Customer’s Have Role In Customer Service Too!

Column: Something About Nothing, by Julie Seedorf

“The golden rule for every business man is this: ‘Put yourself in your customer’s place.’” — Orison Swett Marden

I have written about customer service and how important it is in a business. Recently I have pondered what it means to be a customer. Maybe we need to change the Golden Rule and put ourselves in the checkout clerk’s place.

A few weeks ago I was shopping in a fabric store with my daughter-in-law. It was around 8 p.m. As I walked up to the checkout I had to wait for a customer and the clerk to finish a transaction. It didn’t take long, but when it was my turn the clerk apologized to me for the wait. I replied that it was no problem. The conversation continued, and I remarked that she was probably tired at this time of night after working a long day. She replied that she had started work about 4 p.m. so it wasn’t so bad. My next comment was: “That’s good. I don’t hear that too often at this time of night. Usually checkout people have worked long days and aren’t quite so cheery.”

I don’t know what there was about that sentence that meant anything, but the next minute the woman was saying to me, “I could just hug you. You have no idea how much what you just said means to me. Thank you.”

I, not knowing exactly what meant so much to her, replied, “I’ll give you a hug if you want.”

The clerk reached across the counter and gave me a big hug and with tears in her eyes thanked me again. We finished our transaction, and I left the store. I must admit I have never had a reaction like that before making a purchase, but I felt good leaving the store. She had a smile on her face, and so did I.

I have concluded customer service goes two ways. Yes, companies need to give good customer service to keep their customers, but what do we as consumers have as our responsibility? Is it our responsibility to be rude to a service person, even if at times they are rude to us? Maybe they have a reason to be rude to us. We have no idea how many rude people they have had to contend with before we met them.

If I think about the number of people many customer service reps and clerks come in contact with during a day, I might understand their attitude when at times they do not seem very friendly. We, as customers, have a tendency to want our way and to want it right now. When something isn’t as we think it should be we complain loudly and not always graciously. Meeting this woman gave me pause to think about my interactions with clerks, customer service people and even telemarketers. Yes, there have been times where my impatience with a service has resulted in my treating the person trying to help me rudely.

In fact, it almost happened the other night. I was on the phone with a service technician who did not understand my problem. He tried taking me through all of these tests. I explained that the tests he was taking me through would not find the problem because it wasn’t relevant to the problem. He told me it didn’t matter because the company made them go through all these steps before they could report a problem, even if they knew it wasn’t the problem.

It didn’t make sense to me, but it was taking up my time and lots of it. I realized that he was a cog in a wheel trying to do his job that was strangled by the red tape he had to go through because of a large company policy that didn’t give their workers the freedom to make common sense decisions. It wasn’t his fault, and he wanted to keep his job.

Yes, I have hung up on telemarketers. After my experience with this woman I have tried to think twice about doing that. Again, they are trying to make a living like you and I try to make a living. Those jobs might make the difference between a person having employment or being on the streets.

Maybe a telemarketer job is the only job the person on the other end of the line could find. After all, who would want to be abused on the phone time after time the way the general public treats telemarketers? They are the scapegoat for a business that most people dislike because telemarketing intrudes in our lives on a device that we pay for and should have more say in the calls we receive.

Our world of technology has us moving so fast that we forget about the human factor of wear and tear on the human when we actually have a warm body that interacts with the public.

Yes, I want good customer service. We have become frustrated consumers because businesses and corporations, and even our medical facilities have become large businesses that become difficult to navigate because they are too large. We take our frustrations out on the people at the bottom level of those corporations, folks who work the checkouts, customer service lines and are the first contact with a customer. These service people receive the brunt of our frustration, and they, most of the time, are powerless, bound by rules of companies that give them no decision-making power in how the structure is set up.

The next time you are in a checkout line or on the phone with a customer service rep, be as focused on the kind of customer you are as you are on the service you are getting.

Thank you to the person who gave me a hug and made me smile. You thought I was helping you, but hopefully you helped me to be a better customer no matter where I shop. You made a difference in my life.

Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at thecolumn@bevcomm.net. Her Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/sprinklednotes.

When Children Speak, We May Want To Listen

Family Funecha

Family Funecha (Photo credit: RG&B)

Column: Something about Nothing, by Julie Seedorf -Column from Albert Lea Tribune and The Courier Sentinel week of  October7, 2013

The phrase, “out of the mouths of babes,” was resonating in my mind one recent evening as I was kid sitting with my grandkids. It means a young and inexperienced person can be remarkably wise. I decided that maybe we, as adults, need to listen to those babes.

Along with that I found that my grandchildren had some wise and remarkable people in their lives that are shaping their young inexperience into helping them become wise and caring individuals.

I know their parents work with them on being compassionate, kind, polite and accepting people but many of their waking hours are spent in day care, at school and yes, even on the bus. They come in contact with other adults that help to shape their lives.

My daughter in a sermon recently said “My mother taught me not to hate or to ever use the word hate.” I didn’t remember that but I think I can honestly say that I do not hate anyone. I may not like everyone or agree with everyone but hate to me is a very strong word that I do not want to have any power or place in my life. I hope I help shape positivity in my grandchildren’s lives.

That leads me back to the conversation with my grandchildren. My granddaughter asked me what year I was born, what year my mother was born and asked what color skin my mother and dad and grandparents had.

I wasn’t sure where this question was coming from so I had to ask. My granddaughter told me they were studying diversity in their class. She also told me that they were studying the history of the times when my grandparents and parents lived in the United States.

It made her sad to hear about the problems we have had with diversity in our country. We talked about hate and her feelings. My granddaughter sees the differences but they do not matter to her. She sees beyond the skin and looks into the heart of people. She has friends of many different nationalities. I saw that at a recent birthday party for my grandson. He too has friends of many different backgrounds.

I learned so much listening to her. She is learning to care about people who are different than her from her parents and from her teachers.

The next conversation happened when I jokingly said to my grandson “You’re a snicklefritz.”

Now I think of that term is a term of affection. I was surprised to find out from the Urban Dictionary that this was also a term for a certain kind of marijuana. Anyway, when I called him a snicklefritz, meaning that affectionately, he said to me, “No, I’m a gentleman.” He was very serious, and seriousness is not his usual demeanor.

I, being surprised, asked him what a gentleman is. He said, “Someone who treats girls and others with respect.” He is 6 years old and that threw me for a loop. I asked where he learned that and he said, “My bus driver.” Again I was thrown for a loop.

My grandson continued on, “We have to take turns letting others on the bus and we need to show respect for the girls. That means no hitting, and sometimes letting them go ahead of us. We don’t yell at them.”

My granddaughter who is 9 chimed in, “Yes, he is teaching us how to be respectful of others on the bus. We have drills on the proper way to get on a bus.” Then my grandson continued to inform me that his friend celebrated his birthday on the bus yesterday. The bus driver has a Happy Birthday sign when it is someone’s birthday and they sing “Happy Birthday.”

My grandchildren’s bus drive is making a positive influence on my grandchildren’s lives.

When I mentioned the phrase “out of the mouths of babes,” it is because it was an eye opening experience as to how each person that enters and interacts with my grandchildren makes an impact on their lives, positive or negative. To these inexperienced babes, that is the way the world is supposed to be.

Those young, inexperienced of the world people, can have their lives shaped any direction. They are not born to hate, they are not born to lie, cheat, steal, curse and hurt their neighbor. We, teach them that when we interact with them. We can’t shield our children from everything but we can teach them how to react to situations that will change who they are negatively.

What do we mirror ourselves to the children we meet in our homes, in our jobs, in our communities?

I’ll leave that answer to you, for you, to decide what you want to mirror to the children in your lives.

Do I Read or Do I Write?

I can’t stand it! I have so many good books on my Kindle that I have downloaded. Having a Kindle is so easy. With the click of a link I can have another book or magazine.

When it comes to books I am like a kid in a candy store, I can’t resist and now that lure carries over to my Kindle. Amazon sent me suggestions for Catherine Coulter, who is one of my favorite authors. I visited the page. My finger hovered over the link to buy. I put my hand down and lifted it again, indecisive, not about wanting to read the book but about adding any more books until I read what I already have downloaded on my Kindle. I settled for adding the Catherine Coulter books that I haven’t read recently in the wish list. Yet, I still want to go back and put them on my Kindle. It is a feeling that I missing out if I don’t get them today.  Am I addicted to books for my Kindle?

Right now I am reading Strangled by Silk by Barbara Jean Coast. On my long list of downloaded books to read are: Don’t Cry Over Killed Milk by Stephen Kaminsky, The Shop of Spells by Sharon Grey, The Girl Who Started the War to End All Wars by Rachelle McCalla, Slip and Go Die by Sharon Rose and those are only a few from the long list. I have many more mysteries to go, not to mention cookbooks, gardening books, Christian devotionals and essential oil books. The magazines I have waiting for me are Prevention, Guideposts and Do It Yourself. Plus, since I am now signed as an author  with Cozy Cat Press, I want to read all the books from the other authors at Cozy Cat Press that are now my friends.

Since I also love the feel of a good book in my hand, I have bookshelves of real books I have not read. Recently when visiting a Barnes and Noble, I wanted to scoop up all the new journals to record my thoughts. They are so cute and I feel the itch in my hand to pick them up and sniff the smell of the book. It makes me sigh and want to buy them. I love journals and appointment books too. I had to control myself and walk out of the store with only a magazine. After all, how many appointment books does one person need? I write the appointments in the books and then don’t look at them. Perhaps I do need more, one in every room in my house so I can’t forget to look at them. I must revisit that store. The itch is twitching.

Can you feel my stress? How can someone be stressed about reading? My heart pounds faster, my body tenses as I describe all of this. Perhaps instead of working, I want to be reading and work is keeping me from reading all those delectable books on my Kindle.

Did I mention that I am a writer? I have written “Granny Hooks A Crook”, a silly book about a fictional silly town in Minnesota. It is the first in the series and I am working on Fuchsia Series #2. Of course then there is also the weekly column I write for the Albert Lea Tribune and the Bi-monthly column I write for the Courrier Sentinel called Something About Nothing. I am very good about writing about nothing. I am also doing free lance articles.  And there is Whatchamacallit?Thingamajig? another series about Grandmothers and Grandkids I am supposed to be writing but the reading bug insinuates itself deep into my soul. It makes me lazy, it teases me and tells me that the dishes can wait, the laundry can wait and the writing can wait, because you never know what is going to happen on the next page.

The books keeps calling to me. The pages keep turning.  They tell me to put aside my writing, and stay with their pages. Do you hear the pages of the books calling to you? Can we resist? Will we work today or will the lure of words on the pages keep us enthralled? It’s a mystery.Cozy Cat Authors