Every time we shop at a retail store or dine in a restaurant, we encounter customer service professionals. These people take the time to listen to our wants and needs, and they help us in whatever ways they can.
Not every interaction is positive. Sometimes a customer is frustrated about a return not working. Other times, things just aren’t going quickly enough. While these situations aren’t ideal for the customer, they certainly are not how the employee expected the transaction to go, either.
Monday marks the start of National Customer Service Week, which offers us an opportunity to show a little appreciation for the people who bag our groceries, help us find the right clothing size and keep track of all our complicated coffee orders.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for a retail sales worker is $10.57, while servers average $11.08. Most of these positions require workers to be on their feet for extended periods of time and to be friendly even when a customer is more than unfriendly, which can put strains on a person’s mental and physical health.
It’s important to remember these things as you interact with customer service workers. They’re people. Sometimes they make mistakes — not because they don’t care about their jobs or the level of service they’re providing, but because they’re human.
This week is also a great time to remember that the employees you encounter during your shopping or meal actually have very little control over the way things work in that establishment.
Maybe a store doesn’t have the size sheets you’re looking for. While unfortunate, it’s unlikely that the worker you’re speaking with is the one who orders sheets for the store. They can sympathize with your plight, but getting angry with them won’t change anything.
Maybe the coffee shop is understaffed, and you’ve had to wait longer than usual for your order. That can throw a wrench in your schedule and set you behind, but the person who rings you up probably isn't the hiring manager. That person is probably just as frustrated as you that the line has built up, and they’re hurrying to get everything done. Yelling at them won’t make more employees appear, but upsetting a barista might make it more difficult for them to do their job.
So, take a little extra care with service workers next week. They’re probably underpaid, and most of them really are trying their best. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, they’re working with what they’ve got.