My Five Golden Rules (When It Comes to Customer Service)

If you want to be technical about it, I work in the service industry. The majority of my day is filled with answering the phone, fielding the same 15 questions, discussing contracts with new clients, and filling out paperwork.

(That is, when there’s actually a customer to deal with. Otherwise I’ll be playing the Sims 3.)

When you have a job like mine (i.e.: bank teller, receptionist, office manager, even retail and restaurant workers) you deal with the same mundane crap day in and day out. Our jobs are less than thrilling. And yet, part of our job is to solve your problem in a professional, concise, friendly way.

Most of the people I come into contact with are perfectly polite. Some are even friendly. A few are exceptionally friendly.

However, there are those people I encounter on a daily basis who make me want to shoot myself in the face. Or possibly them. Bang bang now you’re dead.

And so, in an attempt to keep myself from being incarcerated for face shooting, I’ve compiled a list of 5 golden rules that will make your experience with me (and others like me) much more pleasant, as well as effective. (Not to mention, it makes my job easier. And you’ll get to keep your face.)

Golden Rule #1: Be Nice.
No matter what kind of day I’ve had, or what kind of mood I’m in, when you walk into my office, this is what you will see:

I will always greet you with a smile.

How the rest of our meeting will go is solely up to you.

If you are nice to me, offer a kind word, ask how my day has been, you will get better service. I’m much more likely to do you a favor, waive a late fee, or help you out of a sticky situation if you are kind to me.

However, if you choose to be Mrs. Bitchy Pants, you can expect this:

Don’t worry. I’ll still do my job. I’ll take your payment/fill out your lease/answer your questions. But if you’re rude, I’ll be rude back.

Now listen, I know you’ve probably had a bad day. I’m sure that traffic is a nightmare, and you’re hungry, and your middle toe hurts. But here’s the thing: that’s not my problem. If I have to fake that I’m happy to see you every time you walk into the office (even if you smell like old cigarettes and body odor) then the least you can do is pretend to do the same.

It’s social protocol. And also, it’s in the Bible. So be nice.

Golden Rule #2: Don’t Talk Too Much.
I’m all for small talk as much as the next gal. In fact, I’ll often ask about your family/wife/son while I’m processing your payment just to fill in the conversation gaps. (Most of the time I actually care what your answers are.)

However, I do not need your full medical history, life story, or a run down of your family tree in order to do my job.

A little background information is nice. I don’t, however, need to know about your anal polyps.

For some reason, people feel the need to tell me EVERYTHING. Maybe I just have that sort of face. I don’t know. But I could write a volume of books on the stories people tell me.

Anyway, feel free to pepper our brief conversation with a little talk of the weather, or perhaps a brief opinion on the state of the local economy. That’s fantastic. That’s perfect small talk. But when the paperwork is signed and put away, the payment has been processed, and my work is done, I really don’t want to stand in the office and talk about your plumbing problems for a half an hour. I’m sorry for your troubles, but the extent of my expertise has been exhausted. Please seek counsel elsewhere.

Golden Rule #3: Cell Phones Are the Devil.
Other than my husband and a few select people, my Droid 2 is my best friend. It is with me ALL the time, I’m constantly picking it up and checking Facebook or Twitter, playing Angry Birds and Words with Friends, or perusing the internet when I’m too lazy to get up and walk over to the computer.

However, I will NEVER talk on my cell phone when you are in my office. It is rude, inconsiderate, and incredibly irritating.

If you’re in the middle of a conversation, there’s no need to end it. It will take you 2.4 seconds to drop your payment and head for the door. Just ask your buddy to hang on for a second, hand me your check with a polite hello, wait a moment for your receipt, and then pick up right where you left off as you leave.

It’s not rocket science people. The person taking care of business for you just wants to be acknowledged. And they (generally) aren’t interested in hearing you discuss the results of your recent blood tests with your pal Bob on your cell. So don’t be rude, Willis. Turn off that cell phone.

Golden Rule #4: Listen.
Sounds simple, right? You’d be amazed how many people don’t use this elementary skill. I don’t mind answering your question the first time. In fact, I live for it. I don’t even mind repeating myself once or twice, for clarification. I realize I’m giving you a lot of information to digest at once, so let me make sure we understand each other.

However, when I find myself repeating the same basic information 4 or 5 or 10 times over, I begin to get extremely frustrated. Which means you’re edging closer to the “Face Shooting Victim” line.

I typically find that I repeat myself most often with people who: 1) are rifling through their purse, 2) messing with their cell phone, 3) seem to be in a big hurry.

Then there are the occasional “I’m High On More Than Life” people who are so jumped up on their drug of choice, it’s impossible to make them understand anything unless you are willing to talk to them in a Fraggle Rock voice (with supplemental puppet show.)

Just take a quick trip down memory lane, remember what it was like to be in the first grade, and put on your big boy listening ears. It will take us less time to get through the process if I don’t have to tell you when your rent is due eleventy hundred times.

Golden Rule #5: Respect Personal Boundaries.
This particular rule has a myriad of facets. I’m going out on a limb and hoping that those who need this rule will be able to use their best judgement.

For me, it usually presents itself in the means of unusual, prying personal questions.

“Do you live here?”
“How much do you make?”
“What color underwear are you wearing?” (ok that’s a stretch.)

Here’s the thing: If you wouldn’t ask your best friend that question, don’t ask me. We just met. Most likely, the answer is nunya bidness.

Let’s keep things general, folks. You don’t need to know about my personal business unless it’s relevant to the current conversation. (IE: you smell the cake I’m baking and ask, “Hey, lady, what’s that awesome smell coming from your apartment?” In which case I’m happy to answer, “That’s my brother’s birthday cake that you smell, and yes, it will be amazingly fantastic.”)

In that same vein, a word to the wise: CLOSED typically means CLOSED. If you get here 10 minutes after 5, and the CLOSED sign is hanging on my door, that means your problem is no longer my problem (until 9:00 tomorrow morning.) Banging on my door until your fist is bloody isn’t going to change that. So just suck it up, realize you were late, and come back tomorrow.

Before 5.

Because that boundary isn’t going to change anytime soon.

Truly, readers, 98.9% of the time, my encounter with a new customer is going to be brief, helpful, and pleasant. But it never hurts to spread a little knowledge around. I don’t think most people who have never worked in the service industry realize how *annoying* customer service can be. So, if my little list of Golden Rules can help, I’m happy to spread the word.

OH—and don’t forget to tip your waitress. (At least 15%, ya cheapskates.)

**On advice from my father-in-law, I’m editing this post to say, officially, that I would never shoot anyone in the face. In fact, I don’t even own a firearm. So shooting someone would be physically impossible. Unless I was to shoot them with pretend lasers from my eyes. So don’t sue me.**

3 thoughts on “My Five Golden Rules (When It Comes to Customer Service)

  1. Stephanie

    Good tips! The cell phone thing drives me CRAZY. I hate being in line at the grocery store and hearing the person in front of me yap, yap, yap while she pays the cashier without even so much as a hello. So unbelievably rude!

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