Thursday, November 6, 2008

Man Not Machine

Yesterday while running errands, I jetted into the drive-thru of my favorite fast food joint for a drink. The upbeat voice in the order box said, "My name is Nicky, can I take your order?" I did what I always do before yelping my order into the box, I said, "Hi, how are you?" After an uncertain pause, the box replied, "I'm well, thanks, and how are you?!" I answered and gave my short order.

At the pick-up window, a young sparkly girl wearing a headset came up next to the one handing me my drink and excitedly said, "Hey, I want you to know you're my all time favorite customer! I just told my manager that you actually said hello to me and asked how I was!! No one has ever done that. Ever. I come in here everyday trying to be nice to people but no one has ever done that for me. Thanks. You made my day!" Wow.

Next, I headed to Target. The register lines were a tad long giving me time to look around. I saw Target Team Members all say hello to the people in line. Some briefly responded; some on their cell phones didn't even hear. Others were engaged in conversation with the person with them. Not one customer engaged in conversation during the check-out process. A few said a hurried, "Thanks," as they snatched their bags. When it was my turn, I did my usual eye dart to the badge for a name. When Team Member Paula said hello, I responded, "Hi Paula, how are you today?" Again after a brief pause, she beamed, "I'm good, thanks. How are you? Did you find everything okay?" We chatted and I left thanking her for her help.

So, why this entry; this sort of stuff goes on countless times a day. Yes, it does. I'm calling attention to the uncertain, brief pauses that happened in both of those exchanges because that's the important bit. Those pauses are an uncertain brain attempting to process a new experience. Attempting to process the experience of being acknowledged! The one who takes an order or helps in a check-out line is a Human Being, not an extension of the cash register! In our haste, our self-absorbed methods of getting through our day, we forget.

The pause is the sad state of affairs in customer service. We treat them with no regard and transparency, and eventually, even the most bright-eyed of retail workers begins to act like the air has been let out of their balloon. They act in that flat, dis-interested way that most of us customers find infuriating. It's a shame on both sides of the cash register.

If you don't consciously remember, with each encounter, that you're dealing with a Human Being and not a machine, start today. We've all had retail jobs, or suffer with one currently. Most of us can relate to the lack of regard we endure in those positions; it doesn't feel good at all. So, don't pass it on. Try an experiment next time you're in a store- Deliberately look for a name badge and use the person's name when they wait on you. If that's not possible, take a sec to look them in the eye saying, "Thank you very much for your help today!" See if it doesn't change the look on their face. I know it will make you feel better. It simply will.

One of my favorite Dave Barry quotes is, "A person who is nice to you but mean to the waiter is not a nice person." We think of being mean as specific rude behavior, but ignoring a person is a form of meanness that is endured much more frequently. So, are you a nice person? Would a sales associate be able to say so conclusively based on your encounter with them?

Oh, here's another thing: Please, let's stop acting as if the tele-marketer is a roach that crawled through our phones and into our houses. I know they're annoying. But, it's the concept/company that's annoying; they are not annoying-they're people doing a job. Based on how most of us react when called, do you honestly think that any person who had a choice of another job would deliberately be a tele-marketer?? Not unless they're insane! So, please, be kind in your dismissal and refusal of their product. They're Human Beings trying to get through their day earning a very small wage, enduring lots of negative energy. You can be the one note of kindness they may get in a shift.

It's simple enough, costs you nothing, and is the very least we can do. And, ask Fast Food Nicky, it can mean more than you may ever know.

Namaste' Till Next Time,


jkc said...

You ave given me something to think about always. I think I am nice to retail/service people, and I am...but not as nice as I could be. I vow to try to do better.

melissa said...

I like this- while I don't often use names, I always try to let people know that the effort is appreciated. Some of my friends and I particularly enjoy kindnesses with food service employees- the crap they deal with is ridiculous- we avoid impatience and always let them know that we've been there, we understand. Sometimes, I take it one step further. I take a minute to seek out a manager of the establishment I'm in (most recently, it was a Target) and point out the exceptional service I received from a particular team member. It's great to see genuine smiles break out in place of the imitation, customer service kind. I have a great deal of respect for people who do all of these things- trivial as we assume their jobs to be, how would we get by without them?
Nice point, Holly. :) I'm with you.

LionKing said...

As always, the Queen of the Universe dispenses wisdom about everyday things that go right by the rest of us...thanks for reminding us of what we can be, and how we can improve the day of others just by doing so.


Chris Ruebel-Lantz said...

Just got back from Wally World. Had a very interesting conversation with the cashier. I began by saying hi, how are you? she replied with fine thank you, how are you. I replied with "great,thank you for asking". Then as if none of that had been said, she looks at me and says HI welcome to Wal-Mart How are you today...... No Point here, Just found it funny.

Anonymous said...

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Good for you.

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