Blogtober 5th – Customer Service

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One of the things I like to do in my spare time is go to work. 😉  Every job I have ever had entails some form of customer service. In fact, my very first job outside the home was when I was 6 years old. My mom worked at a small branch of Ben Franklin Savings Bank and they needed someone to serve punch to customers at Christmas time, I think. So, mom dressed me up as a little angel and I stood in the lobby and offered customers punch and I think we had cookies too. And I do believe I got paid real money, although I was MUCH more impressed with the dehydrated, flattened sponge the bank gave out that was stamped with the image of a $100 dollar bill and the slogan “At Ben Franklin, watch your savings grow!” So, after work that day, mom and I went home and I could hardly wait to put that sponge in the water. It worked beautifully! The sponge soaked up the water, and grew. I think about that sponge now 40 years later, at least once a week. I am not joking.

I love customer service and I truly enjoy helping. So, it was no surprise to me every time I’ve taken a spiritual gift test that the top things that show up in my profile are encouragement, mercy and helping. When I was 15, I volunteered for a non-profit organization that would be running our town carnival to raise funds for juvenile diabetes. I worked myself to exhaustion and loved every second of it. I served food at the ridiculously busy concession stand and then switched off with other kids working the dunk tank. I sat on the dunk tank seat and taunted the patrons with enthusiasm. Fun, fun.

Well, in my long adult life I’ve worked in the fast food industry, floral, medical, financial and communications. I’ve been employed by enormous companies and I’ve been self-employed. Good customer service is something that works best when kindness is given by both the server and the one who receives service. I’m sure we can all relate to receiving poor service. It happens everywhere for many different reasons. In August there was a story in the news about a customer service problem in Switzerland, experienced by a very famous American. I was reminded of this story while reading some of the entries on notalwaysright.com. I first visited notalwaysright.com a few years ago, when it was kind of new and still a novelty. The stories were very funny and sounded so much like experiences I’ve had both as an employee and a customer. I went back today to read some and something has changed. I like some of the changes. I like to read the stories about how someone turned around a bad situation. In fact I love those stories. What I don’t like however, are the stories that don’t sound real, but rather sound like made up customer service problems with an activist agenda. They have a different way about them than the other stories. There’s either too much monologuing with excessive detail, excessive expletives or not enough detail for the story to make sense, or all of the above. In short, they would be more believable if they were less emotional and more professional. For example, here’s one story that I find very hard to believe in its entirety:

The Bald and the Beautiful

Beware of excessive expletives! They are starred out, but I admit I don’t know what all of them are. I’m not familiar with the one used in the last sentence. Anyway, the telling of customer service stories to claim discrimination is officially getting on my nerves. Most often, I have noticed in these stories that the perpetrators of civil rights violations through poor customer service or insensitive public ridicule are “young people”. This link is to a story that gets closer to the Oprah story from August. It has a similar tone, storyline and moral. The story brought up more questions for me than answers:

What White People Can Do

All three stories that I linked here have commonalities that make them irritating and not helpful. 1. They are long on emotion and short on facts 2. They cannot be verified 3. The offended parties are all women over 40 of decent to extravagant means 4. The offenders are all younger and in some sort of inferior position, especially economic. I am a woman over 40, so maybe the contrived manner in which the stories are delivered is just over-the-top for me. I’m embarrassed to read and watch the videos. I cringe. I definitely learned something from them, but I don’t think it’s the lesson that was intended.

So, customers…there are many kinds. Every job I’ve worked and even the jobs my husband has worked have taught me so much about people and how to be better and better at my job, no matter where I work or what I do, but knowing does not necessarily translate into doing. 5 years ago, I started a new job in a new town and felt I had already learned all I needed to know about taking care of my customers, but there were new challenges and I discovered a new area where I was lacking. Patience. I always thought patience was one of my superhero powers. Apparently its not. As I grow older, I find myself losing  patience more every year. I don’t understand it completely, but I think in part it has to do with thinking if I learned my lessons, everyone else should know them too. I’ve observed that way of thinking in others too, as they age and I think I need to be praying more about that. I used to receive a newsletter from Elisabeth Elliot and in one issue she wrote out a prayer to God asking him to remind her to grow in grace and gratitude and avoid the temptation to complain and focus on every ache and pain, so that at the end of her life her obituary won’t read “Old Crab Dies. Everyone Glad”.

Lastly, as it relates to customer service, I wanted to talk about focus. Do you find it difficult to focus these days? I know I do. There has never been more distractions in my life than there is now. I have to make a grand effort to limit noise and interruptions in my life. The work I do now has done more than just train me in patience. It has also trained me in focus. I have a very limited time to answer questions and move on to the next customer in line. I have to get straight to the point and not get sidetracked. This can be very challenging to keep up for 8 hours. There are words and phrases that contribute to a focused transaction and words and phrases that don’t. One of my pet peeves is the fairly recent opening phrase change at certain drive through fast food restaurants. I think they’re in the same family of restaurants, like Taco Bell and Arby’s or somthing. Instead of “Welcome to Captain Oliver’s. May I take your order?”, or “Hello, how may I help you?” or “Hello, would you like to try a Cheesy McCheese Deluxe Big Kahuna Combolicious Super Value Extravaganza?”, the opening is…wait for it… “HiHowRU”. I don’t know how to respond. It’s been going on for a few years now and it irritates me every single time. I’ve tried to figure out a way to make it work for me, but it just doesn’t. I’ve tried. “I’m fine” or “I’m good, how are you?” It gets worse from here. I either get no reply at all or “Good”. I don’t know what to say now. I’m guessing I should just order. So, I do, but I still have that feeling, like the conversation didn’t really go that well.  And then, when I get my food, I drive away feeling like I forgot something. Contrast that with Five Guys. When you go in there, you know how you feel. You know when to order, what to order, how to order, how it’s cooked, who’s cooking it, what they look like, what they talk about and then they shout at each other, shout at you in front of the whole restaurant and make you take your food. You either hate this or love it. There’s no in between. That’s focus.

In conclusion, I covered a lot of customer service territory in my rambly style of writing:  

– kindness

– enthusiasm

– encouragement

– less emotional and more professional

– service

– helping

– turning around a bad situation

– patience

These descriptions apply everywhere and not just on the job. Paid or unpaid, the list should look vaguely familiar:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.: – Galatians 5:22-23

Have a beautiful week my friends. :0)

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