Advice from the Trenches: Customer service blues

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Welcome to Advice From the Trenches, a monthly feature on NRI NOW

Advice From The Trenches combines the clinical experience of a double boarded psychiatrist, with a slap-in-the-face dose of reality from an artist and writer who has gathered her wisdom from the school of hard-knocks.

Do you having a burning question for the duo? Send your thoughts, ideas and woes to cathrenhousley@aol.com. Don’t forget to mention that you’re an NRI NOW reader so we can be sure to publish the answer here!

Dear B and C

I work in customer service and dealing with customers is difficult and exhausting. People are always  in a rush and have no patience. Talk about rude! And none of them listen. I swear, I can give someone the same information 40 times and then they turn around and ask the same question again.  

I need my job to have a roof over our heads and food on our table or I would quit in a heartbeat. I worry that one day I will tell someone off – or worse, jump across the counter and throttle them. How can I survive this 45 more years until I can gather my social security and retire?

Reticent Rita

C says:

What is wrong with you, girl? You say that the customers don’t listen to you – well, listen to yourself! Get the message! There is absolutely nothing you enjoy about your job, you are forced to repress every genuine emotion you have while working, and yet your only excuse for staying there is, “I need my job to have a roof over our heads and food on our table.”

I did the math – and if you retire at age 66, you are only 21 years old. Unless one is a victim of extraordinary hardship or has made extremely bad decisions, very few people have large families they are going to need to support for the next 45 years when they have just turned the legal drinking age. I think your excuse is total BS.

You will not get any advice on how to stay and cope with your job from me.

Dr. B says:

You are not alone, Rita. The whole American  job force is currently re examining their jobs. People suck which makes most jobs suck. People have always sucked, but now it’s un-American to not say whats on your mind. As a result, customer service is even more difficult. It might be the same anywhere you go, but you can at least try. 

The real answer is get back into school and specialize in something so that your value increases in the job force. Serving customers sucks at every level but with a better pay scale at least you will be able to work fewer hours and have time to focus on work-life balance. A nurse or doctor can work 3 days a week and make a good income. The cost of school at this level is irrelevant as there are many loan repayment programs available. For instance, the federal loan repayment program, or the military services.   

C says:

Sorry, but I have to jump back in for a moment and inject some reality. The cost of school at this point is not irrelevant. Many people graduate with crippling loans to pay off, and loan repayment services are hardly a sure thing. Most of them require ten years of payments before they will dismiss the balance. Even then, it is only a solution for someone who has the means to get by until graduation brings a job – which is never guaranteed.

Additionally, going back to school full-time doesn’t allow for anything but part-time income and school supplies are not included in student loans. Who is supposed to pay Rita’s rent and utilities while she’s in school? I don’t get the impression she comes from a cushy socioeconomic situation where mom and dad are going to shell out while she re-educates herself.

There are on-the-job training programs in non-degree careers that might be a much better choice for Rita. She could also find non-degree jobs right now that pay just as much, or more, than customer service. That’s where I would start if I had limited income.

But the real point is that if you don’t look, Rita, you aren’t going to find anything. So – stop (complaining) and start searching. That is something you can do in your spare time. But resigning yourself in your 20’s to a lifetime of stress and anger is going to get you nowhere but an early grave.

As originally published in Motif Magazine.

You can visit Dr. B’s blog at drbrilliantcliche.wordpress.com

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