How to Treat People in the Service Industry

First off, I just want to say that it makes me genuinely sad that I have to write this. Human beings seriously don’t know how to treat one another. Everyone thinks they’re better than everyone else when they’re really not.

The other day, I called up a customer service representative at my phone company because of an error on my bill. I was on auto-pay, but I had still received a late payment notice. There had been no attempt to automatically pull the money from my bank account, so I knew this hadn’t been my fault – so I called to have the problem straightened out. That’s right. I called to have the problem fixed – not to scream at some random hourly representative of the company.
I was impressed at how polite and professional the gentleman on the other end of the phone was. He addressed me with the highest formalities and apologized profusely for the error, however, which I didn’t feel was necessary – I wasn’t angry, but it certainly felt like he expected me to be. Once he had credited my account with the correct amount, removed the late payment from my account record, and re-enrolled me in auto-pay (during a server move I had been inadvertently removed), I thanked him with a smile in my voice. The problem had been adequately and professionally solved. He paused for a moment, as if bracing for an incoming scream-fest. When he realized I wasn’t upset with him, the nervousness seemed to melt away from his voice as he said, “No, ma’am, thank you. You’re certainly a valued customer, and we’re happy to keep your business! Call us again if you need anything.” It was almost disturbing how genuine this sounded.
It made me a little bit sad.
I realized that this guy spends all day sitting in a chair, getting yelled at for things that aren’t his fault – that’s his job. I’ve been where he is, too. I’ve never worked for a phone company or call center, but I’ve worked in the service industry all my life. I still work at a theme park. I don’t work directly with the guests anymore… but I essentially work in a service position for employees of the company. I’m walked all over all day, every day. I bend over backwards to do favors for people that I work with, and rarely do I get thanks. The closest I can usually expect is an, “It’s about time.”

Why do people think it’s OK to treat other people like this? Just because you’re paying someone for a service (or in my case, they’re other employees, so they’re not even paying for my services) it does not automatically give you the right to treat that person like they’re stupid or worthless. I’m not talking about if they’re rude to you first. If they start it, by all means, finish it. But if someone is being nice to you, be nice to them, regardless of if you’re paying them or not. And if you initiate the contact, initiate it with a friendly demeanor – you’re more likely to get one in return.
Also, just because someone is working for a company, it does not mean that they’ve written all of that company’s policies. If that company has done something unfair to you, don’t take it out on an hourly employee – it’s probably not their fault.

Something to remember from the perspective of someone spawned from the service industry: the ruder you are, the worse service you will receive. That’s how it works. If you walk up to another human being that you’ve never met before, and immediately start acting superior to them just because you’re paying for their services, you’re never going to get the same treatment as you would if you treated them with respect. I certainly know that I do favors for people who are nice to me, and I do not do favors for people who are not nice to me. A majority of the people I know from this industry are the same way. In fact, in my email at work, I have a personal folder labeled “Back Burner.” If someone’s unnecessarily rude to me, I’ll move all of their emails right into that folder and wait until I’m done with everything else before I get to their requests.

Politeness can be contagious. If you’re nice, you’ll get better service, and possibly extras thrown in, just because people will like you. If you’re rude, you’ll get the minimum possible services, period.

If you have a genuine complaint with a company and an employee is unable to solve the problem to your satisfaction, don’t yell. Ask to speak with the employee’s superior. Discuss the problem in a calm, rational manner. If you yell, it makes your problem look silly, and it makes you look like a person who overreacts. It automatically puts employees on the defense, which turns the situation into a “you versus them” scenario, rather than a situation in which everyone’s on the same team trying to come up with a solution that’s acceptable to all parties involved. Keep your calm, or else you completely give up control of the situation. Remember – there is always a higher authority you can ask to speak with if things aren’t being handled in a manner you feel is appropriate. So be nice.


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One Response to “How to Treat People in the Service Industry”

  1. Jay Says:

    Well said, Kristi. Couldn’t agree more. Actually, I don’t think anyone would disagree with you, were they asked. But people act like that anyway, and I’m of the opinion that it’s similar to road rage, or yelling at the TV: ventingfrustrations at the nearest available recipient. Their frustrations (expressed as anger or indifference or even superiority) may not even be related to the current issue, but bubbling up from some past grievance/s. While this doesn’t excuse their actions, it does allow for a deeper understanding behind the motives of the aggressor.

    Of course, that only explains some of those cases. Some people are just dicks. I aim for those people with my car. :)

    Great topic, Kristi! Keep ’em coming!

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