Back in the nineties, I used to deliver customer service workshops for the tourism, leisure and retail sectors. We focused on making the right impression on the customer, smiling and being welcoming, active listening and clear, positive communication. Complaint Handling formed a major part of the training as, when badly managed, businesses could lose thousands of pounds and repeat business.
Let's face it, as customers ourselves, we've all been there.
A recent anonymous piece in The Guardian about customers being challenging and rude during this pandemic reminded me of something my clients used to say to me.
We know how to treat customers, but they don't know how to treat us properly. You should be training them.
As we struggle with the confusion over lockdown rules, the ongoing fear of a pandemic that might sweep us or our loved ones in its clutches at any moment, I can understand that we can all inclined to be tetchy at times. But, when a young waitress who's doing her best to keep everyone in the establishment safe and provide the best environment possible for a relaxing night out, I think we should remember that she is only human: she has troubles of her own and comes to work to provide a service to you.
She's not paid to take abuse or put downs. No-one working in the service sector should have to dash through the double doors into the kitchen or the toilets for a good cry because you're the last straw when you argue about where to sit or waltz through the pub without wearing the required face covering. It's not HER fault. We are supposed to be in this together but it seems to me that message is being lost in translation.
I've worked in the service sector myself and know how utterly exhausting it is to deal with those few customers who seem determined to treat the staff as if they are mere nobodies: servants that shouldn't have feelings. Ninety-five percent of them are lovely and appreciative, but then it is usually a tiny minority that ruin things for the rest of us. I wonder what they get out of it other than a few minutes of power.
We all want to be professional in our jobs but there are times when the attitude and behaviour of others is just too much to handle.
Next time you're out on the town, restrictions permitting, give a thought to those who are potentially risking their lives so you can have a good time. and treat them at least with some respect.