After over half a decade in customer service, I've theoretically heard it all. But occasionally the same-old-same-old will catch my attention in a new way. Conversations with the theme of "I know it's not your fault- it's corporate/management/government/etc." have left my morale dangerously low a couple of times in the past week. But it was my fault, or at least my opportunity and responsibility for recovery.
The first time was in reference to a complication with a Rewards discount- he wanted the discount he was offered with an email notification but didn't want "the hassle" of logging in to the app on his phone again after the update to redeem it. (That's understandable- the password requirements pretty much mandate a blood sacrifice.) But in urge to valiantly defend my brand by explaining that Starbucks is limited by the rules of current mobile application technology, I was dismissive of his needs as my customer. I was very wrong. Sure, I was diplomatic and polite in my language and manner, but that means nothing. I may not be able to take ownership of how the loyalty program is designed or how mobile security functions, but I am responsible for validating concerns and bringing light to the situation. A marketing technology lecture from a barista at 7:30 in the morning is not how that is done.
The second time I heard "I know it's not your fault" was in reference to the "distribution of labor". Because of a confusion taking care of a customer a head of a gentleman purchasing a newspaper in line I left him waiting longer than was probably necessary without letting him know I'd be right with him. An honest mistake, but still a mistake of my own and not corporate or management. Mine. I messed up. And so when he was expressing his displeasure with being abandoned, I apologized for the mix-up. But by that point the damage was done on both sides and there was really no recovering the situation. He had a bad experience and I was really upset about being referred to as labor- a pawn to be maneuvered by others.
Regardless of the debate of how society views individuals in my current line of work, I know that I am a 25 year old woman with a [very relevant] bachelor's degree and highly respectable intelligent and emotion quotients. I know that I fully comprehend the business model for the establishment, the labor distribution and transitions, the time management requirements, the communication abilities of my partners, etc. But shouldn't feel the need to convince each person I interact with of those things. (unlike in interviews and networking events- #helloobviousrevelations) Especially since that is apparently the mindset that tends to greatly distract me from the task at hand.
What I'm learning is that by the time I hear this phrase, from upset customers trying to be kind to me (and not get decaf...), there is already damage to the relationship I could have prevented or still can repair. We're all really in the same business of solving problems and there's no time like now to get better with the curve balls.
(formerly "Bare Barista Threads" and "Memoirs of a Pizza Girl")
With a year of delivering pizza, two and a half years as a barista, and some more time in the trenches, I have plenty of stories, thoughts, and musings. The days that threatened to break me all the while built me. I want to help others in my profession view their work as an opportunity, too. This is my soap box.