In any business, no matter the domain, there will always be some element of service. When you picture any kind of customer service representative, what comes to mind is an overly-cheery person chirping away on the phone to a disgruntled customer. It may seem hyperbolic, but having worked in several customer service industries, I can attest to its tricky balance of authenticity and acting. But the skills that you can come away with through a service job can be invaluable when applied to everyday life. Here are some of the things I learned on the job.
1. Become a character
Customer service reps can seem utopic. But the people that work in customer service are not so different from everyday people. They don't have superhuman levels of patience; they don't have an extraordinarily high pain tolerance. Mostly, they're able to reason with unreasonable people because they make a transformation. "Becoming a character" may be over-exaggerating the point, but working in service requires you to put on more than just a happy face. It's a performance, just like being on stage. You can think of it like a switch that you turn on, to turn into your cheery self, able to combat even the most banal of administrative woes.
It gives you the opportunity to momentarily forget your personal issues and take on a positive persona. This can be helpful in real life in almost every situation, from a first date to a corporate presentation. Adopting a positive attitude is not being "fake," but projecting your best self onto your audience. We all want to come out on stage looking great, right? Plus, having a positive attitude can also reduce stress!
2. Always have an answer
Customer service people never have all the answers. But it's their job to be hubs of information and assurance. That means, even if you don't know the answer to a question, you have to assure the customer that you will find out, or direct them to the person that will know the answer. But whatever you do: don't lie. A lot of times, people think it seems weak to tell someone that you don't know the answer. But it's a lot worse of an idea to make something up and have to deal with the fallout after. At the end of the day, most reasonable customers appreciate and respect your efforts, even if their problems aren't solved immediately.
In life, always having an answer makes you appear even more confident. But when it comes to big decisions, don't feel that you have to provide an answer right away. Consult with your best sources of advice and then come back with a day that you will have your answer. Remember, the longer you take to respond, the more effort it seems that you are putting into your response.
3. Don't argue
Now the lawyers in the room might disagree with me, but the negative energy that's created during an argument is not healthy for either party, especially in a professional environment. If you're dealing with an unruly customer, you need to know how to de-escalate rather than fuel their fire. People love to complain, and the next step after complaining is ranting. And then, hopefully not, throwing stuff. Your job is to speak in a calm and respectful demeanor and not blame the customer.
Arguments happen in life all the time; they're a part of humanity. But greatly reducing arguments will also reduce your cortisol levels. No screaming, just speaking.
4. Burn your ego
In the service industry, it quickly becomes clear that you are an ambassador of a brand, a representative of a company. That means, you have to sacrifice a bit of your personal identity. It's not a bad thing! It just means that your job is not to be the winner in a situation or prove that you're right. Your behaviors should directly align with the better good of the company which you represent. So you must act for the whole, even if that means letting go of your ego just a little.
In life, we are faced with certain choices that require us to consider the bigger picture over ourselves. Just suck it up and write about it in your memoir.
5. It's not personal
Whenever you have a conflict at work, it's easy to blame yourself. But most of the time, customer complaints have everything to do with things out of your control. You're just the messenger, remember, not the king. When a customer is going off on you, they're not accusing you of having bad character or being a bad person. They're just frustrated with a usually minor banality and have no personal agenda against you.
Similarly, many things in life will be your fault, but you can't take them personally. If so, you'll start to ruminate and bog yourself down, sabotaging your chances of success. The best advice is to leave it in the past, and move on.
Customer service is not an easy profession, but teaches a variety of useful skills when dealing with problems in the real world. So put on a smile and prepare yourself to be patient. Your kindness will be rewarded.
As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.