Saturday, May 29, 2010

We Live to Serve

As is par for the course for many overgrown college students, I work in customer service. In fact, I work 2 jobs in customer service-one as a video store clerk, and one in guest services at a museum in a very touristy area. As a result, I spend 12 hours a day, 7 days a week dealing with either tourists or customers. And as you might expect, sometimes I need to vent. I have been tempted for some time to write a profane and vitriolic post just letting off some steam. But instead, I think I'll put it into a different context. Thus, below is my list of "Things the Person Behind the Counter is Thinking".

1) If you're between the ages of 13 and 19, we're already judging you. Yes, it's unfair. No, we're not going to stop. We've had too many days ruined by obnoxious teenagers. (Some people ruin it for everyone.) But if you're nice to us, we'll totally let go of our preconceptions and treat you with respect.

2) You hid something under your jacket and managed to get out of the store without us noticing. Congratulations, you got away with you. You also just got us fired. At the very least, we've been put on probation and forced to pay for whatever you stole out of our own pockets. Guess we'll be taking cold showers and wearing a lot of sweaters for the next month, because there goes the money for the heating bill.
2a) Same goes for if you switch the price on something. Probation/fired. Forced to pay for what you stole.
2b) And if you walk out on a tab. You've just forced your waitress to buy you dinner and gotten her fired or put on probation.

3) If something is genuinely wrong with your experience at our store/restaurant/site, please tell us. We do actually care. But we only care if you tell us nicely, without yelling, and use specific examples to explain the problem. The second you're rude to us, we tune out.

4) We get yelled at all day. We're pretty much impervious to it now. We will not be affected or scared into action by your bullying. All it does is make us hate you more. And when we hate you, we will do absolutely nothing to solve your problem. In fact, if there's a way we can charge you more without breaking any rules, we'll do it. And our managers will back us up. They hate you just as much as we do.

5) On that same token, we will never forget if you've mouthed off to us. If you are rude to someone at an establishment you frequent that has a file on you (your gym, your hairdresser, etc), they will put a note in the computer file about it. Every single time you walk up to the desk, the first thing the person behind the counter sees is the note in the computer saying you're rude and not to do you any favors. Sorry, but it's true. That one outburst will haunt you forever.

6) Kids touch things. Kids move things around. We get that. And it's OK. What's not OK is to let your kids run rampant through our store, throwing things around, and then not pick up after them.

7) And it's REALLY not OK to move things around yourself and not pick them up and put them back where you got it. You know how at the end of a long workday you want nothing more to go home? So do we. Except we've been standing up for 8 hours getting yelled at and now we have to go clean up your mess for an hour instead of going home. Also, there are surveillance cameras everywhere. When you make a mess, we see it. When you eventually come to the counter, we don't see you, we see the mess we're going to have to clean up at 11pm.

8) For God's sake, don't treat us like we're unintelligent ignoramus'. If you had any idea how many customer service personnel were in management training, going to graduate school, or attending medical or law school, you'd be seriously humbled.

9) If you treat us like people, we will like you. We really don't hate people. If we did, we'd be working in a warehouse or something. If you're a regular, learn our names. We'll learn yours. You never know-we may even become actual friends. And guess what our friends get? Free stuff.

10) Most of the time, the person behind the counter has the power to fix your problems. We pretend like we don't. If we don't like you, we'll only do the bare minimum to help you and leave the rest to our manager. If we like you, we'll pull every string in the book. You have no idea the kind of power we really have.

11) If we have a rule, it's for a reason. No food or drink? We've got light carpeting. No gum? We don't want to stay until 2am with a scraper removing the gum from under the chairs. We will not be happy if you sneak something past us and then stick the gum under something or spill your drink all over the carpet. It's annoying. And expensive.

12) We know you want to be an exception to the rule. And we sympathize with whatever your plight is. We really do. But if I had a nickel for every person who asked me for free stuff because it was their birthday, or asked me to make an exception and let them into an exhibit without a ticket because they traveled so far, or wanted to skip waiting in line because they'd had such a long day, I'd be a millionaire and wouldn't be serving your french fries. Whatever your perceived "special circumstance" is, I've heard it before. Probably within the last ten minutes.

13) If an obvious joke comes to mind about our uniforms, our nametags, our logo, whatever, please, take pity on us and don't say it. We've heard it at least 10 times today, and it gets less funny every time. We laugh because we're required to.

14) Don't stand at the counter talking on your cell phone. That's a quick way to get "he's a douche" put into your computer file.

15) If you do happen to lose your temper and are rude to us and didn't mean to be, apologize. We're real people. You're a real person. A heartfelt apology might help. It might not, but it certainly won't hurt you.

16) Before you accuse us of making a mistake, think it through. If we did make a mistake, tell us nicely and we'll fix it and then some. But often, we did nothing wrong. (An example: the other day a guy checked out 2 movies from me. He came back an hour later, slammed one of the DVD boxes on the desk, and started to yell at me, accusing me of giving him the wrong movie. He apparantly had meant to rent a different one. Sorry that I'm not a mind-reader; I assumed when you brought "An Education" to the check-out counter, that's the movie you wanted.) Stop, calm down, and think about the problem for a minute. If it really was our mistake, calmly tell us, and we'll come through for you.

17) If you've had a bad experience with one employee, don't take it out on another. Saying "I know it's not your fault" while continuing to yell at us does nothing. If you really knew it wasn't out fault, you wouldn't be yelling at us, now would you?

18) Don't be afraid to ask for help or ask us for recommendations. We like to give advice about our work. That's why we work there.

19) If you see another customer being rude to us in line, and either make fun of them after they leave or act sympathetic to us in some way, you're in. We'll love you forever.

20) Don't apologize for putting $2.00 on a credit card. It makes absolutely no difference to us.

So there you have it. The ugly truth about customer service. If you've ever worked it, I hope you enjoyed this post and found something to relate to. If you haven't, keep these points in mind the next time you get angry at a cashier. They could save you a lot of headaches in the future.

1 comment:

Nandi said...

Sveet! As a fellow customer service person, mad props to ya!

I will say, if you need to make a phone call, it's ok to stay in line if you're the only one in line - but please step off to one side or go outside to have the conversation. It's more than likely it'll take you more than a couple min. to have the conversation.

Also, with kids, second on it's ok for kids to touch stuff, but if they're playing with it in a) a dangerous fashion, b) in a way it'll do damage to the store, other people, etc, please dont make me parent your child.