Friday, December 12, 2014

Service with a Smile

"How may I help you?"

For the first time ever I am avoiding holiday shopping in the stores or at least plotting how to get in and out with the least hassle. I've taken stories of traffic jams at the mall and no place to park to heart. The pragmatic side thinks, yes, this is a very good thing for the economy. The other side is loving no shipping fees at Target and J Crew.

I'm also aware and have been the victim of rude, uninterested salespersons who couldn't seem to care less all I've gone through to get there. This is a double-edged sword as I am also in the service industry myself, and retail is my bag. I know that whatever the service it needs to be delivered with a smile, eye contact, some positive chit-chat and a meaningful closure (not just a "have a nice day").

I carry out my duties sincerely and enthusiastically. A ham at heart,  I love the fact that all the world's a stage. The more my efforts to serve you are appreciated, the better I perform— the more balls I will throw in the air, the more cherries added to the sundae.

The other day at the Lovely Boutique Where I Work a customer remarked, "You've been here a long time, haven't you?". "Since you were in elementary school," I replied.

Not true of course. I might have been in college when she was in elementary school. The fact that she acknowledged I was even there endeared me to her as no other. Suddenly she was a friend. I gave her even more of my utmost attention. Although my shift ended, I ran about gathering camisoles and cardigans for her.

I know you've had a hard day. I know you blame me when the button is missing or your size is gone. I would blame me too. I know you've waited in line way too long for your sale t-shirt. I know you are second-guessing yourself on that holiday gift before it's even been rung up. But do you really have to check your emails while you're checking out? Or talk on the phone so our only contact is gestures and nods? Some interruptions are unavoidable, I know. But it's nice to know that you know that I notice.

There is a lot we service folk can and should do to make your experience outstanding and not merely tolerable. We are never off the hook on that. My suggestion is that this is really a dance that takes two to tango.

A little kindness to your local shop girl goes a long way. To riff on Sally Field, "You seem to like me, you really seem to like me". We will jump through hoops for that.


  1. I'm exactly on your wavelength and sitting right with you in your corner. Our very rural destination restaurant is going through our annual holiday slump (everyone deserts us to shop in the towns ... naturally, I admit ... but it's hard to fight feeling pitiful this time of year.) Those of us who make sure folks have a lovely time when dining out sit a rung lower than retail professionals, or so it seems, and yes ... we'll do a lot to make our guests happy, just for the genuine smile, sometimes.
    My hope is that people remember to remain civil to me while I'm trying to give them a good time, and like you, I'd prefer being treated like a human being rather than an automaton. I'd ask folks to please look up from their phones when I need to find out information that will make their meal better.
    Nice that folks want to know my name, but not so nice when it's used to shout at me across the restaurant, calling me in the same voice they use to call their dog.
    And I'd ask that they tell me if there's even a little problem ... I really want to make it all as perfect as I can get it. Much better than frowns at the register, when it's way too late to make a positive change in their experience.
    Just like you note, we will jump through hoops to help, but we're not a modern version of public slaves.
    Especially this time of year.
    Thanks, Michelle, for letting me vent a bit, too.

  2. Honored to be your venting place and hang in there, as will I. Happy holidays!