customer Service Training Tips: How to Show Your Customers Respect

customer service training

What makes you feel disrespected? How do you react when you feel that way? How about the flip side? What makes you feel respected? How do you react when someone treats you with dignity and respect? Effective IT customer service training includes training on respect.

Effective IT Customer Service Training: How to Show Your Customers Respect

Respect is principle #5 of The 5 Principles of IT Customer Service Success. It’s a key part of the online course The Customer Service Secrets of Successful IT Pros, along with competence, compassion, empathy, and good listening skills.

It’s easy to talk about respect, but how can you treat someone with respect when you don’t feel respect for that person? How can you treat someone respectfully who disrespects you? Why should you even try?

Let’s start by answering the last question about why you should even bother trying to treat someone respectfully who disrespects you. First, you can choose to hold yourself to a higher standard than the person who acts disrespectfully. Choose not to allow yourself to be dragged down to their level. There’s an old saying that seems fitting here: When you mud wrestle with a pig, you both get covered in mud, and the pig doesn’t care. Engaging in disrespectful behavior with another person only makes both of you look bad and nothing good comes of it. As difficult as it can be, strive to maintain your personal dignity and respect, regardless of what’s going on around you.

Second, when you remain calm and dignified, you provide a pathway for the other person to feel heard and respected. Sometimes, that’s all they’re looking for. When you provide that pathway, you give them an opportunity to change their behavior without feeling like they lost some sort of competition or compromised their values. Remember, you don’t have to agree with the other person, nor even like or respect them to treat them with dignity and respect.

So, if that’s why you should act with dignity and respect, even in disrespectful circumstances, the next question is, “How do I it do that?” Here are five ways you can treat others with respect, regardless of how you feel about them.

  1. Use your manners. This simple technique of saying please, thank you, and you’re welcome shows the other person that you care enough about the relationship to mind your manners. Using your manners is like cracking open a door to allow some sort of relationship to develop between you and the other person. Note, I’m not necessarily talking about a long-lasting or deep relationship. It may be only a short-term technical support relationship, but it will allow you and the other person to communicate with each other and resolve whatever the issue is.
  2. Be a good listener. This is a basic part of customer service training. Listen in a way that makes the other person feel heard and respected. Listen to understand and remember what the other person is saying. Avoid the temptation to interrupt with your own thoughts and ideas. Just listen. If you feel the need to respond, you could say something like, “I don’t agree with you, but thank you for helping me understand where you’re coming from.”
  3. Speak well of others. My father said, “What Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than it does about Paul.” When I hear someone engage in name-calling and insults, I often discover that they were actually describing themself more than the other person. Choose your words to lift others up, not to tear them down. Remember, when you speak about others, you may actually be describing yourself!
  4. Be on time. Nothing says disrespect like making others wait for you. Think about how you feel when others do that to you. Allow extra time for traffic, construction, and unexpected interruptions. Plan on arriving at your destination five minutes early.
  5. Respect boundaries. We all have boundaries. Maybe it’s how close someone can stand to you in a conversation or what questions are too personal. In IT customer service, it may have to do with making changes to an end-user‘s device without checking with them first. I once had an IT guy change my laptop’s default browser without asking me first. That was violating my boundary. That was treating me disrespectfully.

What about extreme cases, such as when the other person acts physically threatening toward you? What about when the other person is irrational? Fortunately, those types of situations are rare. Your best action, if that happens, is to remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible. Your personal safety is paramount. Don’t engage with the other person. Nothing good will come of it. Be sure to let someone else, perhaps your team lead or a colleague, know what happened.

Sometimes, students have commented to me that they struggle with the idea of treating someone with respect when they don’t feel respect for that person. For example, why should you treat someone who engages in racist, sexist, or violent behavior with respect? You certainly don’t feel respect for someone who acts that way, but you can still choose to hold yourself to a higher standard, to act with dignity and respect yourself. It’s not a matter of condoning bad behavior, nor agreeing with the person who acts that way. It’s a matter of being intentional about your personal behavior choices.

In the film, The Green Mile, Tom Hanks’ character is a death-row prison guard charged with guarding men who committed heinous crimes during the last few days or weeks of their lives before they were to be executed. You could make the argument that the men he guarded were not deserving of respect, due to their terrible crimes, yet Hanks’ character treated each one of them respectfully. He didn’t respect what they’d done, but he chose to behave in a dignified and respectful manner with each of them. It may have been the only time in their lives when they were treated that way. In return, most of them treated him with dignity and respect, but not all of them. And that’s the lesson: When you treat others with dignity and respect, most people will treat you that way, too, but not everyone. You can’t control others, you can only control yourself. Choose to maintain your self-control. Choose to act with dignity and respect.

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