Be aware that clients come from all walks of life
Admittedly, there are jobs in which you work with people on daily basis, but they are stress-free since you know these people because they are your regular clients. Far more demanding are those posts in which different people step into your office every day. As if that was not challenging enough, try working in an office which is open to the public, and people of all sorts visit you. Anyone can walk through the door, from a well-mannered and a well-attired business man, to a man who is obviously drunk, or a man who hasn’t had a bath in weeks. It is your job to serve them all, without making any exceptions. No matter how simple the service you provide is, it is never the same experience from the first “Hello,” to the last “Goodbye.” Even if they simply have to fill out a form, a large percentage will have a question ready for you, and many of them will ask the question just for the sake of asking. This should not upset you since this is their way of trying to relate to you, because they depend on you to provide them the service them came in for.
Treat all people the same way whenever possible
The range of characters I have had to deal with would not fit in the pages of a multi-volume book, which just serves to illustrate what we all know, but perhaps aren’t fully aware of: there are as many unique characters as there are human beings. No two clients are the same, although there are similarities among them, which is most evident in the reason why they come to your office. Faced with a whole series of characters, the stance you take should be just the opposite: your rapport with them should be as uniform as possible. This is the professional thing to do, and it will spare your nerves and save you trouble. You never know who the person you are talking to is, and usually you will have waiting clients observing and listening to how you talk to other people. If they notice that you have a single, unalterable stance, they will have more respect for you. In my office, people frequently ask if we could photocopy their documents since they have to turn in a copy, and management’s guideline is that we do not copy our clients’ papers. If a woman with a baby in a stroller ask us to save her the hustle of going outside to copy her paperwork, we are forced to reject her, and not only her, but every single client who makes a similar request. This won’t win us a popularity contest, but it will preserve the integrity of the company and build up respect for us as clerks, as funny as that may seem at first glance.
Never make your emotions visible
In dealing with people at work, it is essential to be constantly aware that your relationship with them is not personal, but professional, and of course, human. It is OK to feel emotions during the interaction, but is vital that they never become apparent. This goes for all types of emotional response, from a pretty woman entering the office (or a handsome man if you are a woman), to the most unpleasant occasions, such as arguments that turn into rows. Many clients are not aware of or don’t understand the regulations that you must follow, and think that you are trying to con them by refusing their request. A vast majority of these people can be reasoned with if you calmly explain everything and provide evidence for your claim, but there will always be a small percentage of clients who just want to quarrel, even threatening violence. Personally, I have had only a few of these belligerent clients, but when they do appear, dealing with them will test your composure to the very limit. The best way to respond after you have used all the resources available, is to refer these clients to the higher authorities, such as your superior. He will probably have had more experience in such situations and more authority to resolve the issue at hand. Of course, if a client turns violent in a physical manner, instantly calling security or the police is the best option, but these situations occur once or twice in one’s career.
Be kind, but resolute
In the end, the key word when it comes to dealing with people is “balance.” Do not allow yourself to be dragged into adjusting to individual client demands, which will come in “all shapes and sizes,” but try to focus on yourself and the way you interact when dealing with them. Always try to greet all people with a smile and converse with them in a polite manner, using phrases such as: “what can I do to assist you,” “would you please,” or “thank you.” There is no reason not to be polite, and this way you prevent most potential confrontations since people are less likely to argue with you if are clearly willing to listen to all their demands patiently. However, never forget to adhere to the rules listed above and stay resolute, for many clients will try to misuse your kindness, taking it as a sign of weakness. If you notice such behavior, immediately change your stance to decisive action rather than polite interaction, and you will witness how the opportunists back down from their demands.
Last, but not least, although this is hard to achieve in humdrum administrative jobs, always try to look at your working hours as something positive. Your line of work should be a chance to interact in the full sense of the word with all people, and my experience teaches me that the vast majority are friendly, open. and willing to cooperate. In fact, it is often the case that my colleagues get a chocolate bar or some other token of gratitude for their courteous, but professional, behavior. Such clients make you wish you dealt with people all day long every day. If you follow the simple steps listed above from the very second a client walks through the door, you too will have an army of satisfied customers and a stress-free day, allowing you to do whatever you crave after work without feeling mentally and emotionally drained.