Two recent customer service experiences stood out for opposite reasons. One was good while the other was poor. They both reminded me that we put a bit of ourselves into every service interaction.
Let's start with...
The Bad One
Take a look at the picture below. The car on the left is parked well over the line. The car on the right is mine. I can't get in because the car on the left is too close to my door.
Several customers expressed empathy. They'd been there too and knew how it felt. Unfortunately, none of them owned the vehicle.
I went back out to the car. There were other stores around, so perhaps someone was running a quick errand and would be right back out. No luck.
But, I did spot a few clues. There was a lot of paraphernalia in the other car that indicated this person worked in the coffee shop.
I went back in and asked a barista if one of the employees owned the vehicle. She asked around. Yes, one of the employees did.
We walked out to the parking lot so she could move her car. When we got to the car she said, "Sorry, I was in a hurry." It was an insincere apology and an excuse wrapped into one.
Could this person really go back to work and deliver outstanding customer service? It's hard to imagine someone so inconsiderate would suddenly become gracious, attentive, and helpful when she punched the clock.
The Good One
Here's a confession. Every Fall, I spend a lot of Saturdays in a bar.
My wife, Sally, graduated from Texas A&M. She helps organize a weekly college football watch party for Texas A&M alumni (called former students) in San Diego. It's a great way to meet new people, reconnect with old friends, and have some fun while watching the game.
Our watch parties are held at McCarter's Bar & Grill. We've had the same server for every game this year, Savannah. She gets a lot of help from her co-workers, but she's the primary person who looks after our group.
It's hard work. Savannah is a whirlwind of activity taking drink orders, food orders, refilling water glasses, clearing dishes, etc. She's always smiling and never loses her cool.
I still can't figure out how she keeps track of everyone's tab when we're all grouped together and constantly mingling.
Someone in the club bought Savannah a Texas A&M t-shirt. She wears it on game days to show her support. It makes her look like she's part of the team since many of us are wearing the same shirt.
The games typically last four hours, so we've gotten to know Savannah a little. The genuine, friendly person who takes care of our group is who Savannah really is. She's authentic.
And, I must add, McCarter's is lucky. Savannah happily does the work of three people.
Who Are You?
A lot of customer service is fake.
Interactions are scripted. The are rules that govern the types of emotions we express, even when we aren't really feeling them. We're expected to fight our natural instincts and graciously serve that offensive, unreasonable customer because they are a customer.
Behind that facade is something real. We put a bit of ourselves into every encounter. Hopefully, we're like Savannah. Or, we can earnestly aspire to be that type of person.
There's probably a reason I don't know or don't remember the name of the barista who blocked my car door. Definitely don't be like her.
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About Jeff Toister
Jeff is the author of "Service Failure: The Real Reasons Employees Struggle with Customer Service and What You Can Do About It."
He is also a nationally recognized employee training expert and a sought after speaker with more than 20 years of experience.