Communication styles: US Marine vs. Customer Service Representative

By Brandy Loudermilk Communication styles: US Marine vs. Customer Service Representative

Imagine a typical US Marine. Get a firm picture in your head, the camouflage, probably an M-16, and most definitely not a smile. Now Imagine that US Marine answering your telephone as a CSR. What kind of customer service do you imagine they would provide? Probably not very good, right? They would be short, curt, and maybe a little too direct.

Why is that? The answer is they are transformed into a thick skinned, direct and to the point communicators. Not exactly ideal for customer service. Well your CSRs may be more like that Marine than you would like to admit.

Environmental impacts that affect the CSR Mindset:

  • Company Culture
  • Constant changes in rules and procedures
  • Change in demand
  • Customer demands
  • Internal conflict
  • Team dynamic

Each of these have the ability to make the CSRs less empathetic, caring, and proactive. It is a learned adaptation. Marines are taught that it is less emotionally draining to care less. I speak from experience.

Let me tell you about my transformation.

Brandy’s Transformation from Marine to CSR.

In 2004 at 18 years old, I shipped off to boot camp to be transformed into a Marine. I was young and I knew everything. One thing I did not know was why “HVAC technician” was on my military forms. More so, I didn’t even know what an “HVAC technician” did. However, it didn’t matter to Uncle Sam. I was assigned a last minute change of military occupational specialty, I was going to be an HVAC mechanic in the Marine Corps Reserve, whether I knew what it meant or not.

After training, school, and some time on special orders; I knew how to function as a Marine, and I was a good HVAC mechanic. RELATED TO Training: Why CSRs are Losing Calls

Upon entering the regular Marine Reserves, I needed to find my first civilian job. I applied to every job posting I could find for HVAC in Denver. Despite my military training, I could not find a job in the industry. So I took some advice from a fellow Marine and applied at a call center for a national TV Provider.

During my call center training, I realized I needed to make yet another transformation. I had to re-learn “normal’ communication. I had to be intentional in how I spoke to customers, co-workers, and supervisors.

The Marine Corps had not prepared me to communicate in a soft, helpful, and empathetic manner. It was a huge adjustment. Who knew you could not tell customers that their TV would work if they paid their bill?

Instead “Mr. Smith, there seems to be a problem with your last payment, did you pay online or mail a check?”

Plus, when I would attend drill weekends, I had to switch back to the Marine way of communicating. I was constantly putting on different hats and it was exhausting.

Funny side note: One drill weekend, I answered my Marine Corps shop phone as I would my work phone for my customer service job, I never lived that down!

There is a direct correlation between my experience and what CSRs in our industry are facing. Just as I had learned behaviors in communication. One that was acceptable in the Marines, and one that was expected at my CSR job.

Your CSRs have their own learned communication styles. And your company culture impacts your CSRs communication style more than you might think!

I challenge you to take a moment and reflect on how your staff communicates with each-other and: Their Co-workers, Technicians, Managers, and Merchants.

What about other communication challenges?

Is your company facing any of these communication challenges?

  • Blame shifting
  • “Us” vs “Them” (Technicians vs Dispatcher, Technicians vs installers, CSR vs Dispatcher. etc.)
  • Yelling
  • He Said, She Said
  • Gossip
  • “Not my job”

They way they communicate with co-workers is probably not too far off from the way they are communicating with your clients. Their communication style internally within the company is a direct reflection of the company culture.

The communication style you model as a manager or owner will build the foundation for communication in your company.

Does Your Team Need Help With Communication Challenges?

Just like I had to learn how to communicate as both a Marine, and as a CSR. Your team can improve their communication style and still adapt to the changes that are inevitable in our industry.

Are you communicating like a Marine?

Or are you communicating with a heart of service?

If you look at how your office communicates, it is probably a direct reflection of how you communicate.

Is there a lot of yelling, blame shifting, or excuses? Those are symptoms of a communication culture in need of reform.

Fill out the form below to chat with me about how to help your CSRs become better communicators.



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