Customer Service and Mental Health

I have found customer service to be the most challenging, degrading, and humiliating industry to work in. Those that have worked in customer service know the drill: The customer is always right. Just please the customer so they’ll stop throwing a fit and leave the store, right? It has somehow become socially acceptable for some customers to treat you like you are not actually a human being. Despite the aspects of what’s required of an employee in the customer service industry, is verbal mistreatment excusable?

I’ve worked in retail for nearly 12 years and the mistreatment I’ve personally experienced has been utterly debilitating at times. I find myself frustrated that I had allowed someone to have such power over my emotions, but when you’re working in retail, the general mentality is to be nice, no matter what. It’s part of customer service jobs, right? Is it what we signed up for?

Speaking from personal experience, the customer service industry has an immense negative impact on mental health. Some days, you’re treated like you are below/lesser than the customer. Other days, you’re cursed at by customers for things that are out of your control. I cannot recall how many times in 12 years customers have made me cry in the various retail settings I’ve worked in. Some customers have caused anxiety attacks because of threats made over pricing issues or general misunderstanding. Other customers have caused some employees to walk out on their shifts because they mentally could not handle the verbal abuse. I’ve also witnessed and experienced customers intentionally trying to physically intimidate retail employees in order to get what they deemed they deserved.

Why is this not being addressed at all?

While I admit my own bias within this due to my personal experience within the retail industry, I must say that I’ve seen these effects in other aspects of my life as well. From a mental health professional standpoint, I believe that customer service jobs and the retail industry altogether can impact self-worth, self-esteem, confidence, and long term, mental stability (specifically, anxiety and depression). While I do believe that the blame cannot be put on one all-encompassing thing, I do feel that society has allowed customers to treat retail employees and other customer service employees negatively with little to no consequence. Why do we allow this?

3 thoughts on “Customer Service and Mental Health

  1. Oh my goodness so this…I don’t work retail but I work at a technology help desk at a university and people treat us terribly. Today for instance I got reamed out because the customer was on hold for five minutes and I am not exaggerating because I tend to time how long it takes me when I leave my desk. I am the only person working the phone line at that particular time and I went to the rest room and because of that she unloaded on me. And her issue wasn’t even technology related. It was a transcript issue so I had to transfer her to the admissions department and got unloaded on for that too. It definitely has an effect on my mental health. It’s truly a thankless job some days.

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