Martin Summerhayes (martinsummerhay) wrote,
Martin Summerhayes
martinsummerhay

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Customer Service or Customer Slave - how do you treat customer service employees?

Service - the roots are from Old English (denoting religious devotion or a form of liturgy), from Old French servise or Latin servitium ‘slavery’, from servus ‘slave’. The early sense of the verb (mid 19th century) was ‘be of service to, provide with a service’

We have been away on a Spring holiday, visiting the Yorkshire dales and the Peak district. During this time, I have been reading a book "Daring Great, by Brene Brown" and catching up on some web posts and favorite publishers, such as Seth Godin who wrote a fantastic article "What is customer Service For".

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/03/what-is-customer-service-for.html

Sometimes, things come together in those moments that you remember for a long time; as the expression goes, "Coincidences mean you're on the right path".

I am referring to Customer Service. Yes. Customer Service is a passion for me; how you interact; engage; treat and serve has been a lifelong focus and set of beliefs. I have always worked in the service industries. My very first paid job was as a Saturday Porter for Pontins Holiday camp. For photos from the 1970s and even before, go to the link below:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/trainsandstuff/3062452032/

I was given £7.50 for either a morning or afternoon shift of 3 hours per shift [well it was 1979].

The morning shift job was the worst. This was to go all over the camp - it had wooden huts scattered all over a large park on a very steep hill - picking up the peoples suitcases, putting them onto a trolley, and taking them to reception for them. It was back breaking work and only occasionally would you get a small tip. Don't forget, these people had spent all week at the camp, were not very rich and were going home, so why tip someone for taking your bags? We then had to go and help the chalet maids who were cleaning the chalets. What we had to do was carry on our backs, the tied up rolls of dirty bed linen to the central laundry for cleaning. And when I mean dirty, I do mean soiled and I leave to your imagination what it was!

As part of the morning shift; you got lunch for free in the staff canteen, which meant a salad, soup and a roll and if it had been raining all morning, a chance to get in the warm and dry off. You did not get any food if you did the afternoon shift.

The afternoon job was better though. None of the laundry duties! Instead you waited at reception and tried to catch the eye of the new guests as they came in. You would offer to carry their bags, hoping that they were booked into one of the chalets close to the top and not at the bottom of the hill. You would then take them down, pointing out places and things they could do, and drop them and their bags at the chalet door. Hopefully, a tip would then follow. A race to the top and back to reception to do it all over again.

There was a senior porter in charge - he was my next door neighbor, which is why I got the job in the first place. His advice was; "You had to be quick, nimble and smart. They give you a plum coloured jacket to wear - wear it". It is the smarter, more polite and helpful lads that got more tips."

And it worked. For three years I worked there. Learning the skills of customer service, how to interact with people and through good service get rewarded - tips, promotion to the pool hall attendant - great as it was inside and no laundry!

Why the story?

As we travelled around the north this week, I was struck by how I was treated in supermarkets, pubs and restaurants. And how in turn I treated people.

As Brene Brown says "Everyone wants to know why customer service has gone to hell in a handbasket. I want to know why customer behaviour has gone to hell on a handbasket."

I can tell you - "Treat people, how you would like to be treated yourself." Show up; be present; don't talk on your mobile phone at the same time as you are at the till; look people in the eye; great them; say "hi" and for goodness sake, treat them as human beings.

As it is Saturday, we will go out shopping and doing the life chores that all of us do. I will continue, as I have always done, of treating customer service people as people and not as slaves. Will you?

I leave you with this quote:

“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Tags: brene brown, customer experience design, customer service, pontins, seth godin
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