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.
Whether you are looking for a new job or trying to grow in your current one, getting a certification can be a great way to improve your skills.
Anyone can put that they are proficient in a computer program on their resume but having a certificate can help you stand out amongst the competition and give credence to the strength of your skills.
But what's the best way to invest in yourself without breaking the bank? Some certification programs can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. We are going to walk through six of the best certifications you can get for $100 or less.
Who is it best for: Those who work with analyzing and presenting data.
Cost: $100 for Tableau Desktop Specialist; additional certifications are available for a larger fee.
More companies than ever see themselves as data companies. Being able to understand data and use it to guide decisions at your company is often critical to taking on a leadership role. Not to mention, being able to present the data in a clean, attractive, and compelling way can help get buy-in from others in your organization or clients. That's why Tableau is a great tool to have in your toolbox.
Tableau allows you to create interactive visual analytics dashboards. In layman's terms, you can take data; create graphs, maps, or charts; and then allow end-users to interact with these graphics to better understand the information. It's a fantastic tool allowing non-technical users to gain insights for data-driven decision-making.
Tableau Desktop Specialist certification starts at $100 and has no expiration date. There are many videos on Tableau's site to prepare for your exam as well as Tableau Starter Kits allowing you to play around and learn the different capabilities of the program. Tableau offers a 14-day free trial as well as free license for one year for students.
Additional certifications after Desktop Specialist are Desktop Associate and Desktop Professional. Those working with a Tableau server may also be interested in a separate certification as a Server Associate or Server Professional.
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When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.