I work as a sales and office supply associate in a busy office supply store, whose familiar advertising slogan, up until very recently, was, “We Make It Easy.” Our goal, at point of sale (at the registers, the last point to impact their perception of their overall experience and the customer service they received) is to provide the customer a personal, pleasant, comprehensive and speedy checkout experience. Customers desire and expect this.
As a whole, people don’t find waiting in line to be appealing, and when their time is limited, they find it downright frustrating, even aggravating. “Why isn’t there another person opening up?” I’ve experienced a relatively small number who resort to being impolite, and, fewer who are verbally rude by all estimation. Of course, there are more people who face such temporary delays with calm, patient understanding, leaving those who don’t to stick out like a sore thumb. When the store experienced a week-long period of fluctuating internet service, then intermittent loss of service for the greater part of two consecutive afternoons, right during peak business hours, there was high anxiety among staff about how customers would react to the inevitable longer lines due to slower processing. The consensus was that it would be “a nightmare”. I thought about what could happen differently, though. I decided to think & speak with an positive attitude, and I set about briefly letting people know why there was a delay, that we were working hard on fixing it for them, and that we apologized for any inconvenience. Additionally, I decided to engage, humor and, as needed (for those who became a bit impatient or even grouchy), distract, the waiting customers from the slower pace. I chatted with a couple of groups of 4-5 customers, observing that it was “kind of like the ‘old days’, when we had few or no automated equipment to expedite purchases, and without all of our current electronics, the pace of life was slower in general, and we had time to say hello and even talk to those around us.
Nowadays, this happens less and less, because we are in a hurry and on our phones, thinking about work, etc., preoccupied and even stressed. Then, I stopped talking. As I rang customers out, albeit, still slowly, I watched and listened. Then
something wonderful, and a bit unusual happened . . . Complete strangers picked up the conversation begun with those ahead of them, and were, instead of impatient or unpleasant, cheerful, chatty, asking about each other’s days, commenting on each others’ purchases, of kids’ school project supplies, and chuckling while bemoaning the upcoming challenge of getting said project done after a last minute rush for poster board and markers. One customer even said to me, “Thank you for all your help! I hope the day gets better for you all here!” “Better for us?”, I thought. Here she was waiting in line for nearly 10 minutes, and she wished US a better day? Now that, I thought, was AWESOME.
So, go out on a limb and be positive in the face of a tough or negative situation; do it in front of people who might have reason not to be positive at the time…and see what happens. You—and they—might well be very pleasantly surprised, and all walk away smiling, eager to pass that smile to others!
The Author: Kathy Clark
“Live to Give” typifies her heart’s truest desire. She maintains her physical and mental health, youthful energy and sanity through daily fitness training (including Kenpo Karate, cross-training, running, snowshoeing and woods-walks with friends, and will compete in her second Tough Mudder this year). She loves her kids, siblings and friends. Clark is a 54 year-old (single) mom of two teenagers. She is an RN who is happiest helping others in every way possible; her mantra, “Love with her whole heart.”
Her hope is to continue to Do Good through reaching out to others through ThinkGood, sharing with all of you her energy and appreciation for the (sometimes hidden-suddenly revealed) moments of beauty in life.