The Working Dead

This past weekend I ran in a 5K obstacle race called “Run for Your Lives.” The premise is this: you go to a farm or wooded area, put on a belt that has red flags attached, and then run through a trail of obstacles all while trying to avoid zombies. That’s right, as if running in 90 degree weather through mud and rocks wasn’t enough, you also have to try to avoid legions of the undead that are after your flags. If you finish the race with a flag, you are a survivor. If you lose all of your flags, then you finish the race as one of the undead and your times are listed accordingly. It was fun, intense, and tiring to say the least.

You’ll have to bear with me on this one, but the zombies in this race were a lot like customers. Before anyone gets offended, know that I myself am a customer and this wordy analogy will also apply to me. Anyway, I ran the race with a friend who was suffering from a mild hernia. This meant that while I was sprinting through certain areas and trying to avoid the zombies, he was walking calmly through most of it. As I was running and jumping around the zombies, they would stumble or even chase after me, attempting to grab my flags. Once I got to a relatively safe point and I was sure that I wasn’t being chased, I stopped and waited on my friend. It was in these periods of rest that I was able to watch as he casually strolled along through the hordes, generally unnoticed. He was able to survive clear up until the end by utilizing this tactic and if it weren’t for one last celebratory shout (which left him unguarded), he would have finished as a survivor…like me (shameless gloating).

Now back to my point about zombies and customers. If you work in customer service, inevitably you will come across someone that is upset or unhappy. How you handle that particular situation can make all the difference. If you sprint through it and try to get it over with as quickly as possible like I did, the customer is more likely to become agitated, which makes matters worse. But if you take your time, listen, and really give the customer your full attention, there is less of a chance for things to turn ugly.

When I am shopping or talking to a company on the phone (as a customer), I appreciate those that don’t treat me like they can’t wait to get rid of me. No matter how many blunders or mistakes are made, I am usually pretty patient and calm with that kind of a person. I don’t feel the need to yell, scream, or chase after them, but rather to allow that person to carry on with their job, because I know that I am being taken care of. Just like my friend and the zombies, he wasn’t charging at them, or trying to get away from them. He was just trying to accomplish his task which in this case was finishing the race.

Do you have any tips for staying patient and focused when dealing with a “zombie” customer?

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