Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Customer Service

How many times has this happened to you? You enter a business - let's say a restaurant - to buy some goods or services - in this case, a hot meal with service - and immediately you are greeted by a rude, tactless, unhelpful employee. How dare they, right? You are coming to give them your hard-earned money! This is obviously uncalled for and there is no reason for any of their behavior. Of course, a good, well-trained representative of this restaurant would be able to control their actions and force a smile for all to see without any second thought. Now when this happens, what do you do about it? You are rude back, you tip poorly, or perhaps even take it up with their manager. NOW they'll have something to be grumpy about, won't they?

But wait! What good is that going to do? Let's take a few steps back to before your entry into this fine dining establishment. Let's go back to the moment the employee walked in the door. Here, we have a happy, eager-to-work person ready to get their work day going. Then, unexpectedly, their cell phone rings and they answer. They've just been informed that their favorite grandma from out of state has just suffered a heart attack! Now, there's no point in leaving, as grandma lives 4 hours away by jet, plus she's stable now. So now our somewhat-less-perky employee continues their day, but now can't wait for the end of the day to come. While getting their first order out of the kitchen, they slip and drop a whole order all over the floor. This is rough enough, but add it to poor old grandma, and today is starting to look like the pits.

Now let's move back up to your service. You decided to make their worse, remember? Now, the next person they serve after you will receive the same or worse service, and so goes the rest of the day. Despite constant attempts, the employee is unable to bring themselves out of that hole. In the end, this resulted the employee having the worst possible day, given the beginning circumstances, and it resulted in your dinner and everyone else's after yours to be a disappointing experience. You sure told them, didn't you? With your lack of tip and rude behavior. You made it all worth it, didn't you?

So, what if you had chosen to not be overtly rude? What if you had instead remained pleasant yourself, and engaged the employee at least enough to let them know you consider their service to be worth more than a doormat? Now the employee, despite other earlier issues, begins to start looking up. In turn, they work each of their other tables just a little bit better, and in turn, the other patrons continue the trend. This time, who benefited? You? Maybe not quite as much as others, but sure, it ended better than the first scenario. And who else? Both the employee and all the later restaurant guests! The employee perhaps ended up with more in tips, and all the other customers ended up having a slightly better experience. How is this all a bad thing?

Much of the responsibility lies in the hands of the employee providing customer service, but that doesn't mean it's all on them. It is also the customer's job to not make the employee's job harder. How would you like it if someone came in to your place of business (even if not a customer service job) and started intentionally making your day worse? What if you were alredy having a bad day to start with? It would ruin your day, wouldn't it? Now, by no means am I saying that 'the employee is always right,' no, sir. If our same employee from above was being inattentive to their guests and spending more time with their buddies than helping customers, then be my guest and lessen their tip and complain to their manager. But be receptive and notice if the employee is just a slacker who couldn't do a good job to save their life, or if they have something else going on that may be out of their control. This also covers new or training employees! It's not their fault they don't know what they're doing yet - that's why they're training!

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