Being a Kinder Customer

Part of Domestic Administrator duties include interacting with all kinds of customer reps, associates, or partners. They have a variety of titles but basically they are those individuals who are the front line face or voice of the company they represent. Sometimes it’s pleasant. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the voice of the company is talking so fast I can’t understand them. Sometimes I am talking so fast, I get misunderstood. It’s a two way street.

Organizations are spending a lot of time and effort training their staff on customer service, scripting, and “leaning in” to the customer. They may create various mantras or beliefs that include some variation that the customer is always right. I’m not really sure of that. I’m not infallible. Am I right just because I have the money or credit to pay for an item?

I have been known to get a little impatient with service reps. I have leveraged my consumer power and asked for the supervisor or the manager and to keep going until I get a satisfactory answer. I hope I am nice most of the time but I know sometimes when I enter an establishment I am not always in the best of moods. When my parents passed away and I was working on the estate, I wasn’t exactly pleasant to creditors.

I’ve never worked at a drive-through window at McDonalds. I’ve never checked anyone out at Target or served a latte at Starbucks. I did manage the cash register at a thrift shop once and gained a quick appreciation for those behind the counter. It was much harder than I imagined and I realized I was better suited to be in the back of the shop sorting clothes or staying with my day job in healthcare dealing with sick, vulnerable patients and supporting health professionals in their role.

I decided several years ago to be a nicer, better consumer. I thought I was pretty nice but then the WIIFM gremlin would creep in occasionally, sit on my shoulder and whisper that I, as a consumer, am always right.  But, maybe I’m not always right. That maybe just getting what I thought I wanted or needed was the right thing. Where do we get the idea that just because we can walk with our wallet that we can beret others into submission?

I’ve witnessed some terrible interactions with customer service reps by customers. Reps are many times not paid much more than minimum wage, many work variable schedules, sometimes don’t receive 40 hours week and may be balancing a family, school and a personal life just like me. We expect them to handle every mood we throw at them including being rude and uncivil because we think we are paying them to do so.

I have found it much calmer to take a moment and encourage their work, compliment their smile, thank them for their efforts and look for something positive then internally criticize the service. If something goes wrong, gently identify the problem and collaborate with the person to correct.

I don’t believe people, in most cases, go to work to do a bad job. Some jobs are worse than others and can be challenging. Just for today:

Reset your expectation that every service interaction has to be fabulous and wonderful.

Remember the person on the other side of the counter is a human being just like yourself.

Choose and practice empathy if you have to work with a customer service rep in some capacity. Put yourself in their shoes.

If they do a good job, let them know with more than just a generic “thank you.”  Just as you may want your boss to give you specific feedback, be specific in your feedback to the rep. “You have a great smile. Thank you for sharing it.”

Just for today, try being a kinder customer.

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