The downsides of being customer facing

For most of my career, I’ve been in a customer facing role, meaning that I interact with customers who use my company’s software as my actual day job. There are lots of upsides to being in a customer facing role in a non-pandemic era: you get to travel for work (and hence, can really load up on status via miles and hotel points), your role at work is taken seriously because you are essentially the voice of the customer; if you work on high-profile customers, for the most part, you’re probably in a relatively secure position. But the downsides? Customers sometimes can see you as not being human, meaning that they will not necessarily respect boundaries of off-hours to call you on your cell with something they consider urgent (the last time I checked, we didn’t work in the ER). They may not care that you have other customers and other meetings; they may expect that you respond to every email they send you literally as soon as they send it, and then react angrily when there’s a “delay” in your response (as in, in 4 hours or even, GASP, the next day!). They may not care that you had to take the day off because you got sick or had a family emergency and insist you get them a response anyway. They also may not care that you get a national holiday off since they may not have that day off.

The last example actually happened to me for the first time today, and I was really in shock. A customer asked to reschedule a meeting to a later time, and he asked if I was available on February 15th, which is actually President’s Day, meaning our office would be closed. I told him that our offices would be closed that day, but I’d be available to chat the following Tuesday. He had the balls to respond, asking if I could make an exception and meet with his team on that Monday. Well, that was easy to say no to; NO, I’m NOT making an exception for you or anyone work related on a NATIONAL HOLIDAY.

I told a colleague about this story after it happened, and she responded, “I see customers like that as children who ask if they can have cookies before dinner. They know the answer is no, but that doesn’t mean they won’t ask, anyway, to see if there is some slim chance they may actually get their way.”

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