As you probably know I spent 13 years in retail, 11 of those at a feed store and most days behind a sales counter. I was the face of the feed store and customer service was my main objective. There is an art to good customer service and it, like so many arts, is being lost. Now, I’m not tooting my own horn (well, maybe just a little) but I was REALLY good at this particular art. I can’t sing, draw or play the piano but I can give dang good customer service!
Customer service is being able to answer a phone call from a real human while checking out a real human (as in taking their money for a product, not a physical assessment) and not making either human feel ignored. It is being able to listen to a long-winded tale about a lost dog while 5 folks are in line and being able to move that person aside, check out the people in line and not make anyone feel awkward. It is knowing when to listen and when to shut-up. It is giving a hug when a lady comes in for fertilizer and doesn’t know what to buy because her husband always bought it and he passed away last year. And then helping her find what she needs. Its squeezing the hand of a man whose lost his wife to cancer and can’t remember what she fed the dog. And then helping him remember.
It is also about being able to listen to the same, lame joke over and over again with a smile on your face. “I want some of that BUCK corn, don’t sell me no plain deer corn” Hardy-har-har! Yes. Multiple men tell this joke each year and they all think they are the first one ever to come up with it. I didn’t always laugh, but I proffered up a grin at the very least.
I guess that is why I’m a bit shocked when I go into a store and observe the sales/customer interactions. I had to go buy an extension cord yesterday. I was in a line of 8 people. It wasn’t moving. After several employees passed by, stared at us then kept walking another register finally opened up. Ahead of me was a man toting a 50 pound sack of chicken feed, a 3 gallon metal chicken waterer and a bucket. He held all this the entire time. He swiped his card. Three times. It didn’t work, he told the clerk “here, its telling me to give this to you” with a grin on his face. She took it, swiped it and handed it back with a glum expression. “I guess you just have to hold your mouth right or stand on one leg” the man said jokingly. “No, you just have to know how to operate the machine” completely expressionless. I almost fainted.
I want to scream and shake her, “NO! That is not what you say! You say ‘yes, this machine has issues’ and smile at the man whose stood in line a good 5 minutes holding at least 60 pounds of products and is giving the store you work for money which in turn pays you at the end of each week! I realize you may hate your job, you may be having a bad day but you are alive, have a job and are healthy. ACT happy!”
Two years ago this June I was getting ready for work and I heard Belle, my Golden Retriever I’d had for 11 years, yelp. My step-son had backed over her, crippling her back-end. My husband rushed her to the vet, an hour later I got a call. “It’s time” was all he said. I drove to the vets office, took my love’s head in my lap and stroked her sweet face, white with age, while he gave her the shot. I held her body while it trembled as the last light of life left her. And I wept, silently writhing in unspeakable pain. And then I went back to work and smiled thru the tears.
Bad days happen, be nice anyway.
And I did not begin this post intent on telling that story..
Lord help me. I need happy pill.