Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shooting the Messenger

I am not sure how this subject came to mind at this time, as I have not had a recent occasion that spurred it. However, I have often thought about it in the past, and I am certain it will arise again. Let me narrow the topic even further to dealing with service employees with patience and empathy.

First, I am certain we are all aware that our education system in the States has fallen dramatically over the decades. I know that what my children were required to learn in High School was equivalent to that which I learned in Junior High. Also, when I attended college again, recently I might add, and at a State University, much of the curriculum for college students, was more equivalent to what I had been taught in High School. Second, above and beyond the material and expectations in school being lowered, our children are not being taught how to really think and reason, but rather to memorize. How do you recall something you had to memorize without understanding the basic principles behind a theory or piece of literature?

Now, fast forward to the people who sit behind the phones at customer service desks, behind the cashiers counters, etc. Not only were they most likely deprived of an adequate education to prepare them on how to deal with dilemmas, but overall, employers are spending much less time and effort into training. Often the person you deal with, as a first contact, has absolutely no authority to alter the situation. Not because they don’t want to help, but because they do not have the tools or authority to do so. They may be a very helpful empathetic person, trying to br a productive part of society, while also trying to provide financially for themselves and perhaps a family. Maybe they are a single parent, in a job where they are not allowed to have personal calls or visitors while “on the clock”. She or he may worry about their children’s’ welfare, while working to provide for their needs. Maybe this person simply was not blessed with the abilities to do this job, but has not had the direction or opportunity to serve in one more suited to their abilities. This does not make them less of a person than the CEO of a large corporation, if anything, they may lead a “better” life, one of love, empathy, caring, giving.

I try, no I am not always successful and I ask for forgiveness for those times when I allowed myself to become frustrated or angry, but I try to be calm and start my conversations with “I understand this has nothing to do with you specifically, but I have a problem that needs to be addressed”. Most of the time this opens the person up to wanting to assist you rather than hide behind the counter, or perhaps “spit in your beverage”??? (no, I am not encouraging this action, but well I'm certain it happens, maybe not as often as TV and movies depict it but well, the idea came from somewhere).  Another thought to keep in mind is “What goes around, comes around” J

Also, if you have to go over this person’s head, and ask for a supervisor, make it clear that you know their authority is limited and while they have tried to be helpful, you need to speak with someone with authority. Again, most of the time you will be granted that request much quicker, while sparing the feelings of the first line personnel.

Companies, Businesses…. What happened to “the customer is always right” even though sometimes that is not the case, decades ago, I was taught techniques, within basic training, how to try to calm the customer, to understand their frustration, and have the knowledge to more adequately serve them, rather than spouting off pre written answers that just increase the customers’ frustration and hence their temper. If you want return business, train your staff adequately, and treat them as individuals, people with lives outside of work. AND train anyone in authority that “staff reprimands, if actually deserved” are NOT addressed in public, especially in front of customers.

Okay, I suppose it’s time to step off my pedestal. J Again, I do not mean to preach, as I am as guilty as the next at allowing my emotions to get carried away and directing that frustration at the first person I contact. Deep breaths, forethought, and knowing ahead of time, that in today’s world, problems are rarely solved with one phone call or even two, but they are solved quicker with honey than vinegar. Sorry for all the clich├ęs (but they exist for a reason – they usually get the point across).

Have a blessed day, where the sun shines within your heart J

1 comment:

  1. Hi Julie, I'm so glad to see that you're still hanging in there =)