Why You Might Not Get The Best

“My answer to your question starts with, I want to help others.”

The question asked is some version of, “What do you want to do?” Every person who has ever entered the fields of Health, Social Services and Emergency Medical Services just to name a few, has at some point been asked this question and replied with the above. Most of us asked ourselves that question long before anyone else directed at us. We are helpers.

There’s so much reward in what we do and if we’re smart, we never lose sight of the special place we’ve landed in our society. We are the fortunate ones, although many outside of our professions don’t entirely understand why we do it. Many of our friends, many of the people on the receiving end of our help don’t get it either. We often hear, “I’m glad you like what you do. I know I couldn’t do it.” That’s okay; you be the best you can be at what you do, we’ll do the same.

And you know for the most part we do; try our best that is. We hope every day that our best is consistently excellent. We admit though, sometimes the best you get from us isn’t the best you’d have received the day before, two days from now or even an hour ago. In that moment that brings us together, we’re still giving you the best we can muster.

That might not at first glance make a whole lot of sense, so let me explain. Our jobs you see bring us up close and personal with people in some pretty traumatic circumstances. We may have started our shift physically and mentally ready to go but prior to your contacting us, we just finished up with someone you know nothing about. That interaction has affected us in some profound way. Right now, we look our normal best on the outside, but in our heads and our hearts, we’re grieving at the worst and still processing at the best. It’s a double-edged sword this job of ours; we often meet people at the worst periods in their lives, and we do so joyfully – but it’s the humanity in us, the caring in us, that strong desire to help our fellow beings that sometimes has us distracted when serving you, because you were next.

So what it looks like while we still try to do our best might be a lack of focus. You know, repeating a question we just asked. Or we might seem on autopilot, just going through the motions and not all that helpful. That personal service we pride ourselves on just isn’t there at this moment and as one of those we serve, you’re smart enough to recognize you’re getting inferior service.

Now we know you don’t really care about the last person before you – not in the sense that you have zero empathy for them, but in the sense of it’s you before us here and now and you want 100% of our attention. Right now it’s all about you and you’re right, it should be. Like I say however, we’re human. The very best of us has a day here and there where something or rather someone has had an impact on us in such a profound way that we’re struggling to keep that concealed as best we can while we help you. How do we do that? Right…autopilot. At first we think we can pull it off and you’ll never know what’s going on in our head; we’re disconnected at the moment here in the present while our head is still in the past.

The thing is, we’ve been doing this job a long time. You’d think by now we’d be immune to anything that would set us back. We’ve cut our teeth on some bad situations that as a rookie we hadn’t dealt with before. We got stronger for those experiences and by now, you’d think having seen it all, we’re capable of putting that aside and just giving you the very best you’d get any day. You might even demand it, saying, “I’ve got my rights you know. Just do your job; that’s what you get paid to do right?”

The thing is though, we’re sometimes still caught in the moment; profoundly affected by a sorrowful story, a tragic event, a death or suicide, a victim’s retelling of their personal horror. It’s strangely good though. It is precisely because we are so touched at our core by these moments that we are reminded that even after all these years, we’re still in the right place and the right people to be here. The depth of the event and the magnitude to how we are touched mirrors the length of time it’s going to take us to get back.

And here’s the thing…we’re never going to be exactly who we were before. Nope, never. Why? Because this one event; just one of many, has added to who we are moving forward. We are the sum of all our experiences. In changing, we’re actually going to be better if you can believe it. Having shared your story or some tragedy in our personal lives, we now carry these as we evolve and grow. These allow us to channel our empathy – even though you may unknowingly trigger hurtful memories in us – your collective interactions make us better.

We do our best and we sincerely hope on your day – this day – it’s good enough.

The Impact Of A Smile

A smile is one of the most positive and powerful things you can do for yourself when you find yourself in the company of others. It’s free to use, and it sends a message to other people that you’re approachable, your mood is favourable and it can often transfer to other people you interact with, making your interaction with others likewise positive. Wow! All that from a smile!

The lack of a smile can produce the opposite too. Your lack of a smile can communicate that you’re all business; maybe even a little cold or impersonal. It can send the message that you’re not approachable, your mood is not good, and those you interact with may feel guarded when dealing with you.

Think for a moment of people you interact with often; perhaps your co-workers if you have them. If you’re not employed, think perhaps on someone you see fairly often. Now picture if you can whether they smile often or not, and then consider whether you general consider the interaction you have with them positive or not. My guess is that you generally associate smiling faces with more positive interactions, and the less frequent the smile, the cooler the interaction. Am I right?

Now picture yourself out shopping, at the bank or returning an item to a customer service area. You’re in line awaiting your turn and if you’re like me, you’ve probably looked ahead at the possible people you might interact with and hoped it’s a certain person over the others. I know when I’m standing in a line, I always do this instinctively, and I’ve noticed I usually hope for the man or woman sporting a smile. I just assume my experience is going to be more positive because they’ll make it so; theirs is a cheerful face to start with and hence our interaction will get off to a good start too.

Now employers know the power of a smile. Look at job postings; specifically in the introductions where they describe the role and not the hard-core qualifications. You might see phrases like, “If you’re a people-person”, or “If you’re passionate about providing guests and customers with outstanding service”.  These phrases are put in job postings to alert readers to jobs that will match the right person with what’s to follow. These employers are saying that they are really interested in finding people who will derive immense joy and satisfaction from the high level of interaction you’ll be exposed to. They want people who will come to work energized by that interaction and so find themselves in a good mood; your smile is your visual display of that good mood, positive energy and passion you feel.

We don’t all speak the same language, nor do we experience many things in the same way when we’re from different cultures with different values, etc., but the one thing that is universally understood is the power and effect of the smile.

Now of course, many people don’t smile by nature. It’s not that they are unhappy or cold, it’s just that their resting face tends to have the ends of their mouth droop downwards instead of up or horizontal. It takes these people considerable effort to remember to smile, and the effort is hard to sustain. Consequently, they seem less approachable or maybe overly serious. What’s more, these people are well aware of this themselves from the many people over the years who say, “You look so serious. Anything wrong?” or, “It wouldn’t hurt you to smile a little.” Believe me, you’re not telling them something they don’t already know. For them unfortunately, smiling is a lot of work.

A smile can often be hard to come up with too when you find yourself in a situation that you find stressful. A job interview comes to mind. You’re sitting in reception feeling nervous and trying to remember all you can about the company you’re applying to. You’ve done your homework but are nervous because first impressions mean so much. You’re mentally going through possible questions, what you want to be sure to mention, going over that one challenging thing you expect and then you’re interrupted when you hear your name called. Smiling at this moment means everything, but it might be hard to produce and sustain because the pressure or strain you might feel would seem to call for a serious expression.

Smiles are so important. They can light up a room, and in many cases, it’s the smile that has a ripple effect on the rest of your face. It can make your cheeks glow, your eyes shine a little brighter or twinkle, and completely captivate your audience.

Okay so consider this. When you’re in an interview – typically a stressful thing for many, consider smiling when you recall something pleasant. So if you’re giving an example of your customer service skills and recall interacting with someone whom you had a positive experience with, smile as you recall the moment. it will translate positively and communicate to the person listening that you are positively affected when you deal with others. This is the kind of thing that employers are looking for isn’t it? People who enjoy working for and with others.

So I urge you to smile today; think about it consciously as you go about your day and see if you can put a smile on others faces just by showing your own.

Self-Investment Comes At A Cost

When you’re completely invested in doing your best for the people you serve, you’re going to be tremendously effective. You’ll feel it each and every day too, because those who receive your help will know your assistance is coming from the heart. They’ll express their gratitude for your help, and you’ll begin to interact with each other in more meaningful ways.

But there’s a cost.

Pouring yourself into your work with such intensity means at the end of the day you’ll empty your tank. You’ll find yourself mentally exhausted because you were mentally engaged. Sometimes, you’ll be emotionally exhausted too, because working with people isn’t only a cerebral workout. Yes, when you’re dialed in, you’re emotionally, mentally and physically engaged. When you end each day asking yourself, “Is there anything else I could have done today to be of more help?”, you can’t help but get better at whatever it is you do.

Now if you look around you, you’ll see people who aren’t invested in the people they deal with. The signs are clearly evident. When the phone rings they hesitate before answering and decide whether they want to pick it up. 10 minutes before quitting time, they are packed up, coat on, computer shut down, and ready to head out the door. I’m betting you’re thinking of someone now who fits this description, because frankly, these types are everywhere, and they are often long-term employees too. Ironically, they aren’t in the same kind of danger as the best of the best, because they aren’t as emotionally and mentally engaged. Hence, they are protected from the emotional, physical and mental toll I’m talking about.

But there’s great news.

When you really get invested in doing your best for those you interact with and serve, something amazing happens to the size of your ‘tank’. The more you give, the bigger it gets! When you give of yourself, listening attentively to someone pour out their troubles, demonstrate compassion, empathy and provide supportive counsel, you not only benefit them, you benefit yourself. It’s like a hug quite frankly, you can’t give one without getting one.

So it follows then that the ones who are truly invested emotionally, physically and mentally in providing superior customer service are the ones that seemingly have this tremendous capacity which carries them well beyond what others see as their limits. If you’ve ever witnessed one of these people, you’ve likely thought, “Where does she get the energy?!”

The energy comes in the reciprocal emotional and mental investment the people being served return. They express their gratitude with sincerity and the small or great changes they make in their thoughts and actions provide evidence that they found your intervention meaningful and impactful. You’ve found a way to connect with them that others haven’t; you’ve touched them in ways that sent the message, “I genuinely care about you and the goals you’re working towards. I will help.”

And make no mistake it’s not, “I want to help”, it’s “I will help.” Oh it’s such a subtle change in words with a completely impactful and different message. Wanting to do something is not the same as doing something. Wanting to help isn’t the same as helping. And you know what? These people you serve and interact with are smart enough to hear the difference in your words from the words of others.

Now many who don’t do the work you do will often wonder if working with people all day long doesn’t actually bring you down. Hearing all these sad stories; all these problems they present with. It’s got to be troubling. Ah but you and I know differently. It’s precisely because people in dire circumstances turn to you first when they need an understanding and supportive ear that you are humbled by that trust. It is a privilege to do what you do and do it to the best of your ability.

This knowledge, this investment in the people we work with feeds our energy, allowing us to work with enthusiasm. And there are amazing people doing outstanding work everywhere. They’re in my workplace and in yours and right now you’re already calling people to mind who fit this description. There’s a cost of course, and it’s a fee the invested pay as they go about their day and are glad to have the opportunity.

There isn’t a job on the planet that doesn’t directly or indirectly impact on customers, clients, residents, end-users; call them what you will. When you ask someone who they work for, the best of the best never name an employer; that’s who they are employed by. The real invested ones work for those they serve. They recognize that their ‘customers’ are not just their end-users or consumers, but include their co-workers, their support staff, the people who benefit from the work that they do either lower or higher on the organizational chart.

The thing about the really good folks is that they do their work, they go about their day often in full knowledge that their peers don’t see all the extensive good work they do – and their okay with that. Their reward doesn’t come from formal recognition – although that’s always welcomed – the vitally important rewards come in small but sincere expressions of thanks and gratitude.

So carry on good people out there. You know who you are. And Dave, Mike, Vikki, Stephen, Dale, Gayle and Martin…well done.

Bad Turned Good At Rona

With the completion of a backyard workshop built earlier this summer, I found myself headed out to pick up some plywood and a few 2′ x 4′ pieces to build a work table this past Saturday.

So there I stood at the Customer Service desk at my local Rona. I was met by a friendly woman there who took my rough drawing and lumber supply list. She did exactly what I was hoping someone would in that she added up all the pieces and tried to give me the quantities I needed with the least amount of waste. When you show up with a hatchback instead of a truck, you can’t take home 4′ by 8′ sheets of plywood, nor can you safely drive away with 12 feet long 2′ by 4′ studs hanging out the back. Things have to be cut to get them in the car.

With my order in hand, I was about to check out at the other end of the store when another customer said to me, “I guess I won’t be finishing my project today; they are all out of plywood.” All out of plywood? A national lumber supplier is all out of plywood? I turned around and headed back to the customer service desk.

“Apparently you’re all out of plywood”, I said to a fellow behind the desk. I haven’t paid yet, but I need to make an adjustment. Overhearing me, the woman I’d originally served by told the other fellow to upgrade my order to another fir product; good on one side for the same price. Sounded good to me. I mean it was only for the top of a work table.

While the fellow entered information into the computer, changing the order and adjusting the price, a young guy came in from the yard where he worked and one of the employees asked him about the plywood shortage. “That’s not my job” he said out loud. Ouch! Now yes I was a customer in the store, but at that moment, my Employment Counsellor came out as I looked at him and said, “You should never say, and 4 people joined me and said, “That’s not my job”; and especially never let the customer hear if you do.”

Saying, “That’s not my job”, just passes the blame, and at that moment, all I wanted was a fix, not to finger somebody at fault. Ah but he’s young and is in self-preservation mode. He’ll learn.

So while the 1/2″ plywood was all gone, I was happy with the 3/4″ substitution which was a $15 more expensive piece for the same price. That was a real experience changing piece of action, saving the customer from turning to another supplier and having them happy. This too had the Employment Counsellor in me alert and impressed. There would be another up and down though before I left with my lumber.

Out in the yard where it really matters, it turned out they not only didn’t have the 1/2″ plywood, they didn’t have the 3/4″ sheet I had now paid for as an upgrade. How does a lumber yard of a major chain run out of basic wood supplies? I don’t know, but I suppose it happens. At this point, the Yardman pulled out a sheet of 3/4″ something and asked if it would be okay. It’s just a workbench for thumping on so if it holds up to hammering etc. on, I’m good, and I told him so. I was pleased.

However, the Yardman then went on to say, “Their computers might say we have wood in stock but I don’t think any of their quantities are right. I bet we don’t have an exact count of any of the lumber out here.” Now why say that to a customer? So is everyone at Rona incompetent at the worst or just inaccurate at best? That should be the kind of thing he thinks but keeps to himself. What made his comment ironic was what happened next. While he cut the wood for me and I put it in the car, he told me to help myself to several pieces – “whatever you want” – that were waste from other customers. They’d be paid for but not taken by customers I suppose. I couldn’t load the car fast enough.

He also provided great customer service and had me happy with the free extras. So now I had some free lumber for other projects down the road and an upgrade on my original lumber for the same price I’d expected to pay. Oh and did I mention I scratched a ticket and got 15% off my entire purchase?

Look, there is much to be learned from this trip to Rona no matter what business you find yourself in. For starters, keep the customer satisfied and they’ll spread the word to a few people. Tick them off and have them annoyed and they’ll spread the word to a lot of people. Few businesses can afford to have dissatisfied customers.

Like my young employee, never say, “That’s not my job”. Even if it isn’t your job, if you wear the uniform and have an employee number, everything is your job. Sure, figure out what went wrong so it doesn’t happen again, but don’t do it in front of the customer. Solve that stuff behind the scene.

Just for the record, I enjoy shopping at Rona and I’ll be back. Hey, shortages could be for any number of reasons. Bottom line is they had me leave happy – well done.

Retooling And Realigning For Success

Change; it seems to be the word of the year where I work. In 2017 we were told as employees by management that change was coming. Not just change for the sake of change as so often happens in some workplaces, but real change to meet the needs of those we serve at present and those we will position ourselves to serve moving forward.

Now as you know, not everybody deals with change in the same way. This should come as no surprise for we all experience and react to any number of things in our own way. In fact, there is no, ‘right way’ to react to change. Yes, it’s true all employees have to eventually get on board with new procedures, processes and/or policies, but how a person experiences the adjustment between what they’ve done and what they’ll do moving forward is uniquely lived by that single person. Some get on board and find change easy while others take more time. Be too resistant to change or pull with all your might in an openly opposite direction and you could find yourself on the outside looking in.

In my work setting, we’ve recently had a change in Manager, we’ve two new Supervisors, we’ve had some people with two decades and more experience retire, and we’ve added new employees to fill the voids. We’ve also had our teams realigned, meaning some staff moved from one team to another; from one job to another. Our Administrative team is also going about doing their jobs differently too; sharing workloads more. There are staff changing physical offices, others stay where they are but their desks have been reconfigured for reasons of safety and service.  Oh but it doesn’t stop there. Our Resource Centre is getting a new flooring surface this year, and there’ll be a new staff desk better situated for service and safety as well. That’s a lot of change!

Now most important of all is a change in how we interact with those we serve. We are moving to a more holistic model of service; one where the recipients of service will be better served. Many years ago there was a time when the mantra of the day was to get people off social assistance as quick as possible. Whatever the shortest route to a job happened to be, that was the plan. It sounded good to the general tax base and politicians touted this as their way of reducing money paid out to those in receipt; saving tax payers dollars in the process.

It didn’t work; well, not well. Sure people got jobs and got off assistance in some cases. The problem? Without addressing other key issues and only focusing on their unemployment, people lost those jobs quickly and returned to receive social assistance, sometimes regressing significantly, making it far more difficult for them to get past the feelings of not being ready to work.

A return to looking at a person from a holistic point of view requires us to look at more than just their unemployed status. When you bring in daily living skills, problem-solving, job maintenance, mental health services, relationship-strengthening, networking, social and interpersonal skills and – well a longer list than I’ve got space for here – a person becomes better empowered and equipped to deal with many more of the issues which they will need to deal with moving forward.

And moving forward is what it’s all about. The real question becomes, “What is moving forward” with respect to this single person you’re working with? From their point of view, what’s going on and what goals if any, do they have for what they consider to be a better life? Sure for a lot of people the end goal is to get a job and become financially independent. Yeah, we’re all for that. However, for many people, there are a lot of things that need to be addressed before a job is actively sought out.

By way of example, two large barriers many people are presenting with these days are increasing mental health issues and one’s decision-making skills. Not surprisingly, the two are connected. The state of mental health a person experiences often determines their ability to make good decisions. Poor decisions that don’t result in the positive outcomes a person had hoped for reinforce feelings of failure, weakness and lead to hopelessness and further dependence. Good decisions on the other hand reinforce forward movement in a desired direction, spurring self-confidence and self-worth.

There’s infused energy in our workplace. People are setting up their offices, getting used to where others are now sitting, learning the way things are actually done in the new jobs they have. We’ve only just begun to glimpse what our collective futures will look like when it comes to who we serve and how. We will work more in partnerships with others; including our fellow employees and those outside our organization. Communication lines will be expanded and service more coordinated.

This is good news for those people we serve. Sure we were doing a good job before, and while many of us are on the move, I like to think we’re being better positioned as people to use the strengths we have, making us a collective body better positioned to serve our community at large.

Change; it’s a good thing and there’s more of it yet to come.


2 Stores, 2 Salespeople, 2 Experiences

Last evening my wife and I were out for dinner and decided on impulse to head on over to our local mall. We had nothing immediate in mind other than a walk around prior to heading home for the evening. Now I can tell you honestly there was hardly any traffic in the mall, and that set the stage for very different encounters with sales staff in different stores.

Given it was a Thursday evening the first thing I noticed was that many of the stores only had a single Salesperson on the schedule. As the night was light in terms of traffic, it was interesting to note as we entered each store how the activity the person in the store was engaged in and their behaviour changed or not.

One store in the mall is a primary destination for the two of us; it has unique items ranging from swords and fire pots to glass dragon eggs and wind chimes. Every time I go in the store, I’m immediately greeted with a, “Hello how are you today?” which I can only assume is in the training manual. I like that they acknowledge me upon entry, and the subsequent question is whether or not they can be of assistance in finding anything. Last night was no exception. We were greeted cheerfully and engaged in discussion – but only because I’m the talkative type. I had the feeling the Salesperson was happy for someone to both talk and interact with.

As it so happens, they didn’t have an item we were looking for, and so we browsed. The Salesperson moved in synchronization with us around the merchandise; close enough to hear and respond to any inquiry we might make, but just far enough away that she wasn’t a reason to leave. She smiled; she laughed and was the right mixture of attentive and respectful.

Now I contrast this experience with the lone Salesperson in a second store we entered. It was a women’s clothing store; a well-known brand name chain. Here the signs proclaimed up to 80% off and that the entire inventory must go. To me, it was obvious the winter stock needs clearing and the Spring line is the reason.  Upon entering, the person was occupied with a broom and dustpan, sweeping the floors. The word industrious would best describe her; efficient, focused on cleaning and keeping herself busy.

Now being a fashion store for women exclusively, I would have thought she’d attend to my wife; offer to help her and I’d be left to wander. She did something different however. She stood and talked to me about the lack of activity in the mall; told me that if she herself needed something she’d be in a nearby city because they have more stores and more selection. She went on about how the two or three large stores coming to the mall wouldn’t in her opinion; make much of a difference in terms of bringing customers to the mall over the long-term. She was intense, almost bitter, and I just wanted to exit the conversation.

Oddly enough, my wife was ignored throughout her monologue, and was creatively using one garment to lower another garment she was unable to reach directly behind the Salesperson. “Ah my wife could use a hand” I said. Turning she said, “Oh did you want to try that on?” and I was free. While my wife tried on the clothes, I wander to the perimeter of the store and the Salesperson again cleaned. She was thorough and dressed in black looked like a storm cloud moving about on her hands and knees dusting everything that she could find in a meticulous order.

The two Salespeople were very different, and I have to say I would not want to return to the latter one for fear I’d be again trapped into a conversation I didn’t want to engage in with a person holding a negative attitude. While she was an excellent cleaner and no one could find fault with her ability to keep herself busy when no customers were present, she didn’t encourage people to stick around when they did come in.

The first Salesperson on the other hand did have me leaving the store with a good feeling. I felt that I was in control of how much or little we engaged in conversation; and I’d certainly walk in again. Were the two people’s employers able to watch how they interacted with us and hear what they said to us, I wondered if they would be pleased and approve.

There was actually a third experience with another Salesperson; and my wife and I were drawn to her immediately upon entering the store and into an immediate conversation. In fact, my wife would have allowed me to shell out just under $800 on the spot for an item in the store we hadn’t planned on buying. Oh sorry, I failed to mention the Salesperson was holding a miniature poodle puppy in her arms. That’s a real attraction for many people and you can’t help but smile and go, “Awww” as you greet the Salesperson. I resisted any urge to produce my wallet and we exited shortly after before reality completely disappeared.

Wherever you’re employed, never lose sight of the customer; acknowledge their presence, offer your assistance and do it all with a smile. These things get noticed.

Enthusiasm: An Employer’s View

Anyone who has ever met me in person will tell you that I’m a big believer in enthusiasm. I see this word frequently in job postings, and from my conversations with employers, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the number one thing employers look for in their applicants. But what does enthusiasm translate into on the job?

One business Owner/Manager I spoke with recently put it this way: “No one is going to want this company to succeed as much as I do, but I want employees who come close.” It’s what they do or don’t do when I’m not watching that separates the great employees from the average ones.”

When I was speaking with him about enthusiasm and asking him how significant it was to his business, he suddenly said, “Let me show you what I mean.” He left one of his employees in charge while we exited his store. We walked up the center concourse of the mall and looked in from our vantage point on several stores. He pointed out two employees in one store who had no customers at the moment. These employees were at the check-out talking to each other, their bodies turned sideways to face one another, and one of the two was actually sitting on top of the counter. He said to me, “Neither is a great employee and as an observer, my initial impression is that their conversation is of more importance to them than the business. There’s always something to be done, and those two are bleeding the business. They aren’t invested in its success nor do they have a high level of enthusiasm.

In another store that we looked in on, there was one Salesperson who was speaking with shoppers at the entrance to the store. She was folding clothing and engaged those passing by with a friendly smile and a, “Good morning, how are you today?” He stopped us far enough away from the woman where we couldn’t be overheard and said, “See her? She’s taking the initiative to tidy up without being told to because she recognizes there are things to be done. However, she hasn’t lost sight of the fact that customers are her number one priority, and her smile and small talk acknowledge people, show she’s ready to serve and she looks like she genuinely likes her job. Her enthusiasm is an indication they’ll have a positive interaction and a great experience. Oh and look, she’s drawn someone in who it appears was passing by.”

When we returned to his store location, he sent me on ahead and stayed out of eyesight and asked me to observe his own employees. When I looked in on his staff, I certainly didn’t see staff standing idly and chatting. I saw four staff; two were helping customers, one was checking out a third, and the fourth was replenishing inventory. All four however had another thing in common besides being busy; they all had smiles on their faces and looked like they enjoyed what they were doing at the moment. Not lost on me was that he needed these 4 people as they were busy. Could it be because people were attracted by the expectation of a positive experience with attentive, enthusiastic employees?

Of course the retail sector isn’t the only place one’s enthusiasm can be seen. No matter what the work environment is, enthusiastic employees find ways to make their jobs more meaningful by themselves going about their work with investment. Some people throw themselves into a new job with enthusiasm – and it lasts right up until they pass probation! Then somehow the passion for the job wanes and the job becomes…well…a job. Each day is viewed like some kind of drudgery between the release of Friday at quitting time and Monday when the person is chained to their job for another 5 days. If this is your experience, is this really how you want to live your life? The best thing that could happen might be that you get fired and focus yourself in on getting a job with a better personal fit.

Employer’s value enthusiasm because of what enthusiasm entails. If you’re enthusiastic, you’ll arrive at work with a positive attitude. You’ll be a nicer person to work with as a co-worker and you’ll actually care about the quality of your work each day. Enthusiastic employees look for ways to do things differently, better, quicker and are open to innovation and creativity. In short, enthusiastic workers go about their work with personal pride in both the services and products they provide.

Genuine enthusiasm is hard to beat. You might counter with the argument that, “it’s hard to get all that enthusiastic about minimum wage; so pay me more and you’ll see some enthusiasm.” It doesn’t start with a higher wage; in fact money is a poor motivator if you are trying to sustain enthusiasm. Genuine enthusiasm starts with people first. Find people who are willing to engage and invest themselves in the work to be done with enthusiasm and the rewards will come.

So my advice to you who are looking for work is to communicate your enthusiasm to potential employers. Do some real research to find the right fit, be open and hungry to learn new skills, look happy and act interested. In short, go about your job with enthusiasm or find a new one.

Your Objective: Be Memorable

Let’s talk about customer service. It’s something we have all experienced, and I’m guessing you know when you’ve received excellent, mediocre or poor service.

When we’re on the receiving end, I feel pretty confident is saying we all hope to be treated and served by knowledgeable, friendly people in a respectful and helpful manner. No one I know intentionally seeks out help from those who are likely to provide inferior service. So it’s clear that during and after our interactions, most of us can tell what makes an experience excellent, mediocre or poor. It is surprising then that while we can easily identify levels of service in others, employers often say it is difficult finding people who both know what customer service excellence means and who provide it. So is it that some people make a conscious choice not to provide the best service possible?

Maybe the secret is in the job titles. Some job titles make it clear that customer service skills are tied to the position; Customer Service Representatives, Customer Relations or Client Services positions. We would expect to find customer service skills first and foremost if we looked at job postings like these. Further, we would not only expect to see that customer service skills are essential to the jobs; we’d expect a superior level of customer service would be insisted upon by the employer.

With other job titles such as Caretaker, Teacher, Paramedic, Butcher or Florist, customer service skills don’t immediately come to mind when thinking about the required or desired skills for the people who hold them. However, providing customer service excellence in these roles can be the difference between excelling in the job and possibly losing it. The specific technical skills of course are paramount requirements no matter the career or job. Yet some people are so focused on the technical skill requirements, they neglect to hone or improve upon their customer service skills.

Now it’s not good enough to tell yourself, “Treat others as you’d like to be treated”, because not all of us have similar expectations when it comes to how we’d like to be treated. For example, you might be happy with a Florist that asks what flowers you want, arranges them and sells them to you. However, someone else might expect to have the Florist make suggestions, provide tips on keeping flowers looking their best longer, and offer to wrap them both in clear plastic and a protective outer wrapping if the weather is cooler so they don’t spoil. Depending on the person, either Florist might be judged to provide good customer service.

What is it though that separates customer service excellence from good customer service? I believe it is tied to having the people you serve walk away having had a memorable experience. It is because we have come to expect good customer service that it really doesn’t stand out when we receive it; it simply meets our expectations. When service exceeds our expectations, it becomes memorable; and by association so do the people who deliver the customer service excellence.

If employed, think about the job you do now. If you are insufficiently motivated to perform your job well, this entire piece is probably lost on you unfortunately. Not interested in providing even good customer service, it’s highly improbable you’ll see the payoff in putting in the effort to excel. You might defend your average service by saying that increases in salary aren’t tied to great service so why bother? You may even lament that the employer frowns upon doing more so sticking to a script is all you can do. Well I respectfully disagree.

Look, you’re at this job of yours for 7 or 8 hours a day; you may even be with your co-workers more than you are your family. So if you’re spending all this time in a job day after day, week after week, why not throw yourself into the job with enthusiasm and make your experience there the best it can be? What is it YOU can do that will stand out in a positive way, and make the experience of those that you come into contact with truly memorable?

I recall one time I went to get my hair cut and was initially disappointed that the Stylist wanted to cut my hair first and wash it afterward. “Isn’t that backwards?” I said. She told me that she always washes it last to remove all the fine hairs so they don’t fall on my clothes, and the scalp massage that happens during the wash is a nice way to end the haircut. Now I insist on this all the time. It feels great and I think of her every time I head out for a haircut. She became memorable and I return to where she works and hope for her every time.

On a personal note, I have a co-worker I’ve known for years. Late last year they said something to me that resonated and stays with me. “You’re the best of us. You’re always doing more, you’re so positive and you put in so much effort. I envy you. You’re awesome man!” The way I go about my job delivering customer service has made me memorable and I’m grateful for and humbled by his supportive words.

Make customer service a daily priority as many of us do and you’ll be memorable too!

Customer Service: Invest Yourself

Put the words, “Average”, “Good” and “Poor” in order from left to right with the best word on the right. My guess is that you listed these words in this combination: “Poor”, “Average” and “Good”. Am I correct? It’s pretty easy for us to see how these three words distinguish themselves from each other and so ordering them is easy.

However, if I expanded on the three words and the list included: “Superior”, “Outstanding”, “Excellent” and “Great”, I suspect the order would become less obvious. Now you might say that these four additional words are all so positive that their order becomes less important; that if you got any of these words on a report card for example, you’d be thrilled. Would you be happiest with, “Good” on your school report card or would, “Excellent” make you prouder?

Suppose we’re not talking about report cards here; suppose we’re talking about your performance evaluation at work; or we’re talking about what customers are saying when they evaluate your level of customer service. Would you be satisfied with, “You’re doing a good job”, if you overheard your supervisor telling a co-worker they were doing an “outstanding job”? Wouldn’t part of you say, “I was happy until I learned my co-worker got higher praise; I’d like my boss to tell me I’m doing an outstanding job too”?

If honest, I’m willing to bet that most of us would prefer to be identified as doing outstanding work vs. doing just an average job. However, in order to be ranked or evaluated as, “outstanding”, it takes more effort and a commitment to excellence. At the mention of extra commitment and more effort, a significant number of people will immediately think and say, “Am I going to get paid more to provide this outstanding service? I’m not? Well then you get what you pay for, so no, I’ll just continue to provide average – good service thank you very much.”

The people who think this way and act this way are externally motivated; in this case by money. The irony is that while they feel unfairly treated by employers for being pushed to provide excellent service for the same wages, when they become consumers themselves, they will mutter about poor customer service they receive, or take to social media and spread the stories of mediocre, poor or even average service. “Don’t shop at such-and-such store, the staff there do their job but nothing more. You’ll be treated much better at such-and-such store. Where did great customer service go?” Go figure.

Now it shouldn’t come as a surprise that employers seek out applicants in the interview selection process who have a history of providing outstanding service. The questions they ask are designed to give the applicant the opportunity to share some examples of their customer service in order that the interviewer can eventually select the person or people who will be the best of the best. So they’ll ask questions such as: “What does customer service excellence mean to you?”, or “Tell me about a time you went above and beyond to provide great customer service.” Even a question such as, “Give us an example of when you turned an angry customer into a happy customer” serves this purpose. The best answers to these questions are given by people who provide concrete, specific examples rather than vague generalities.

Now I can already hear a least one of my regular readers saying, “But in my job, I had to stick to a script, I had to do what I was told; I couldn’t provide exceptional service because that would take extra time and then I’d be disciplined”; or some such response. The people who provide mediocre, average service always have a reason for doing so. “I don’t get paid enough”, “I was just a Cashier”, “I’m just a Mail Carrier”; you can’t expect phenomenal service in the kind of work I did or do.”

Sorry, but yes I can, and yes I do. More importantly, yes employers can and yes employers do. If you want to advance in an organization; why even if you want to keep the job you have – you will do well to provide customer service excellence. Head on over to Youtube and search, “Frank the Cab Driver” and “Fred the Postman” or “Johnny the Bagger”. Each video is about someone who made a personal choice to provide an outstanding level of customer service. You’ll see great people doing ordinary jobs in extraordinary ways. Not one of the three does it because of money; they provide this great service because they themselves are self-motivated and they are invested in their work. They simply thought, “What can I do?” and then acted.

So are you waiting to be told to provide excellent customer service? Ever wonder why some companies thrive while others shut down or relocate? Imagine how a company would thrive if all the employees they hired were self-motivated and provided an outstanding customer service experience. Why can’t this start with you today and every day?

Yes, YOU Need To Read And Share This

It is the very best single thing you can do to stand out from your peers, and it’s also the single best thing you can do if you’re looking for job security. For employers, it’s the single thing they get most exasperated with and the source of almost all complaints by their customers. What is it? Customer service.

Think about it. What company doesn’t place a high value on satisfying their customers? When customers are treated properly, the experience they have is so positive it is only natural that they would like to repeat that sensation. If that same positive experience is repeated time after time, not only do they become loyal customers, they also tell their family and friends because they want the people they care for to share a similarly positive experience.

Customer service excellence shifts priorities from your needs to the needs of others.

It’s so obvious, it’s amazing to see so many people who don’t get it or understand it but choose not to act on it. Employers can give their employees product knowledge, design spaces that people enjoy being in, provide support and training, impart customer service expectations, but it often doesn’t result in sustained customer service excellence by the employees themselves.

Some people think customer service is exclusively reserved for the Retail sector. Not so. You expect great customer service when you go to the Dentist, meet with a Funeral Director, approach a Crossing Guard or visit a Police station to obtain a criminal reference check. We expect timely, courteous service.

Customers in fact aren’t exclusively the people who purchase or consume our products and services; they aren’t even always on the other side of the counter. If you are a Manager, consider your staff as customers. You have opportunities with each working day to show them respect, learn their likes and dislikes, listen to them express their needs and wants, and you have numerous opportunities to be helpful. Doesn’t that sound like the customer service experience?

Let’s break down the interaction with customers into these segments:

1)      Greeting

A customer should never feel they are disturbing you or holding you up. Yet how often do you see staff in a store chatting and entirely ignore the person who just walked in and is browsing merchandise? A common defence these employee use is that it’s not really all that busy so they were chatting. Why aren’t they busy? Customers are shopping elsewhere where the customer is valued and service is better! Acknowledge their presence, greet them with sincerity, extend an appreciation for their visit.

2)      Determining

They may be on an exploratory trip, learning with no immediate plans to use your services or purchase your products. It may also be someone on your team speaking with you who is trying to determine how much they can trust you with something sensitive. It may a customer checking out the store for the first time.

Focus your attention on that one person at that moment for how you act imprints the first impression. Extend an offer of assistance to determine your next steps. When they feel engaged, customers share more. If their instincts suggest you are not genuinely interested in helping them, they will go elsewhere or conceal what they really want to share.

3)      Responding

Having heard what they want or need, assess your own capacity to fulfill that need. If you can, do so and if not, state you’ll either locate that information for them or direct them where they can get what they want. While they may not remember the exact content of your words, they will remember the overall response they received and how your words and actions made them feel. They will seek you out again if your response creates a favourable impression and ignore or shun you if your response is indifferent or dismissive.

4)      Concluding

A relationship is built on a series of interactions. It is imperative to conclude each conversation or interaction taking care to ensure that the customer has received the best service you are capable of providing. A series of positive experiences builds your brand. Often the best way of checking this is just to ask, “Is there anything else I can do?” We all want to feel appreciated and so it’s no surprise those who excel in customer service smile, make direct eye contact and thank customers for visiting, trusting them with their business, or in the case of a co-worker, thanking others for their help at the end of the day.

5)      Reference The Future

“Thank you come again.” “We have a sale starting next Thursday.” “Thanks for opening up, we made progress today. Let’s pick up here next week.” Whether you’re a Receptionist, Doctor, a Palliative Care professional or a Sales Clerk, leaving the customer with some anticipation of their future contact bridges this one experience with the next encounter.

Customer service excellence when done well can truly make you indispensable and a valued commodity not only in your current position, but also in positions of greater influence in the organizations you work with. Show some enthusiasm in your work, appreciate the ‘customers’ you interact with everyday, and never overlook your co-workers, boss, peers, and visitors as your customers.

Ask yourself, “What more can I offer?”, “How could I make their experience a better one?” You’ve experienced mandatory service and exemplary service and know the difference; choose to excel!