First off, I must give co-credit for this blog idea to my awesome girlfriend Rebecca. I was texting her last week, complaining about how customers expect us to be courteous to them while they’re busy growling at us and blaming us for things we have no control over. Such are the joys of working in the customer service industry. I told Bec that I thought everyone should work in customer service for a week to see how it is on the other side. She replied that a year of retail and year in food service should do the trick. I’m paraphrasing a bit.
I’ve worked in customer service since I was 16 years old. My first job was in a clothing store, then there was the pretzel making place, then the bookstore and then my first job as a secretary. Working those jobs and dealing with some customers that were less than nice taught me the value of courtesy. I was always kind, patient and smiling even when dealing with irate customers and very few of them appreciated my efforts. That doesn’t mean I stopped being courteous. I will always believe that when you put positive energy out there, it returns tenfold.
I do understand the frustration of being a customer with problems but as I’ve been on the other end of the line most of my life, I don’t take it out on the customer service representative. When I shop in stores I always put back any clothing I take and do my best to refold anything I’ve looked at, though I admit I’m awful at folding. I always say please and thank you to waiters, waitresses and food service cashiers and quite often leave a bigger tip than is “necessary.” While I have of course encountered many nice and appreciative customers in my line of work, I know that for the most part, being in customer service is a pretty thankless job.
I do hear the complaint that “There’s no such thing as good customer service anymore!” and I beg to differ. Sure there are people who hate being in customer service and express that in their attitude when dealing with customers and I agree that such behavior is inappropriate. But quite often I’ve picked up the phone in my usual pleasant manner only to have the person on the other end speak to me rudely, sometimes even swearing, as they blame me for personally targeting them and making their lives miserable. I work for a company, I don’t make the rules, I just follow them so being hostile and mean to me is unneccessary and uncalled for.
If you’ve never had the “pleasure” of working in customer service then I envy you. What I do wish people would remember is that we’re all human beings and we’re all worthy of courtesy. Courtesy goes both ways and if the other person doesn’t always reciprocate, then you need to be the better spirit, allow them their choice and focus your positive energy on people who can appreciate it.