Can You Take a Punch?

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Can You Take a Punch?

In the world of boxing, the fighter must have the ability to take a punch. They have to endure or ignore the pain. They get used it. It hardly bothers them. It’s part of the job. But what does this have to do with customer service?


I recently had the honor of working with Francisco Partners, a private equity firm. They invited me to address the leadership team of the companies they’ve invested in about customer service and experience. Mike Kohlsdorf, their president, met with me for breakfast to talk about the speech and he commented that when you’re on the front line, you have to be able to take a punch.

Obviously, the punch is a metaphor. In customer service, you aren’t going to be physically punched out by your unhappy customers, but you can expect to get hit with some verbal jabs.

I’m always impressed by how amazing customer service professionals can tolerate customers who are angry at them and the company. Well, there are good reasons. Here are three of them:

  1. Customer service professionals know their job. There is a reason the people in the customer support department are called professionals. They know they are hired to be on the front line and take the metaphorical punch from the customer. They are hired for some important personality traits and skills, which could include patience, tolerance, the ability to communicate, being good-natured, the ability to stay calm under pressure, and more.
  2. They are properly trained. Just like any good boxer that gets into the ring, customer service professionals train. More than just being able to answer questions and resolve complaints, they are also trained on how to deescalate a customer’s anger. The personalities they were hired for, along with proper training on how to handle complaints and irate customers, allow them to turn an angry customer into an advocate.
  3. They don’t take the customer’s anger personally. It’s their job to take the verbal “punch,” yet they realize that the customer is not mad at them personally. They are mad at the company, a company-related incident, or the product and/or service the company sells. The customer service professional recognizes that while it may not be their fault, it is their opportunity to fix the problem and win the customer back.

This is what customer service professionals are good at. It’s what they are hired to do. Great companies know that training isn’t something that happens once. It’s ongoing. It’s constantly working on maintaining and improving the skills needed to make a customer happy. They make take a few hits along the way, but they “roll with the punches.” Most importantly, they don’t win the fight. They win the customer.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXIX, Shep Hyken)