RESILIENCE: From Earthquakes to Challenging Customers

February 16th 2011 was the day I flew down to Christchurch. A nervous 18 year old, suitcases in hand, ready to shift into my Hall of Residence and begin what would be the next three years of my new life at the University of Canterbury. On the first day of classes, February 22nd, I nervously made my way over to the psychology faculty for my first lecture. I walked out an hour later (bewildered and confused about how a pre-frontal cortex works), and decided with my friend that we had earned a delicious lunch at a nearby cafe. We ordered our food and were about to sit down. The shaking started at 12:51pm. It took me about 3 seconds to realize what was going on; I had never experienced anything like it before. It was only cries of ‘get under the table!’ and grips on my arm by total strangers that I realized; we were in an earthquake. Some ten terrifying seconds later, lights swinging and tables on the opposite side of the room, I half-walked half-crawled out of the cafe in a daze. If it weren’t for alarms sounding and people running out of buildings, I’m not sure I would have understood the size and impact of that earthquake. As I listened to the radio 3 hours later and heard ‘3 people confirmed dead’, I realized this was no minor first-day glitch.

It’s been five and a half years now that I’ve had the chance to reflect on that day and how it completely changed the lives of so many people. In the wake of that time, the word I have heard probably more than any other is ‘resilience’. The word resilience to me is the ability to keep going despite tough circumstances. This is something that almost all of us can apply to a situation in our own lives, be it personal or professional. We cannot avoid challenges in life – if we could, it would surely be a whole lot simpler. What we can do though, is learn to recognize, deal with and overcome them.

When challenges arise, it is all about mind-set. Think of a challenge as an opportunity to grow from – as opposed to just another negative life occurrence and chances are you’ll walk out the other side impressed with yourself. That way, if it crops up again you’ll be equipped to deal with it a whole lot better.

Challenges arise and resilience is pertinent in all facets of business, in very different ways; but dealing with customers is one that a large majority of people face. A challenging customer can put a damper on your entire day, no matter how experienced you are. They are never nice to encounter, and the almost automatic train of thought is ‘I hope I never get a customer like that again.’ Unfortunately (just as earthquakes in Christchurch) they are inevitable, and while customers like this do not make for a hugely enjoyable time at work – think of a difficult customer as a challenge, rather than an unmanageable obstacle. A challenge that you have dealt with, overcome, and will now be more equipped to handle next time.

Learning to deal with these difficult customers takes some practice but with the right tools and tips you will get there much faster. Rapid Results’ Customer Service Excellence + Handing Challenging Customers Course is coming up on August 17th in Auckland, and will provide you with some of these tools to have you well on your way to being a resilient team member. Equipped with improved skills in listening, questioning and Customer Service fundamentals, you will return to work ready to handle any challenging customers the world may throw at you (even if, like earthquakes, they may shake up your day and have you wanting to dive under your desk!).

Think of the last challenge you faced – be it personal or professional, big or small. Did you learn from it? How would you feel if it came up again? Would you be more prepared? If living in Christchurch taught me anything, it’s that none of us know how capable we are until we’re thrown into a situation where we have no other option but to be resilient. It has helped me to embrace challenge, as opposed to run from it in all aspects of life, that now including business.

And that lesson for me was the icing on the quake.