Can I Help You?
I was reading a story from the Flights From Hell site about the demeanor and attitude of United States customs agents. Obviously, given the name of the site, this was not a story of praise. It got me thinking about my own experiences leaving and returning to the US. I had an incredibly easy time both leaving and entering the country when I was 18 during a trip to Venezuela to visit family. My husband and I also breezed through when returning from a Carnival cruise to the Bahamas; although different from the experience one has in an airport, it is the same basic process. I am familiar with the problems one can have though, as I have family who live out of the country and family with dual citizenship, both who travel back and forth frequently. Some of the stories I’ve heard from them make me wonder what has gone wrong with all of us when it comes to providing people with a service.
Instead of getting a nice greeting when I approach a cash register to check out, I’m more likely to receive total silence, indifference as the cashier carries on a conversation with another employee or a visitor, or a mumbled version of a canned greeting that contains not an ounce of sincerity, either real or fake. I’ve worked many jobs where I had a responsibility to act cheery and polite to each and every person who crossed my path, regardless of whether or not they deserved it. Whether I was waiting tables and had my money depend on that smile, working phones for a landscaper, or selling to wholesalers at a warehouse, I made the customer feel like they were important and valued. No matter how important the job is, employees need to respect the person they are serving and the person they work for by doing their job properly and politely.
Even though we shouldn’t, we generally do expect to get subpar customer service when dealing with fast food establishments or places like Walmart. Our expectations grow high when we sit down at a nice restaurant where steaks run $40 and sides cost extra, or when dealing with other companies who must also work to earn our business. We go into a service call to our cable provider knowing we’re going to be annoyed, but enter a spa or salon knowing we will be treated like royalty. While I do agree that you get what you pay for, there is no reason for any employee to provide poor customer care and not even offer up a smile. You simply should not be in a position where you deal with the public if you can’t turn off your bad attitude and turn on the charm for the duration of your shift.
To touch back on the Flights From Hell story, the attitude of customs agents is more important than they may realize. Tourism brings big money to various parts of our country; hotel stays, restaurant visits, souvenir purchases, attraction tickets, public transportation, and other necessities and luxuries all cost money and can be huge for whatever city or town is on the tourist’s radar. It all starts with the entry into our country though, and the smoother that entry is, the more often someone will be willing to make it. I won’t go into certain grocery stores because of the attitude of the employees, so I’ll be damned if I’m going to spent thousands on a trip overseas only to be greeted by people who treat me like an unwanted insect they wish they could squash under their boot.
By providing poor customer service, businesses and companies are pushing away the most important part of what makes them successful. Without the consumer spending money, the business cannot make money and continue to properly function. People end up losing their jobs, services are cut back, resources are diminished or sometimes eliminated entirely, and the business suffers while pushing their misery onto their remaining customers and risking alienating them as well. There will be a meeting of the minds and a solution will be searched for, but wouldn’t a great first step be ensuring that customer service is always top notch so that a high percentage of first time customers become repeat, and repeat customers become loyal.
If you’re in the customer service field, you have a responsibility to leave the drama at the door and give your best face to your customers. The fight with your wife cannot leech over into your work and cause you to act like a royal ass to the people looking to you for assistance. You will get annoyed by jerks, but you must refrain from taking out your frustrations on them or the people who come after them; vent on your smoke break or start a blog to let off some steam instead. If working front desk at a hotel is the worst possible job you could imagine, FIND ANOTHER JOB rather than let every guest know about your hatred through your bad attitude and poor service.
For the majority of the population, we all serve others and we are all served ourselves in some shape or form. We must stop treating our customers in a careless manner that we would not accept if the roles were reversed. Improvements on both the small scale in retail outlets and on the larger scale concerning customs and travel are not only of equal importance but are equally as simple to fix. It all starts with one person deciding they want to do better. When that display of excellence is out there, the bar is raised and the choice is to either follow suit or get out of the way. Just like one lazy and rude person can bring down an entire group, one positive person can raise that group up. Nothing bad can come of waking up tomorrow and trying to be that person, just give it a shot.