Who Provides Customer Service ?

Who provides customer service?

Flickr Credit to: verticalpharmacy

My definition of customer service: if you’re interacting with other humans in any significant way, you’re providing customer service. If the way you treat your customers or guests influences their decision to come back or not, you’re providing customer service.
Even though I have experience in retail, I’m not one to say that the customer is always right, or without fault. BUT I’m well aware of the fact that many employees can be (and are) very rude, disrespectful or disinterested in your problems – no matter how sincere you may be. Recently I’ve had at least two experiences where the employees felt that because it wasn’t in their job description, providing compassionate and patient customer service wasn’t necessary. A woman told me it wasn’t in her job description to do a [simple] task, and another man criticized me over the phone while his manager co-signed his statements, saying that because they’re not customer service, the standards are different.

Perhaps they long to be mere flies on the wall, who just answer the phone or are only polite to people who don’t give them a hard time. Or more specifically, if your job security isn’t depended on how nice you are to someone, you’re more likely to take liberties with patrons. Additionally, if the management is more lax about your behavior toward guests, then you’re more likely to have an attitude problem. Or finally, you have people who really don’t care and feel justified in how they treat you. Or a combination of all three.

Part of the reason this really grinds my gears is because at its core, customer service is essentially an act of service; providing for another in a way that they can’t provide for themselves. In this way, we’re of service to one another via blogging, books, films, Twitter/Facebook, in the streets, working in businesses both big and small. The list goes on.

Did you hold the door open for someone today? Did you pay a friend a compliment or give them a hug? Were you polite and patient to the hurried barista as the line led out the door? Did you think twice before snapping at someone who irritated you today?

To be of service is to acknowledge another person.  For example: I often take the bus to get where I need to go, and will often say, “Thank you” to the bus driver on the way out. This created a chain of events in which everyone said “thank you”. He got us to where we needed to be safely and efficiently. To empower someone is to acknowledge them. To acknowledge someone is to empower them. 

When you criticize someone unnecessarily, or feel the need to put them down, or be cruel to another person – you’re dis-empowering them.

Customer service, at its core, is about giving another person the tools they need to go about the world. Sometimes that means being nice to someone, sometimes it means listening. At its core, it’s about helping people realize that there’s good in the world, that people care, and that they’re not alone.

This is why good customer service is so important!

 

 

 

“Think Positive” is Not Good Advice

“We can as easily become a prisoner of so-called positive thinking as of negative thinking. It too can be confining, fragmented, inaccurate, illusory, self-serving, and wrong. Another element altogether is required to induce transformation in our lives and take us beyond the limits of thought.”

- Whereever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Flickr Credit to: hellojenuine

I have a love/get the hell away from me relationship with advice. On any given day, I’ll call up my phone tree, asking various friends for their specific insight. Sometimes the advice is helpful, other times… not so much. Poor advice is normally dished out because:

  • The person has no experience with what you’re going through but feels compelled to say something
  • Someone thinks they understand what you’re going through and tries to relate
  • People tell you what they’d want to hear if they were in your situation

Honestly, I very rarely receive good advice. This is because good advice is partly about tactical information (what practical steps can you take to fix your situation), and partly about giving advice that broadens recipient’s perspective and understanding of what’s going on. Advice is another type of insight, but not everyone’s “insight” is particularly helpful or enlightening. This is basically why I hate “positive thinking” advice.

“Positive thinking” advice is fluffy and doesn’t provide the recipient with any methods on how to make their situation better. Additionally, many people who dish out this type of advice come off as being poor listeners and unsympathetic to what their friend is going through:

  • “To never focus on what’s bothering you, look forward to the outcome.”
  • “It could be worse, just stay positive.”
  • “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
  • “Life is what you make it.”

I understand the rationale behind “positive thinking” advice. The person thinks they’re behaving in an open-minded, compassionate and sensitive manner. More often than not, this isn’t the case. The problem is that it falls into all three categories of bad advice giving:

  • The advice given is very general with assumption that it can be applied to all situations for all persons.
  • People rarely know what to say sometimes, so “positive thinking” advice fills that void. It’s self-serving, because the advice giver can feel a bit better about themselves having offered their “support”.
  • Despite what the recipient is going through, the advice giver feels that their advice is something that all people need to hear because THEY tell it to themselves frequently.

Giving bad advice, particularly in the vein of constant “positive thinking” advice, can definitely leave a sour taste in one’s mouth. It can make someone reluctant to speak with you, or ask for your opinion, because it constantly comes across as you never listening. It’s also impressively disempowering when you’re pouring your problems out to a friend, and they dish you a piece of advice that makes it seem like you’re irrational for being upset or your frustrations are unfounded or unwarranted.

If you can’t give good advice, don’t give any advice at all. Trust me, the world won’t end if you admit to not knowing what to say.