Lately, a common theme resonating with me has been all about customer service. For example, my brother, Stan, complained about the lack of store cashiers and the long line at the self-checkout lanes. He also told me about a recent news report that said shoplifting was at an all-time high. Apparently, not everything gets rung up when you're the cashier, hence the long lines at the self-checkout lanes.
I understand that it can be challenging to deal with the public. I worked in restaurants, offices, and schools. (No, I wasn't fired a lot; I just get bored easily.) I've learned to be patient when someone is upset, frustrated, and angry when they feel their concerns are being ignored. I give them an uninterrupted moment to vent. Then, I do my best to find a solution when I've gotten all the details. I assure the customer that they matter and will help resolve their issue. Most of the time, there's an immediate sense of relief, and the once irate person now feels heard. They almost always apologize for their outburst, but I let them know I understand and am happy to help. Currently, machines can't do that, which is contributing to the growing number of customer service complaints. How many times do you want to yell "Representative" into the phone?
We can't allow ourselves to become disconnected from each other. Yes, it's hard to be yelled at when someone is mad that their meal wasn't cooked the way they wanted or to explain to a parent why their child was given a time-out, but a little kindness goes a long way. Unfortunately, I've seen a waiter simply walk away without any sense that he would rectify the situation for a customer or a teacher dismiss a parent's concern because they didn't want to take a chance of the problem escalating. These situations are missed opportunities to learn and grow our empathy. We've all had bad days where nothing seems to work, and everything begins to feel like quicksand. Having just one person show a little bit of understanding can change our perception for the better in a flash.
I remember one night when I was bartending at my restaurant, and a customer complained to me about the cost of his beer. He said, "I can buy a six-pack for what you're charging me for one bottle." I smiled and said, "Well, you're free to leave to buy your six-pack and drink it at home, or you can stay here and listen to a great band with your friends. I will tell you, though, if you want me to come to your home, serve you the beer, and laugh at all your jokes, it will cost you a whole lot more." He laughed, paid for the beer, and gave me a big tip. It would've been a different story if I had argued with him and lost my temper. Nobody wins.
I don't believe we can replace human interaction with machines. We need to work and help each other, and companies should recognize the importance of serving their customers in a timely, friendly manner. Otherwise, they're leaving us to our own devices, and some items may go unaccounted for.