I’m a people pleaser by nature, and rightly so. I’ve worked in customer service since I was old enough to apply for my first job. Although, somehow, being a people pleaser and working in customer service do not go hand in hand, a lesson that has taken me almost five years and numerous upsetting run-ins with disgruntled customers and clients to comprehend.
With customer service comes disappointment.
This realisation really hit me (quite literally) in December of 2010 when I was working as a ‘Salad Artist’ at the Sumo Salad in my local mall. It had been a busy day serving many shoppers who were clearly at their wits end with the crowds and madness of Christmas shopping.
One of my final customers for the day, a middle aged woman laden with shopping bags, ordered a simple beetroot and pumpkin salad, upon receiving her meal she turned to me and said ‘Does this salad contain pumpkin?’ I said yes, trying not to point out that she had in fact ordered a ‘pumpkin and beetroot salad’, but before I could even finish my sentence the customer screamed ‘I don’t like Pumpkin!’ picked up her salad and threw it in my face.
For a 16 year old Salad Artist, having and open salad thrown at me was obviously a very fairly unexpected turn of events.
This incident, although shocking at the time (now makes an excellent anecdote, there is not customer worse than the hyper-aggressive salad thrower of 2010) it taught me the most important lesson I have ever learned about customer service.
The lesson is that there are two types of customers, those you can help and those you can’t. Writing it now, I feel like this was a lesson I should have learned much earlier, but like I said, I’m a people pleaser.
The very idea of disappointing a colleague, client or customer turns my stomach to knots. So, really, I should probably be thanking the salad thrower for making me realise that I really can’t help everyone, and more than that, I don’t have to.
That’s not to say I don’t help all of my customers as much as possible. That’s the whole point of the job, right? And I definitely get some satisfaction in being able to help someone and then seeing them leave the store or office pleased with the service they’ve received. But the salad thrower taught me that it isn’t my job to be concerned with the attitudes of my customers. My job is to help them better understand the products and services that I provide at my various places of employment and assist them in discovering what works best for them.
The fact is that it is not difficult to interact well with your customer/clients, there are just a few basic rules to follow
- Be honest with your customer/client from the beginning of the relationship.
- Anticipate customer/client needs
- Under promise and over deliver – That gives you room to move and ensures that you are able to meet and exceed expectations.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. It is vital that you talk to your client/customer regularly and that there are no surprises for the client. Report regularly.
From what I’ve learned, these tips are vital to the process of ensuring a favourable and productive relationship with clients/customers. Unfortunately, in the case of the salad thrower these lessons were of little help. But, like I said, not every customer wants to be helped.
Originally posted to Black-Watch, February 25th, 2014