‘Not a low class job’: Meet this retail associate who once spent 7 hours helping a customer

Not the usual service: This officer went the extra mile by spending 7 hours with a customer

More than a decade ago, M1 employee Judy Khong was going about her usual day at work, swiftly helping customers who were coming through the doors with issues related to services offered by the network operator.

All was smooth — until she encountered a customer who had come to the M1 branch with a recurring issue.

The customer, who regularly travelled in and out of Singapore, couldn’t access her email on her mobile device when abroad.

She had made several prior visits to the M1 store to get this solved, but to no avail.

Source: Judy Khong on LinkedIn

On this instance, Judy was determined to fix the issue. Working with the engineering team, they ran extensive tests in an attempt to pinpoint the source of the problem.

Throughout this tedious process, the customer remained patient and calm, which motivated Judy to want to solve the problem even more.

Many customers would have been upset after repeated trips to the store, but she remained understanding and patient,” she shared.

Judy then noticed the customer was not feeling well, so she gave her paracetamol and checked up on her while she was waiting for the issue to be fixed — a process that took more than seven hours.

Although Judy was ultimately unable to resolve her issue, the customer was still very thankful for her company and for caring for her well-being.

This memorable occasion was just one of many that Judy, now 45, has encountered throughout her 25 years in the industry.

In light of the Singapore Kindness Week that spans from 13 May to 19 May, we cast the spotlight on Judy, who doesn’t just see her work as a job, but as a meaningful calling.

A passion to serve

Judy, who joined M1 in 1999, quickly discovered her passion in helping others after taking on a temporary staff role under M1’s customer service sector.

I realised I had a passion to serve — not to just “sell things” but to help solve people’s problems,” she told MS News

Even if the frontline is tough, my work is never unrecognised and it motivates me to do my best for my customers,” she added.

Being in this line has its challenges, though. One of which is how the job is perceived.

“I think people feel like customer service is a low class job because we stand on our feet to serve customers. I feel this thinking is wrong,” Judy said.

The role, she says, helps to ease people’s lives. “It requires tons of patience to stay calm at all times, quick thinking on our feet to provide resolutions as well as strong listening and communication skills to do the job well.”

Being in this job also requires her to keep up with technology. As she has to help customers understand and use the new tools and features the brand is providing, she is required to “stay ahead of the curve”, constantly learning the ins and outs of each new system update or website feature. 

Trained team members to volunteer as digital ambassadors

These days, Judy, now an assistant manager with the telco, tries to impart her philosophy to the younger members in her team.

She also trained team members in the shops to become digital ambassadors who are capable of guiding elderly customers through basic technology tasks.

Image courtesy of Judy Khong

The digital ambassador role can require a great deal of patience, she said.

She recognises the challenge, but reminds her team not to take it personally.

Customers can be very demanding… If a customer is upset, we cannot just ignore them, we have to address their concern calmly and respectfully even when they are raising their voices or venting their frustrations,” she added.

The key message she shares with her team, is that they are there to help. “Our job is to make the process as smooth as possible, even when customers are having a tough time.” 

She recalls another incident in which an elderly gentleman came into the shop distressed as he did not have the M1 app and wasn’t unable to check his data usage. He was also unable to register for the app because he didn’t know how to set up an email account.

After she solved the issue for him, he was so touched that he thanked her repeatedly, even giving her a 45-degree bow, she said.

Such genuine appreciation keeps her going. “Helping him wasn’t about solving a technical problem, but it was about connecting with him to make him feel understood and making a difference in their day.”

Keep calm and carry on in customer service industry

Despite Judy’s determination to help those in need, she admits her new leadership role can bring tough days.

“When I’m training new staff and notice signs of them wanting to give up, it makes me question whether I’m doing a good job as a trainer and leader and if I have overlooked their needs,” she shared. 

On top of this, bad experiences with customers, technological changes and the competitive landscape of the telecommunications industry can also take a toll on one’s mental health.

Image courtesy of Judy Khong

When the going gets tough, Judy finds support within her customer service team, where they share stories and lean on each other for support.

After a tough day, we might go out for a chill evening and have pints of beer to hang out and ease the stress of the day,” she told MS News

Watching movies, having desserts or doing yoga also helps, she quipped.

A new perspective on life

Despite the ups and downs, Judy feels her work has shaped her by teaching her not to let anger get in the way of effective communication.

This is a skill that takes time to build and it’s important to think on my feet and remember that our objective is to resolve issues and not be affected,” she said. 

To those who might be looking to join the customer service industry, Judy advises not to take everything a customer says to heart.

“It’s crucial to remember that their frustration is often directed at the situation and not at you as a person,” she said. “The key is to focus on the issue at hand and work towards a solution, rather than getting emotionally involved in their anger.” 

With our society’s heavy reliance on technology, Judy also emphasised the importance of the customer service industry.

It’s similar to healthcare where we cannot do without nurses. In telecommunications, we cannot do without customer service staff,” she added. 

Also read: ‘It taught me to slow down’: How a life-changing volunteering experience made this man want to do more

‘It taught me to slow down’: How a life-changing volunteering experience made this man want to do more

Have news you must share? Get in touch with us via email at news@mustsharenews.com.

Feature adapted from Judy Khong on LinkedIn and courtesy of Judy Khong. 

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