Thursday, September 26, 2013

Customer Service: What Makes a Good Person

I've worked in customer service for over 4 years now. It's the level of job most people start at whether you are a high school or university student, an immigrant finding it hard to get jobs with low levels of English, or you just need that flexibility in hours that can only come from shift work.

In any case, customer service is probably the most difficult and yet rewarding type of job to work in.

Over the years, after incidents involving hostile and self-absorbed customers abusing me, I've now come to see how a person can show their true colours. While this hasn't just been a sudden realisation, I have been noticing this throughout my assortment of different careers, it's just that a few days ago I was involved in a strange but still damaging situation with a customer at work.

Now, I don't usually deal with customers directly. I work in the back of the store mostly or filling shelves and doing paperwork, it's only really when I have to fill in for someone at the registers or a customer needs assistance with something that I actually interact with anyone not working in my store.

And Monday nights always seem to bring in the irritable.

A few times now, on Monday nights about half an hour before the store closes, a person - usually over the age of 50 and only shopping for themselves, not a for a family - will arrive and cause . . . not so much a commotion, but a tense incident. Most times they are just frustrated and can't communicate what they want from me clear enough so I have to grasp at straws until finally they scream at me.

On this occasion, however, the customer in question, who I will call The Matriarch of Bitchiness, managed to passive aggressively attack myself and another co-oworker before verbal abusing a third. All this happened because she was in a rush, couldn't communicate what she wanted, and refused to see us as people.

And that, in my opinion, is what makes a terrible person. If you cannot treat a person who is working a low level job as if they were a person, instead opting to treat them as a circus animal unable to respond to commands, then you do not deserve to be treated better than us. You deserve the same level of respect that you give us. Which in most cases, is zero.

The incident with The Matriarch of Bitchiness which involved me simply arose because I was in the middle of completing my closing tasks, so was in no mindset to be assisting customers. I will admit, I do not always perform the best under pressure, especially when someone is relying on me for something; but when that happens, most of the people are patient or kind or simply don't mind that I can't help them. They realise that they can't always get what they want, that people will make mistakes, and that my sole reason for existence is not to pander to their every whim.

So when The Matriarch of Bitchiness was directed to me by one of the other employees who she had been passive aggressively rude to, I did not know what to expect. After a few miscommunication, I finally got what she wanted and she left, but not after she talked down to me, yelled at me, and refused to apologise for her behaviour.


When she finally made her way up to the registers, she was greeted politely as always by one of the register girls. Now anyone who has had to work at a register has 1 of 3 set modes:

1. Keep your normal personality and treat everyone you serve as a friend despite how they may react to your demenour
2. Act as the autonomous robot most people perceive you to be by using the minimum required verbal and physical interactions
3. Don a mask of happiness and helpfulness that is expected of you by society that slowly grates at you on the inside until you are unsure where the mask ends and you begin

This register girl uses the 3rd method.

Now, just going to ask, when you are buying something from a counter using an EFTPOS or credit card, would you find it inappropriate or offensive for the server to swipe your card, present the keypad to you and say "Just put in your pin when you're ready"? No? Well good, because that is what she, and every other polite server in the entire world says to the hundreds of thousands of customers they serve during their job.

This lady, however, saw that single statement as a slight at her intelligence and proceeded to rant at her for a good few minutes about how people like her and us are dumbing down society. She literally used the words "Dumbing down society" all because she was asked to put in her pin. I was later informed that as well as her societal rant, she complained about the uselessness of the staff, how nothing like this would have happened if another manager was on, and that she was sorry for her comments because she was tired.

I don't know what super-intelligent pompous society she hails from, but being tired is not an excuse to belittle and berate someone for just doing their job. Especially if this person only responds by trying to calm or help your situation. Most servers do this because they want to help you, but other times we are forced to because our situation as someone so replaceable that the tiniest comment to the wrong person could cost us our jobs forces us to hold our tongues. Anyone who gets yelled at for trivial reasons deserves a chance to retaliate, but we cannot. We suffer in silence or risk our employment.

I know there are circumstances to every customer. I know that sometimes the servers are not being friendly on purpose, I know that there are a number of factors influencing these incidents every day. But if you don't see the person behind the count as a PERSON behind the counter, then to me, you aren't a good person.

All in all, after every one of these incidents, I become more and more inclined to turn into Max from 2 Broke Girls. Not just because Kat Dennings is super mega awesome foxy hot, but because Max represents all the crap we should be able to dish back. Damn girl.

Anyone else got some good customer service stories? Good chance to vent some frustrations.

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