Back when my wife and I were dating she would tell me about an ex-boyfriend of hers. At one point in his career he was an inspector for the NYC Department of Health (NYDOH). Part of his responsibility was to visit eateries throughout the city and inspect them according to the guidelines of the time. They were random inspections; he would walk in unannounced and in plain clothes. Only until he produced his ID did you know who he was and what he had come to do.
He enjoyed his job very much. My wife, however, felt differently about it. The problem was that they couldn’t go anywhere to eat without him discussing what issues the place encountered.
“This place has an issue with (insert yuckiness here).”
“This place failed/almost failed their health inspection (insert date here).”
It got to the point where they couldn’t order take out food. This, amongst other reasons, is why they’re no longer together. Thank you, NYDOH!
In certain respects I can sympathize with the ex-boyfriend. As someone who’s worked in the service industry all my career I constantly find myself assessing my surroundings for issues and opportunities. Many times on my day off I’ll be at a store and find myself reviewing the staff’s performance. I can’t help it. I’m genuinely interested in seeing how people act, especially when they don’t know who I am. Unlike the ex-, however, I don’t talk about it constantly to my wife. I’m not stupid!
Using This Philosophy in the Job Market Today
Several weeks ago I was in Boston spearheading a recruitment event. Part of how my colleagues and I were recruiting talent is by going to different eateries at various times and assessing employees at work. It is sometimes referred to as rogue or guerrilla recruiting. If they displayed behaviors that we believed would be an asset to us we would approach them and briefly discuss the recruitment opportunities we were offering.
Employee Motivation on the Job
One day on my break I went to the local food court and ordered lunch. The person behind the counter didn’t smile. He/she performed the bare minimum when it came to preparing and delivering my food to me. So when it did come guess what I did? I gave the person a heartfelt thanks. Why did I do that, considering the behavior that was shown toward me? Because it was honest! On display at that moment was the person’s true self. She had no motivation, enthusiasm, or passion for the job. Had the person been at an interview they would have perhaps put forth their best effort to please the hiring manager. In that moment I knew that this person wasn’t a good fit.
When you’re a customer facing employee it’s critical to understand that everything you do is on display. Unfairly or not, your words, expressions, and actions (or lack thereof) are being observed and evaluated constantly. In a very real sense you’re like an actor on stage. Knowing this, always be prepared to put on a good show for the audience!
Here are some ways in which to do that:
- Know yourself. Dealing with the public isn’t easy. Be honest about if and how you can perform this kind of work, day in and day out. Are you a morning person? Perhaps you should position yourself to work earlier in the day. Are you a beast without coffee? Then make sure you have your tall dark roast with an espresso shot prior to the start of your day. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses will go a long way toward being effective at working well with customers.
- Accept the reality that is customer service. Linked together with the first bullet point is that the customer service industry is unique and not for everyone. At its core is the concept that the customer comes first. And there are numerous ways in which people are assessing the ways in which you do this. Direct feedback, surveys, customer service hotlines and emails, online forums such as Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare, and others–satisfying customer expectations consistently and over time is demanding.
- Find and maintain a private space. Very few people can exist indefinitely in the eye of the public. It’s important to have a way to come “offstage” and not have to perform. This gives a person a chance to “recharge” and be able to deliver consistent, high quality service.
- Build and maintain healthy relationships. Regardless of your profession it’s important to take care of yourself. Make connections with those that will help you be better at what you do. A mentor, someone whom you can reach out to for advice and support, is invaluable. Having a healthy support system will enable a person to grow, develop, and maintain themselves properly.
Quality Customer Service & Passion are Important Job Seeker Qualities
It’s not merely enough to be able to perform a transaction. Providing great customer service is about providing an experience. Doing this requires a bit of showmanship that may not be for everyone. Know your strengths and weaknesses, respect the game, take care of yourself, and you can be a star!