It’s no easy task to be an introvert who works with the public. People tend to ask you for things when you’re wearing a name tag. The extroverts in the crowd often think that their simple questions mark the beginning of a beautiful friendship. In our off-hours, introverts have techniques for dealing with Chatty Cathys and Needy Norms. However, on the clock, we’re forced to shelve our usual recourses. We are the face of the company, and if we don’t look like we’re happy to meet every customer’s whim, we won’t represent the company for long.
This is particularly troublesome for ISTJ personality types. We’re the highly dedicated sort, which means that even if we don’t like our job, we will drive ourselves into the ground trying to do our best. Sometimes this determination creates wonderful results. Other times the combination backfires horribly. Regardless, we walk away with the kind of stories that you just can’t make up.
(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality test.)
Here are six experiences ISTJs working in customer service have had or will have in their career:
1. Customers think we’re rude.
Everyone has the occasional run-in with a customer who baselessly accuses them of being rude. But for ISTJs, it’s a recurring issue. The problem isn’t that we’re actually unkind, but rather that we focus on the facts. On top of this, we believe that blunt honesty is the most efficient—and therefore the best—way to relay information, whether it’s good news or bad. This doesn’t sit well with people who prefer empathy over the Joe Friday approach.
Sometimes offended customers go to great lengths to lodge complaints against the ISTJ. The crazy part is that the people who complain are usually the ones we have tried to be the most understanding of. This can result in serious confusion for the ISTJ, who usually thinks they’ve done a great job being emotionally responsive right up until they’re told about the complaint. It leaves us wondering what we did wrong, which leads us to #2.
2. We blame ourselves for a customer’s bad experience, even if it wasn’t our fault.
ISTJs are remarkably dedicated. When we feel like we’ve failed to do our job, we tend to look back at the experience and wonder what we should have done differently. This is partially a function of guilt and partially a side effect of our obsession with doing everything as effectively as possible.
Unfortunately the conclusion we often come to is that we weren’t clear enough about the rules or realities of the situation. As a result we end up throwing more facts and figures at the next customer, which further alienates the ones who want us to shed a tear along with them. This in turn increases our self-blame and makes us work even harder at figuring out the magic formula for universal customer contentment. We lose sleep, we fret, and we debate the question until our usually unshakeable confidence is left in tatters.
If we’re lucky, we have a boss who understands that certain customers are never going to be happy with the ISTJ’s no-nonsense approach. The best of supervisors will suggest ways we can improve our customer interactions without asking us to compromise who we are. With or without this helping hand, though, ISTJs in customer service will quickly find themselves doing #3.
3. We learn that sometimes you have to bend the rules for people, and it sucks.
ISTJs live by and for the rules. It can be difficult for us to make exceptions to them even at the best of times. When the customer stops discussing their problem in a rational manner and begins making statements about how the rules aren’t fair or shouldn’t apply to them, we become even less likely to give in.
The thing is that we have a deep respect for rules because we can imagine (or have seen) what happens when they aren’t there or aren’t enforced. We know that if we give one person a pass we’re weakening our position with future customers. Even if they don’t know that we’ve made an allowance for someone else, we know, and our penchant for honest dealings makes it tough for us to say no after we’ve told someone else yes.
Sometimes, though, you really do have to make an exception. It’s less painful when the situation is one that would drive even an ISTJ to ask for special treatment, but those are rare occurrences. More frequently we find ourselves giving a concession to someone not because it’s the right thing to do but because we know that if we don’t, they’ll become the customer from scenario #1. In these instances we feel like we’ve betrayed ourselves, betrayed the rules, and betrayed all the other people we’ve dealt with who deserved an exception more than Mr. Squeaky Wheel, but who accepted that rules are rules. And speaking of rules and order, ISTJs hate it when #4 happens.
4. The chain of command is ineffective, disorganized, or non-existent.
Imagine that you regularly raise concerns to your supervisor, but nothing ever seems to get done about them. Or perhaps the person you’re supposed to answer to changes constantly, and with little warning. Worst of all, envision that there’s no chain-of-command whatsoever. These are serious problems no matter what your personality type, but for structure-loving ISTJs, they turn your job into hell.
This issue can wreak havoc in any industry, but it’s amplified in the customer service world. Employee turn-over tends to happen often, and the chaos of a transition period (especially a managerial one) gives ISTJs headaches. By the time the transition is over, we’ve likely developed a sense of loyalty to our new supervisor or co-worker. That makes it all the more difficult for us to adjust when the cycle starts again six months down the road.
5. Dealing with “group shop” is annoying.
The topsy-turvy atmosphere of retail can extend beyond the break room. One of the most frustrating challenges an ISTJ can face on the sales floor is what I call “group shop.” This is when a customer brings a friend or relative with them to make a purchase. The helper will often spend as much time asking questions and giving their opinion as the person who plans to pay for and use the item. This can make it difficult to know who you’re supposed to be talking to, especially if the buyer is a quiet type. Not only does group shop irk the ISTJ’s preferences for efficiency and order, it kills any chance of us treating the interaction like an intimate one-on-one conversation. It sends our little introvert heart scuttling for cover.
But for ISTJs who manage to keep their job and their sanity despite having to deal with the emotional customers, the self-blame, and the constant change and uncertainty, there is a final, positive experience waiting for us.
6. We become the go-to person for our organization.
Hearing that a supervisor or colleague knew they could depend on us (for anything: task completion, advice, information, you name it) is a great compliment to an ISTJ. But it’s even better when a customer gives the praise or asks for us by name. Such a remark means that we’re seen as honest, reliable, and knowledgeable; in other words, as having the traits that we value the most in ourselves and others. Above all, it means that we’re doing our job and truly meeting our obligations. And when you’re dedicated to your work at the ISTJ level, that’s truly a crowning achievement.
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